Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Two Poems

Two Poems

By Cyril Wong

History of Bodies

after wars we erect
fingers accusing the sky
or whittled bones
waving at air
after speeches bowing of heads
vertebrae creaking
from the ceremony
followed by hushed retreats
into tribalism
necklaces of skeletons
dangling under skin
each wrist a bendy
for certainty
the proud banality of bodies
nestling together for now
above ground

before we boarded the bus
they blew up our schoolteacher
she fell
to pieces
we picked and fondled
before the authorities
arrived to remove evidence of her
some of us drew pictures
to remember
one of us
pocketed a bone

in urns on a shelf
ashes of dear friends
smeared across a breeze
leftover bones
the ones that refused to burn
collected provisionally
in a dumpster

any blade
will do
to peel
from skull
a single layer
the bones
must be hacked
to aid
by vultures
good karma
no trace

the mime artist
all skin and bones
we described her
days before she
but that night
a mute sliver of lightning
jagged elbows
and ankles
cutting a groove
across the bare night
of a proscenium stage

as we fucked
standing up
bodies forming a cathedral
to the oblivion of pleasure
the glass wall
my hands pushed to support
our pounding persistence
could fold outwards
falling from this hotel
our spirits yanked
in the opposite direction
to merge with
a oneness of everything
and moaned when I imagined
how ridiculously
perfect that would be

we believe the statistics
and disbelieve them right after
the newspapers
lie and lie
every temple flattened
by the heel of dominion
shards of bones sticking
to the underside of tanks
or subtler yet
those banners of ideology
unfurling along the horizon
we march under
singing hymns of praise
so as not to hear
the deeper hum
that is no hum at all
swelling under our feet
bodies turning beneath us
in gravity and mud
moving us along
dancing without moving
to that unfathomable music

* * *


Why we don’t know that every answer
we ever need resides already in us
remains a puzzle. When you
showed me the bed strewn with
rose petals, as if I were a movie bride,
I must have known this was all wrong,
even as I sealed us in with words of forever.
Maybe some lies are crucial,
their lessons paring away false
expectations of love; more and more
each time any lie fades like a bruise
or closes like a fracture along the bone
hardening upon recovery.
This is the lie I still tell myself.


Cyril Wong is the Singapore Literature Prize-winning author of several poetry collections, including Unmarked Treasure, Tilting Our Plates to Catch the Light, and After You. He has also published a collection of stories, Let Me Tell You Something About That Night, and a novel, The Last Lesson of Mrs De Souza. He was the National Arts Council’s Young Artist of the Year for Literature in 2005 and completed his doctoral degree in literary studies at the National University of Singapore.

Return To TOC