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?’

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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.

Paper Dreams

For the eight-year-old
It all started with
a prompt, two pages, and a teacher’s praise.
The ten-year-old
Lies on her stomach,
with a notebook open before her,
words flowing out of her pencil tip.
She’s never seen without that notebook.

The fourteen-year-old
Receives news of success,
a small celebration,
perhaps her big break.
The dream of seeing her name
on paperback covers
seems closer than ever.

The sixteen-year-old
Wonders when the day will come
when her humility counts for something.
She discovers a new art,
and the small success gathers dust.

The eighteen-year-old
Blows away the dust,
brings the manuscript to light.
Praises from friends
fire her up.
But that fire dies
In the storm of practicality.

At twenty-one
They are all but faded dreams:
a name on young readers’ lips,
a way to support myself
without the need for a Proper Job.
Reading reminds me
of what I’m up against.

The blue light of my laptop
glares at me accusingly
for abandoning old dreams
of breathing ink and paper.
It’s hard, but I open the story to
remind myself of why I started.

I run down the tunnel,
and my fingertips touch those of
the young girl who dreamed without limits.
I lose myself in the world
I built in my head,
Reconnect with characters frozen in time
For seven years.
The sound of keys
Underneath my uncertain fingertips,
Calming, familiar.

The End of a Chapter

There are no ‘hellos’ to follow some goodbyes;
There is no ‘see you again’
Because chances are, you won’t.

We talk of meet ups,
But how many may ever happen?
We talk of keeping touch
Until our contact lists expand
With numbers and names of the past.

Time sees the rise and fall
Of mountains, civilisations, empires.
What are two years,
Forgotten promises,
Or pacts you can’t keep,
But the blink of an eye?

Phases.
This is just another chapter.
Closure. Goodbyes.
The moments before,
And the aftermath.
Hangover. Nostalgia.

I find every reason to leave,
But there’s always that one reason
To stay
Tipping the scales.

Kira-Kira

I saw the blinding white hole in the sky,
I felt the infernal heat burning my feet
As I dug them deeper into the rough sand,
Grating against my toenails.

You saw how the ocean shattered
And reflected the blinding white
Into a million diamonds,
Bobbing on the surface and refusing to sink.

Your vision was filtered with pixie dust:
Even on the darkest nights, you chose to see
The million glittering stars
And not the black that threatened to consume them.

The ocean still sparkles with your ghost,
The million stars of the water surface,
The stars that left your eyes
When you wished you were that moth
Which you knew would outlive you.

I don’t hear the gulls
As the fairyland stallions kick and break
Against the sand, only to reform.
I heard your voice in the wind,
In the crashing waves as they readied themselves
To be pulled away from me again:
‘Kira-kira.’

Only echoes.

A/N: I just finished reading this book called Kira-Kira, which was what inspired this poem.

Checkmate

We had four letters:
You were the one I’d run
To catch the bus for.
The seat next to you was
My favourite place.
I was too young then to realise
That your four letters
Were coloured red
And came with a five-lettered
Parasite: shame.

Your letters gnawed
And ate you from the inside.
In one step,
Your hand across the chequered board,
You played the ending move.

I lost
Us. What we had. You.
End of story.
I lost the game,
But you lost me
When you had your victory.

My four letters changed.
Only the last letter stayed the same.
Tinged red, burning anger and boiling blood,
Every time I see the seven letters
Spelling your name.

This is me trying to salvage
The game. Ten years later.
I’ll emerge the victor this time.
Your move.

To the green girl

The most common question I was asked as a tour guide was “What made you choose CAPT over the other RCs?”

It was my second time giving tours for Open Day, and even though I didn’t kill myself with three shifts like I did last year, I still left the event tired. But it was a good kind of tired. The kind when you look back at a journey, looking how far you’ve come. The same kind of tired when FOC 2015 came to an end. And I will look back on my days in CAPT with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, probably of the same degree that I got looking back at my childhood days in Cambodia.

I was never one to approach people first, so even when giving guided tours, I had to be assigned the tour groups. So I could never be a rover. And my favourite thing about being a tour guide is that I get to share stories. Back in Speakers’ Ink sessions in CJ, my friends in the oratorical wing always said that I had a flare for telling stories in my speeches, I had a way of making myself relatable. So maybe it was the skills I’d acquired in CJ that helped me with my tour guide duties, maybe it’s always been in my blood. Who knows? But they came in handy, because during the briefing itself, we were told that the most important thing was for us to leave an impression. That the people we gave tours to could have a look at the CAPT website to find out all the details anyway, so we needed to tell them stories. We needed to reach out to them and make them remember us.

My answer to the above question was always: my tour guide.

So maybe this post is dedicated to my tour guide. Whether or not she reads it is another thing.

I’d forgotten her name and forgotten what she looked like. All I remembered was that she was bubbly and that she was from Dragon (because she as good as told me she was in the green house). I remembered her name sounded Japanese. It was only towards the end of my first semester that I learnt her name: Honami. I don’t know what the odds are, of her ever seeing this post, but I guess this is just a ‘thank you’ to her.

Thanks for being the reason why I chose CAPT, because CAPT was my gateway to so many new experiences and opportunities. I’ve grown in so many ways, met so many interesting people, and made some of the most amazing friends in university. CAPT helped me grow into someone that my younger self would always have wanted to become, yet never could have imagined myself to be. Honami was the reason I went from wallflower to what I am now. I’m not the most outstanding person in CAPT, but I’m glad I’ve been able to contribute to it in the best ways I can. O Comm and CAPTheatre were some of the best decisions I made in CAPT.

I was discussing the idea of sharing stories as a tour guide with a friend, and although said humorously, I really meant it when I said that it would be the best feeling to learn from the freshmen that I, as their tour guide, was the one who made them decide to join CAPT.

We can touch people’s lives in so many ways. I think as a tour guide, Honami had touched mine. I hope that I managed to touch a few lives today, when the incoming freshmen decide they want to join the CAPT community, and grow like I did.