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.

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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.

Her Last Hula

Her every movement, intentional.
Eyes like the picture perfect waters
Caressing the shores of Hawaii.
Hair like spun gold, soft as her eyes,
Flows with grace, with her every move.

A tropical bird, Persephone’s human form?
I remember the single flower in her hair,
The white petals around her wrists,
White as her image.

A stick in each hand,
She sang and danced,
Was patient. Songs of
Aloha, sea turtles,
Music in a language we didn’t understand.
Music that flowed with her.

We saw her every year,
Teaching us her art.
Benevolent smiles she showered
On the rows of boys and girls.
One year, she didn’t come.

Whispers of new material on her wrists,
Not fresh flowers, but cold biting metal.
She danced her way between borders,
Her every word intentional, planned,
Bringing families together:
Childless parents and

the child torn away from its true family
Mau loa.

A/N: “mau loa” is Hawaiian for “forever”

Neverland

Days began with a race to the dining room,
Greeted by my smiling father as he stands at the stove.
Mother packs our lunches and combs our hair.
Father comes over with a stack of pancakes
Hot off the stove.

Birthdays weren’t just another year gone by
But a reason to celebrate getting older.
(What were we thinking?)
Tests were a chance to see stars
On your paper, and perfect scores.

Breaks were for playing pretend,
Re-enacting cartoons, being heroes,
Acting like magic was real,
And maybe even believing it.

I fell in love with Peter Pan
But didn’t understand why he didn’t want to grow up.
I understand now.

Free time is for planning your future,
Not daydreaming. Really deciding
what you want to do with your life,
You aimless college student.

Birthdays just mean you’ve lived another year,
And that you’ll be on your own before long.
It’s a year closer on the walk
– pick up the pace! –
from Life to Death.
Magic means fairytales and delusion.

Tests aren’t about seeing stars,
They’re about climbing the slippery slope of scholars;
Your self-esteem is battered as you slide down the wrong end.
It’s Survival of the Fittest within ‘civilized society.’

Mother and Father are getting old.
I look down at my breakfast plate:
Food bought, or prepared the night before.
If I have the luxury of time,
It’s food I cooked myself.

I return to Neverland sometimes,
In words, in my memories, in photos.
In my sleep I sail the ship of Shattered Dreams
With a crew of lost boys and girls.
It’s not called Neverland anymore;
It’s called Nostalgia.

Morning Coffee

I may not know music,
But I know this song could be about us:
How I hate that you’re so happy
With other people. Without me.
If you were the one who walked away,
Why do I keep blaming myself?

Our memories were sugar and the playground,
and the smell of the café across the street:
Its ambient music and the cakes on display,
The heated chocolate lava that burnt me.

Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies:
It’s also where friendships don’t die.
It’s where We are living and breathing.
It’s where coffee is an adult drink
And to drink it is a privilege.

I’ve grown to hate this drink:
It’s bitter, it’s scalding,
It’s a sign I’m tired of life
And I need something to revive me.

Time ticks, jets, takes away.
It’s no longer on our side.
Is it selfish to wish I could forget you?
I wouldn’t be hurting you
The way your negligence hurts me
Every day. Would I?
Your silence cuts deeper than words,
And these unseen wounds won’t heal.
This day-starter has gone cold.

Chinese Handcuffs

This finger trap is the past concretized,
Woven from our promises
Of forever and never:
Best Friends Forever
And Never Forget Me.

They say to love is to let go,
But that’s why I can’t let you go:
I fear you’ll never come back.

The further you drift from me,
The stronger the pull,
The stronger my yearning
For all we had, and all we were.
Do you feel the tug on your end too?

Chained

You write of me abandoning you,
Of your long waits and my short replies.
Don’t be so quick to lay blame on me.
Here’s my say from the other side.

I’m sorry for what I’ve done,
But you need to let me go.
You say you’re chained to memories of me,
But I’m bound by your love for me.
I’m your prisoner, and you are mine.

I’m thankful for your love,
I appreciate your undying hope
In the power of our promises
Made so long ago.

It’s like you said:
Even stars aren’t forever.
Stars die, so why shouldn’t promises?
Time makes blackholes out of stars,
Voids. Promises too.

Your love is stifling,
And your devotion to our pact
Imprisons me in memories of days gone.
Stop forgiving me. Forget me.
Let me pass into the void.

I might have left you in the past,
But you were the one who left me behind.
It was you who went away,
To a brand new life.

Don’t stifle your resentment,
Accept it and let it grow.
If it releases you from me,
Forget our past.

Learn from me,
Give up on us.
Don’t blame distance.
Blame us.
Blame me.