Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Two Poems

Two Poems

By Heng Siok Tian

Bone couplets

When martial arts lunges are dance steps,
and water sleeves, swift swords;

when he lifts himself to a straight line on a forefinger,
is it the stroke-art of bone calligraphy?

* * *


Inspired by a charcoal etching, “Two Malarias and a Cholera,” by Ray Parkins, Changi Museum, Singapore

Our lives,
now etched emblematic
as charcoal art on an island small
(insular while international).

Would I guess
our black white skeletons,
bones between life and death
on the Thai-Burma Railway

would make it across
to this end,
while living a past—black white lines like
black white history—in newsprint and textbooks.

Bone beauty now
in the spaces between
lines and curves on pillars, walls
of a small museum,

our backs to you,
how do you see my choking within
tasting so the cords of blood
singing hymns of life
while dying?


Heng Siok Tian

Heng Siok Tian has published five collections of poetry: Crossing the Chopsticks and Other Poems; My City, My Canvas; Contouring;Is my body a myth; and Mixing Tongues. She was a resident Fellow of the Iowa International Writing Program in 2000 and a guest poet at the Ars Interpres Festival in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2007.  She has also participated in literary events in China, the Philippines, the United States, and France.

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