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,

yes, 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

which yes,

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 amplified,

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,

time accelerated,

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

bind nothing

create 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,


it’s uncertain.

About the author


Writer, Editor, and It's always the same.

By vinita

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