in September you travelled, calling home as always
to leave room number, and confirm safe arrival.
in September, as always when you are away,
i walked the dog alone or brought a child along.
in September you flew and i rode escalators,
we stepped into lifts, and i still took the train.
in September, in an unspoken pact, we continued
getting dressed each morning and walking out the front door.
in September i powered up and shut-down daily;
in between, I pounded my defiance on computer keys.
in September we e-mailed, and you called each day,
your voice clear, absent the static, and I marveled
that you could have been in the next room,
and not a continent and a 7-hour flight away.
2. for you
I am writing this poem for you - the mother trying to locate your baby’s pacifier - for the child swinging on the grab pole as the train doors open and close (open and close)(open and close) at each station; and I am writing for my neighbour’s grand-daughter, as I hear her hurry by in wooden bathroom clogs I know are painted red, clattering out the busy-ness known only to a four-year old3. recalling
I am writing for the schoolgirls, nodding on the bus as daybreak hovers between dawn and night; for the Ah Pek in slippers and striped blue cotton pajamas, brushing with Darlie and gargling from his enamel cup stamped “made in China”; for the Makcik with gold caps and loud voice, tending the queue for lontong bunkus and mee rebus, and for the Ah Soh at the bus–stop, complaining about costs; for the car mechanic, sipping his kopi while the cigarette ash grows white and long, and for the taxi driver who opines between Mandarin radio songs about the news that flickers on our screens from half a world away
and this poem is for the teenager on his skateboard; for his sandal’d girlfriend in her low-waist jeans [“how low can you go?”] n spag-strap T; for his Discman.cellphone.backpack going-nowhere pals; and this poem is also for you, fresh and happening executive, ash blonde expat, laptop-toting and recently off the plane; for the baristas in black Tee’s, pulling lattes and mocca’s; and for the turbanned, bearded lawyer bearing his file
and I am writing for you, in your good office pants, your blue shirt and maroon tie; for you, togged up in lavender twinset and re-bonded, whose resolute commuter eyes fix on the mid-distance so as not to pry into other eyes
and I am writing, remembering gardens that I love, recalling tree-lined lanes and sandy paths, I am writing with the scent of jasmine suddenly renewed, I am writing out the memory of evening skies and fireworks, the faces of friends, red-and-white flags, and National Day parades; the smell of bananas freshly fried and roasting chestnuts nesting in coffee beans, and the sounds of the city waking and sleeping, sleeping and waking, and the sight of orderly blocks that suddenly are dear again
in September I recalled the sweetness of birdsong,
the smell of rain, the shyness of the youth
when he first reaches for his sweetheart’s hand;
I remembered perhaps a million cherished
details with the freshness of new sight,
and coming to the altar rail again,
dwelt on meaning.image.metaphor - ONE
brought there the looming ache of unanswered questions,
and again chose hope. and once again chose