Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Close to the Bone

Close to the Bone

By Toh Hsien Min

under flesh are blameless
in our daily aches.
and under the superficial
beyond the pale,
to evacuate yellow pus like
the warmth of
in rough dry
The frailty of skin
but the bone injuries we
and, being subterranean,
and less amenable to
of subtle hands.
wrung through when a rough
halfway across to where
her dramatic collapse and
delivered even as
that a line showed an encircling
helps not with how we who saw
could not envisage
to lie still through waking hours
Whatever we’re told
fortitude to face a firmly
until it clicks open,
to be knocked on until they
until we cease to yearn and,
commends us to cold air and

Bones buried
as stones,
Skin has
protecting melanin
yet subjecting
welling regret
reddened swelling
flakes deadened
barely makes
suffer rarely
much tougher
slow touch
To know
wave threw
deck gave
expensive medivac,
spinal fracture
nothing final
how gutting
to allow
is true
for this
closed door
newly metamorphosed
yield duly
curse repealed,
serried furze

unless they break,
a place in the sun
an ability to heal
mine to a small procedure
surrounded by
finds my skin rolling back
yet spreading.
a dinner story,
are more serious
to recover from
and the tender healing
the tension my family
my never-nautical cousin
to the thud of stern,
the granite diagnosis
yet metallically factual—
that could yet pose a threat,
about being confined to bed
it would feel to youth itself
this gap to close.
still has to be accepted
is the trestle that gives us
and keep thumping on it
into two other doors
to more and more vertebrae
the right choice of door
on rainless, weeping fell.


Toh Hsien Min

Toh Hsien Min is the founding editor of Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and the author of poetry collections Iambus, The Enclosure of Love, and Means to an End. His work has also been published in Acumen, Atlanta Review, London Magazine, the London Review of Books, and Oxford Poets 2013. Hsien Min is a former president of the Oxford University Poetry Society, where he ran his first journal, and Singapore’s Young Artist of the Year for Literature in 2010.

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