Out of Reach

The familiar slinks, darts, rubs itself
Against my mind’s eye, purrs coyly.
It’s an entire world, living, expanding
Inside me.

I’ve tried time and again to catch it,
To pin down this universe
Onto the blank white before me.
It hisses, swipes at my reaching hands,
Dashes into the dark
Recesses of my mind.

It shows itself, those taunting green eyes glinting,
When I’m least prepared: without pen,
Or in my sleep; slipping through my memory like smoke,
Whenever I can’t pin it down.

I lunge, weapon in hand.
My pen leaves a trail of black,
Glistening like the fur of the creature,
The universe, which I’ve killed into reality:
Broken down into inadequate words.
Disappointing.

Both

I thought I had forever.
I thought you had forever.
Always present, from the beginning of my time,
I’d forgotten your clock was ticking too.

You always appeared timeless that
I’d forgotten you were a Time Being.
I’d dismissed your fear of eternal night:
Knowing you were fading,
Not knowing you were fading away.

Was I wrong in wanting to live,
In seizing what felt like my only chance to
Explore the wider world outside
the bubble of home and Homeland?

The last bond of blood’s been cut:
The only reason for this obligatory pingponging,
Now that the clock – your clock – has stopped ticking.
I’m out of chances, I’m out of time.

If this is what freedom feels like,
Groundless, boundless. Uncertainty.
(Relief? Guilt.)
Then perhaps I don’t want it.
All I want is one more chance,
Or more time. More of your time.
More time for you.
The impossible,
Now that you’re gone.

Unstable

Some say that to come home
You need to take the long route,
Circle the world to realise
Home was the haven of familiarity.
Halfway across the world,
I’d missed home too.

Coming back wasn’t setting down my bag
And blissfully embracing the familiarity
Of ten years in a single place.
It was the realisation that Home
Was no longer where I felt at home.

I thought I’d found it.
I thought I could plant myself
In the soil of spatial stability,
But I was wrong.

What’s it like to have a stable sense of home?
All I want is to uproot myself,
Give myself the illusion of agency
As I set out to look for permanence.

Lost Boys

The call came that fateful day
Which I imagine tugged you miles apart
And pulled you across the sea;
Your duties as mother and daughter in tension.
You became failed mother to us,
But Mother to your nation.
Only half our blood.

Return.
You returned to your motherland,
But couldn’t return as our mother,
The threat of exile looming over your head,
The threat of being a failed daughter.
I guess you were never ours to keep.

Drifting.
Two lost boys with a father fading,
And a mother erased from our family portrait
To emerge the face of her country –
Your face all over the news, on the walls of strangers’ homes,
But missing before the hearth you were needed.

The burden of your family legacy
You chose over the ones left behind –
We couldn’t keep you.
You didn’t belong to us exclusively anymore,
Or perhaps, you never did.

There’s no word to define our state
Of late father and gone mother.
If Peter Pan could whisk us away,
Stop time for us while your life progressed
At the dizzying speed of your kingdom’s,
Perhaps we could return to a faded you,
Your duties done, (you’d wait for us
As we’d waited our youths away)
So we could be your children again.

A/N: I’m not trying to be political here, nor am I passing judgment. This poem was inspired by a conversation my friends and I had with our hosts in Oxford.

Loyalties

This country has claimed me.

When I first arrived, I hated everything:
The misconceptions, the slang
And the struggle of climbing over the barrier
Of the same language distorted, mangled,
Alien and unfamiliar.

I didn’t notice the roots growing,
Borne of memories and the people
Who pulled me over the barrier
I’d built around my heart,
As they wove their way through
Cracks in the concrete soil.

Nine years, and I’ve blended in.
I claim the label that isn’t lawfully mine
According to the rules of legislation.
But the rules of my heart say,
Claim me, as your people did.
Claim me, as I’ve claimed the title
Of one finally settled.

Watch as I put down the home
I’d carried around on my back:
The burden of a child uprooted twice.
My search has ended.

Open Letter

It’s been eleven years since
I sat in that classroom
In front of your desk,
Or even as a part of that un-Tabled Round
Reading out loud:
The only times I’d dared to raise my voice
Above a whisper
Because you gave me strength.

It was just a year,
And what a world you showed us
Uninspired children.
I still feel echoes of that
Fantastical year
Of Middle-earth and Sherlock,
Of Knights and Narnia,
All the more when I might be closest to you
Yet I don’t know where to look.

I still search for you
In books, in poems,
In my favourite teachers,
Wishing one day to see you again
Just to say, ‘Thank you’
In hopes your answer won’t be,
‘Who are you?’

Portrait

The best and worst thing about moving away
Is nobody knows who you are:
Rebirth, reincarnation,
Same body, same memories
But the freedom to build yourself
From scratch.

Vulgar, violent – in the past.
I painted with soft hues,
Bleached out the shameful blackness
Of my tongue, my bruised fists,
Overwritten and sanitised,
Reborn at thirteen.

The spotless portrait
Gathered blemishes with time;
I hid them, overwrit them,
With blotches of pure white,
Caged myself in the portrait I’d painted,
Frozen in my friends’ eyes.

Jet Lag

Adventures in a new continent,
Sudden caresses of the crisp wind,
The crunch of freshly fallen leaves,
And assuming a label that isn’t rightfully mine.

In the middle of a beautiful nowhere,
A town frozen in time and soon to be frozen
As crunchy gold gives way to gloomy blankets
Of snow I might never catch,
The White Christmas I might never get,
I yearn the very thing I’d run away from:

Cramped, crowded, colourful,
Hot and hectic,
Not to mention, convenient,
Familiar.
Friends, family, faces I recognise.

Far away, hours away,
My sunrise and their sunset in tandem,
I reach through my digital screen,
Hear digitized voices,
Mediated through miles unbridgeable
As the gaping hole where my heart used to be.
I must have left it at home.

Cherry Blossoms

The passing train blocks my view of you
As I turn around at the familiar face
Changed with time, yet still the same.
I think I’ll see you again on the other side.

The train is gone
And so are you.
I could’ve sworn I saw you start to turn
But you didn’t wait for the train to pass,
Or for me.

Our intertwined lives were unravelled
By forces beyond our control.
What could two children do
But say goodbye and make promises?

I recall your hand in mine,
I recall your scent as we hugged goodbye
Under the cherry blossom tree.
Like those petals, we drifted apart,
Withered in the cold of memories old.

Here I am, still waiting for you
To come back to me
And make good on our promises of forever,
Made forever ago.

Petals wither and snowflakes melt,
Everything is fleeting,
Nothing is forever.
What were we thinking?
I smile as I turn away.
Maybe, someday…

A/N: I just watched a film called 5 Centimeters per Second, which inspired this poem. It’s such a beautiful film, and so real, it hurt.

Thread Lanterns

The aircon whirs,
The digital music box chimes its jewelled notes,
Our hands pull hemispheres apart,
And we breathe.

Words occasionally break the rhythm.
Your phone buzzes invasively
To a steady beat,
But I’m glad you ignore it.

Our fingers are stinging red,
From giving shape to the hemispheres,
Now balls of thread and paper.
We jab the fairy lights
Through the spheres,
Maintaining the colour pattern you picked.

Six long years fall away in the silence.
The clock ticks: a day to make up for each year
I was absent.
We connect the spheres,
The thread of wires joining the dots
Of all the moments of our past.

In the dark, the lanterns sparkle,
Tinged gold with our memories.
Satisfaction. Serenity.
This is different from my previous visits
When we used to –

What did we do?
We were so young,
I can’t seem to remember.