Rambles

I write & shoot (photographs) occasionally

museum ramblings

plucking a leaf out of a forest of history, handling it with tremulous fingers and tender touch. tomorrow the other trees will be chopped down without regard in the race and embrace of modernity. great halls and harsh lights, shoes clicking on smooth floors. quiet reflection and contentment. tourists soaking in culture with wonder-filled gazes; natives silently struggling to understand the gleam of polished unfamiliarity behind glass cases. we preserve relics in the name of culture but destroy the core around which our lives are centred. hdb blocks topple like dominoes, one after another: conversations in void decks of stout structures; neighbourly camaraderie in dim corridors; tiled sandy playgrounds crumble, strain to find form again in the rising dust. on a clean slate shiny skyscrapers rise.

new museums trap history but our branches are severed; white walls, high ceilings, grand arches are not the faded red brick and large number panels so easy on our eyes. our landscape is not a museum of our country.

somewhere foreign

and sometimes the skies here are just as blue,

grass just as green

just my soul wishes to find a shade of difference which would

justify this unwonted longing for another land

backward thoughts: stargazing

9/6

straying ten steps from our door in the late night moonshine

cocooned in coats and scarves, paper pyjama bottoms that cannot stand the wintry chill

the sky is waiting, ready to

pounce on us with renewed wonder each time:

showers of crystals embedded in midnight rock

i’ll never remember the galaxy closer in any moment,

cupping numb fingers around our eyes to soften the ambient glow

lying on asphalt, tender songs stitching memories together

the lyrics slip off our tongues in low whispers, no restraint under these boundless skies

the universe falling on us, within reach

silent awe

it’s real, it’s real.

beings trained to seek perfection

but built to love imperfections

and when i feel like i am treading these deserts alone

i just have to lift my lips to your name, to mean the words

and feel enclosed in the flowing harmonies of your love

backward thoughts: electric

8/6

I experienced it today- that elusive invincibility, lurking in the shadows of pure recklessness and spontaneity, the feeling of having nothing to lose together in a foreign land; recognising danger but knowing we were still tethered (what’s the worst that can happen?), getting lost, finding ourselves by unimaginable chance. Screaming, shouting, hugging, no restraint, that final burst across the road and the energy and feeling of magic that didn’t die long afterward, embedded like threads running through veins that couldn’t so easily disintegrate, ecstasy, complete wondrous disbelief with almost strangers now bright eyed and warmer with shared moments.

when it filters down to nuances

our eyes are the cruelest-

to us

unsent letters

I find unsent letters tucked

away in old files crammed with dog-eared scores: worn pages and rusted staples, graphite doodles and annotations

I couldn’t find her at graduation and i guess that’s

why the goodbyes and gratitudes are home with me still

in handwriting that has since changed; feelings that are no longer the same

the worth of lilac stock paper from the stationery store

adorned with gold-inked sentiment:

a couple weeks hesitance and these

words addressed to these names become irrelevant

do we send letters of fossilized feeling or keep words

fading with fond memory?

library ramblings

some things are hard to describe: the smell of old books, the sensation that overcomes me every time I step into the library. it is a place that is ever-changing; books pasted over with fresh alphabet stickers, slotted into age-old shelves which have seen their share of titles come and go. yet it is a place that radiates the same warmth, the same gentle noise of books knocking against shelves that is oddly comforting. books that I’ve seen hundreds of times from pre-teen years- the same blaring titles never fail to catch my eye, books of childhood past that I smile at upon seeing each time, books that I eventually pick up, books that i never do. things that make me wonder: strangers’ receipts pressed between the pages- did they get through the book or give up halfway like I sometimes do? I always decipher these half-faded names but never recognise any of them. there’s a whole library of books and I wonder if there’s an elusive book that my eyes skim across, that my fingers will always regret for not picking up, a book that I will absolutely love but never discover. I always thought that 9 was too early for the library to close, but I can’t change it. I will stay until five minutes before closing time, knowing that the automated announcement will prompt me when I need to leave, petering out with the remains of library-goers as the kind librarians stand at the doors and thank us for entering this place.

the white shirt

stories from cambodia: a thank you to mai for your recount that stayed with me

drowsy mornings with half-opened eyes; reaching my hand into the dark closet and grabbing the first white, structured form i see. they’re lined up beside each other: identical white blouses i wear on weekday mornings, neatly pressed and almost pristine. in some conversations we exchange complaints of too-early mornings, but in truth i never feel anything- there is no hardship in routine; routine doesn’t occupy a second thought. fingers race down buttons with practised speed, smooth out creases, pin on the badge aimlessly- i don’t think.

i wonder how different they feel when they put on the white shirt; are their skins awash with renewed gratitude each time? a friend told me how the children there are only admitted into school if they have a white shirt to wear to class; how a single white shirt circulates among siblings for their seat in the classroom, for education to reach some of them on good days.

on some days it is difficult for me to see this shirt as anything but a shackle; confusing me, frightening me, binding me to something i repeatedly do but don’t fully understand. yet this thin fabric is their train ticket to a better life- an object so small and simple, of cloth and thread, is their hope out of this perpetuating cycle of poverty. we could have a hundred white shirts if we wanted to, but they wouldn’t even need one to understand the privilege.

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