Five Poems by


Cyril Wong








Slipping open sachets of you

under this voluminous tarp

of ocean without strangers

looking my way, day after day

after day, ashes, chunks,

stones that are all that is left

of you make their way away

from me and into the mouths

of fish, maybe even children

playing along the coast,

their parents yawning

to inhale before swimming

farther out to sea, your remains

bobbing like stars against the living.







Oh Chinese imperial poets

and their dipsomania, their lust

for moon, mountain, river and reed.

If Bai Juyi were reborn, he would write

of our nocturnal citizenry, bare bodies

like clouds dispersing everywhere,

most of us the same moon colour.

Drunk on coastal wind, the same desire,

we lead each other by protruding parts

closer to the water’s frottage. Along

brightening sand, I misreport Qing Emperor

Gaozong’s poetry, deemed terrible:

One penis, another penis, and another…

All float into blooming reeds and disappear.







Stern terns,

not gulls.

Good terms

or not,

they pose.

Imperious effigies.

An epithalamium.

Time’s water

nudges them

lightly, unthinking.

And turn

to audit

each other

before divorcing.







Briny humidity and this occasional drizzle

erode my canvas and easel, but water-

colour dries urgently in this heat. I paint

subjects absent from real life: a man

kisses another man in a corner there, so faraway

passers-by fail to discern. A boy flounders

out at sea, dark arms thrashing ultramarine air.

Anyone who notices would remark that he is

at play. The child I still dream I am

blemishes the horizon with his dying.

One day my easel will break. My young wife

will shove my art to the back of some shelf

long after my death. Yet this old man carries on

painting what he sees: the unseen, the slowly drowning.







Sunshower. Unfinished cigarettes

stamped into sand. Wet but baking

under a white exoskeleton of sky,

we question whether this is like

a mind divided between what it envisions

and what it hides, or that contradiction

between the body and the soul, how

our spirit may be willing while the thing

that imprisons it travels its own way.

Light and rain, heat and coolness

not like parts of a whole but countries

at war. One lover demands to stay and sit

and enjoy the weather, while the other

ignores him, rises and waltzes with waves.









Cyril Wong is a poet and fictionist in Singapore.  His last book was Infinity Diary, published by Seagull Books in 2020. 



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