Plagiarism Is Seven Words Long

In the beginning was the Word eternal,

sunshine of the spotless,

mind petals on a wet, black bough,

the best laid plans of mice

between the shadow and the soul.

 

Death is nothing to us, since

there’s a bluebird in my heart, for love

is strong as death, friends, Romans.

Countrymen, lend me your hope,

is the thing with feathers, all kisses

 

are metaphors decipherable by sea

that bangs in my throat. Between my

fingers and my thumb, I wandered lonely

as a cloud, the mind is its own place.

I have heard the mermaids singing

 

when a woman loves a man, the clock

strikes with her hands, when we two

parted in silence, your absence has

gone through me. The breezes at dawn

have secrets, the rain is full of ghosts.

 

Do I dare disturb the universe?

You can hear the dew falling.

I carry your heart with me and

your fingerprints on my windows

in the machinery of the night.

 

Between the dark and the daylight

the stars are not wanted now,

death makes angels of us all.

Two roads diverged in a wood

and in between are the doors.

 

Now I’m trying to dig deeper, things

fall apart; the centre cannot fear

in a handful of dust to be, or not to be;

I still have time to be, a narrow fellow

in the grass, going where I have to go.

 

Tonight, let us not become tragedies.

To err is human; to forgive, I celebrate

myself, and sing myself. Like a bridge

over troubled waters, the weight

we carry is love.

 

Although this is technically not necessary, nevertheless here are the lines by their authors in order of appearance:
The Bible, Alexander Pope, Ezra Pound, John Steinbeck, Pablo Neruda, Epicurus, Charles Bukowski, The Bible, Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Saul Williams, Anne Sexton, Seamus Heaney, William Wordsworth, John Milton, T.S. Eliot, David Lehman, Saul Williams, Lord Byron, W.S. Merwin, Rumi, Edna St. Vincent Millay, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, E.E. Cummings, Allan Ginsberg, Henry Longfellow, Jim Morrison, W.H. Auden, Robert Frost, Jim Morrison, Richard Siken, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare, Anis Mojgani, Emily Dickinson, Theodore Roethke,
Buddy Wakefield, Alexander Pope, Walt Whitman, Paul Simon, Allan Ginsberg

 

Going Postal

After three years of plugging away at my next collection of poems, I’m really proud to say it’s finally coming into the light! Postal Code is going to launch on 4th November at the Singapore Writer’s Festival at 7 p.m., alongside Desmond Kon’s The Arbitrary Sign. Expect a special guest appearance from my former prof at NUS, Dr Rajeev Patke, as well as a reading and Q&A.

Postal Code Cover Image

 

Postal Code is a book about place. It divides into five sections; broadly speaking.

Singapore

Faith

Love

Death

Endings

While the Singapore section seems to encapsulate all of the other sections thematically, I felt that it was time to return (after the nomadic wanderings of my previous book, Chai) to more home-grown issues. Hence poems about the 2011 elections, Mas Selamat, the 6.9m white paper, reservist training in the Army, and so forth.

The poems in the other sections consider other geographical places, but never quite stray from stories and experiences close to my heart.

And if you want to get a sneak peek of one of the poems, do drop by the Smoke-Filled Room this weekend. ‘Suara,’ a poem from Postal Code, is part of a collaborative work with Vikas Kailankaje. And I’ll be performing poems from Postal Code and more together with two other smashing poets, Jennifer Champion and Raksha Mahtani, on 27th October, 6pm. The gig is called Smoke-Filled Poets (naturally, right?) Come on down to get a lungful of socio-political incorrectness!

Smoke-Filled Room Events

 

Aproximity

An artistic dialogue with painter Janette Maxey. First exhibited at Lit Up 2013 as part of Tête-à-tête, a progressive conversation between three pairs of artists from different backgrounds. For Aproximity, Janette started with a painting and I responded with a poem. She then replied with another painting and I countered with a poem. The final exhibition featured eight paintings and poems, all created within a month.

 

a(proximity _)

by Marc Nair & Janette Maxey

The large, unseen gaps that hover between things

Exploring distance in a crowd, or any similar density

Growing from the nearness of space, time and relationships

 

Commute

Commute

 

These hooks hold a neck easily,

less so the baleful glance. Queue

please, this is transit ordered

en masse, a rapid conveyance

from coop to set meal. Whether

part or whole, we are all flayed

to the bone, laid in fragrant bowls,

our skins roasted with endeavour.

 

04A Becoming Shelter

Shelter, Becoming

 

Moment of sky,

with its shades of blue opal,
descends, a pendant hanging

from the neck of God,
above the hands of casual fronds
that drift lazily across the fence,

some rich man’s walled-in
dream; unbarbed, yet high
enough to be a shelter, becoming
home, for those who have enough.

 

05A Buddha hand fruit on Blue

Clasp

 

Could this be the hand of a great man,

curled into original thought, holding
in the veneration of meditative years?

Or it could be a bunch of bananas,

arcing in ripe repast, a prayer before
being twisted off, and consumed.

 

Veil

Veil

A new day is sold behind metal hoardings

soon to ascend from pathos; the scaffold

of progress, the bones of a millionaire’s

new playground, rising higher over the

frayed houses that window lost seas,

the sad waves of tattered palm trees

and a sky that cannot see its stars.

Shimmering skirts walk by night

like tattered blue veils; only a

streetlamp will keep aglow.

 

Chamber

Chamber

 

This pot of necessary excess

This chamber of effluent secrets
painted with an indistinct eye on nature

This studio apartment of inner wealth
collecting drops the color of gold, a
dank waterfall in the wee hours of dawn

This is no cistern of desire, from which a
poxy of withering men may gulp a toast
No history stagnates overlong inside,
everything empties with the rising sun

Cosmetic

Cosmetic

She would dream this cosmetic fantasy,
a regression from riches into youth

Eyes the allure of perfect almonds,
eyebrows a delicate arch to hold the

weight of pencilled-in propriety and
those lips; what rounded reasons,

what bodied desire, what bee-stung
kisses to plant on the skin of some

natural fool, who will never know
the difference between collagen

and candour

Market Mannaquins

Wrap

Last of the mannequins,
they hold stories in plastic silence.

Stand too close,
and they’ll stare down your
imperfections, though that
uniform smile makes them
two sisters in a family feud,

a wealth of colour wrapped
around serious eyes.

Each one takes on her own hue;
some haughtier than others,
some an inviting cup of tease.

No one has asked for a sister along
with a scarf, so they carefully
wrap their dreams like these shawls,

wishes warm against sudden chill.

 

Rambutan Bundled on Plastic bag

A Hairball of Rambutans

 

It was our secret proper name for luscious memories

set against evenings in neighbors’ dense gardens,

wielding a home-made pole with a kind of scissors

at the end to pull a string and snip off thin branches.

We watched the rambutans fall like circus jugglers

collapsing into heaps of laughter and juice. Too much

rambutan is just too much, and nothing more. Nobody

we knew ever fell ill from overeating, and there was

always extras to bring home, our sticky fingers

clutching plastic bags, as we stopped for a second

before getting in the car to break off wild ixoras

and slurp on stems, a nectar of kampung and sunset.

 

 

Save

This is in praise of cats

Chubs

This is in praise of cats

How they have great purrsonality and avert catastrophes.

With mewling meowness, they lap the milk of human kindness.

Ginger striped burnished, they come fully furnished

with no caterwauling, or hissy-fit pussyfooting

Pawsibly psychic, they make the best mewsic.

The cream of the bowl, it’s time to rowl and roll.

No alive or dead Schrodinger suppositions,

not the product of random composition,

they’re conceived under howl and hiss,

on moonlit nights in tuna bliss.

Though they lick you into hairballs,

and scratch poetry on your walls;

this is still in praise of cats,

cuz they’ve gotta be purrfect.

Mane

Mane

These are good hours, brushing muddy thoughts
through short-bristled minutes at the stables.

The horses are mostly calm. Apple-eyed, with
casual swish, their glossy mane surely one of

God’s better ideas. Not for such anomalies

as the capybara or the undecided dugong,
this covering glory for battle-worthy beasts

that hold a king’s carriage, and for us who
canter on old polo ponies, ever concussed

with joy.

Postal Code

Postal Code

 

What is the address for the stars?

On street corners,

I am punching old numbers into a broken

cash machine with its empty dollar lungs.

The satellites stop over heavy cloud.

They cannot pinpoint your curling eyelash,

the laughter in empty corners, this map

of a cartographer’s wet dream.

I am standing on the outside of quiet alleys,

knocking on closed doors of skin. Your body

is no compass;

it is all deserts

and solitude.

Where do I leave a message?

I am writing letters

and forgetting where you live.

It is raining too much these days,

bodies need bodies to stamp dreams on.

I am listening to a piano playing itself,

a chromatic beachcomber picking minor

seashells;

we roll like

dissonant waves.

I sing to an empty house.

 

What is it about some songs?

They make you want to wail with them,

the chorus a wound up engine screaming

night, an angry riptide, drowned hearts of

a scarred universe where I am

playing on these four chords, some found

melody stolen from the throat of a bird.

I would like to kiss you,

to give you all my attempts to speak,

but I cannot find the way to your mouth,

and your words spill out like a nest,

twigs and leaves

building the language

of a different city.

No wonder I cannot find home.