the mustard coloured walls brief respite.
Just now, the final laundry load handed over,
I voluntarily parted with a bit of biography,
a segment, a slice so thin it would hardly count I think,
told the Chinese lady who took my bag of not-so-dirty clothes
who now smiles at me because I am a regular,
that I will soon return to Singapore.
Singapore, which sound so far away,
so fictional, the title of a book or a movie
(there have been many)
& she, still smiling,
says ‘lots of Cantonese people there’ (?) –
a partial statement, a partial question
& I, not knowing much of anything say,
‘Oh, Hainanese, Teochew and Hokkien speakers too’
& she, pleased that I would know these
elementary, rudimentary distinctions in dialect groups,
we part ways.
Do I go to her for this bit of insignificant connection?
Some yearning for threading an artificial umbilical chord,
resonance rather than dissonance,
the clattering inside that makes me feel
like everything is loud
& I have not
maybe do not want to master that pitch
does make room for a polyphonic spree
(good band, they are)
but somehow seems designed only
to hear the loudest thing
even when quiet
the quiet a statement, bold,
impossible to ignore.
It must be the drilling.
I’ll put it plainly
I feel awkward, a type
though no, not a stereo-type,
not volume on
mostly static mumbling
& yes I have done these things
these marvellous things
but I still feel I know nothing
(even nothing is difficult to know)
Here I’m longing for there
and there, for elsewhere
I used to call it the immigrant’s dis-ease
that’s it, it’s just dis-ease
but disabused of this notion now
because everyone seems a little
So sinking back into oblivion
I am no one
which suits me well,
the pressure is off
until in the subway again
between 42nd and 3rd
(or was it 47th and 49th and 7th?)
the pounding returns
the mathematics of intersections and grids
this will not to do
does not suffice
big in a small place
small in a big place
it’s all a matter of scale.
In a trilogy in four parts
they can put you in a machine
that tells you how
big (small) you are
in proportion to the universe
(not even the multiverse!)
and you go mad.
Insignificance couldn’t possibly
be conveyed more beautifully, surely?
Or consider this, Vladimir sighing and saying
the other day,
“This is starting to become really insignificant.”
Yes, nothing to be done.
That’s how it felt when
the astrophysicist and particle theorist
talked about death at the edge of a black hole
your body elongating far beyond any
magazine air-brushed model’s
long, long, long legs
until you become string-like noodles
the last thing you’ll see before you perish
the entire everything of all,
the future present
all ending then
you, well, decimated.
No one to tell but really who cares?
Insignificant but talking just the same.
Languages like it’s mainly words and sentences.
Learn Business Mandarin!
Learn Legal English!
Language like it can be segmented, partitioned
carefully carved out,
the good, useful bits to
get things done!
the utility of it
even in one domain, 26 letters,
you learn to talk like
this & this & this
subtle, exaggerated, fluid, dead-pan,
educated, beguiling, uncertain, grown-up
all that in one language 26 symbols
infinite variations on no theme.
26 letters holding it all together.
Like that, language, talking to people
in foreign cities like a foreigner.
Everywhere an immigrant
everywhere another tie, another connection
a net that works knitted together
to make a map
map it online
get the program to tell you
how your linkages look
a piece of abstraction cataloguing your life
get your linkages to work for you
get the program to tell you about
the words you use.
Font size 18, the words you use most
Decrepit, Memory, Identity, Immigrant
Font size 8 the ones you use least
pig, chowder, cerulean
There is madness in the method
everything a tether to rein in
the flinging, fluttering ribbons of your life
that will make nothing
that only want to curl, twist and collapse
until the current picks a strand up again
and makes it come to life.
This another thread I wove.
Not like spiders
methodical workers making webs to live
ensnare, trap and survive.
Do we need them, want them?
Theirs one web to ensnare them all,
ours mutating webs, us at the centre
to calm our soul.
I don’t speak for any general condition
not even mine.
It’s a day, a particular perception
which Greene, Tyson et al. tell me
is lacking the appropriate verification
do the calculations, and even then,