Suppose we reverse the premise of "Jeremiah": instead of a viral epidemic killing everyone above the age of innocence, we give back to everyone their childhood eyes, eyes that are free of discrimination. Children are humble, malleable. Before they lose that flexibility, we must keep their minds open, expose them to as much diversity as we can and encourage them to build friendships with those who come from different backgrounds. Purely focussing on a technical, economic, dogmatic or nationalistic education is dangerous because it is mind-closing.
Words of a blind cleric: "...and so it is that every year thousands of young Muslims from developing nations such as Indonesia come of age while studying as strangers in foreign lands. Their education provides for them an understanding of modern technology and science but it is, of course, left to them to reconcile this newly gained knowledge with the faith that, as foreign students in the West, they increasingly come to feel to be at the core of their identity. Because they have not been trained in the rich disciplines of Islamic scholarship, they tend to bring to their reflection on their faith the same sort of simple modelling and formulistic thinking that they have learnt as students of engineering or other applied sciences."
Stay, or quit. Believer, or heretic. With us, or against us. Though television and print have long moved forward from the era of black-and-white, we still find it easier to digest the simple, binary thought epitomised in the newsreel sound-bite. It is ludicrous that cyberspace is blamed as "the home to ill-formed debates, emotional disputes and the airing of stereotypes". It is because of the conditioning of our minds to dualistic thinking that we tend to pick out only the most sensationalistic arguments on the internet, when a vast, diversified range of opinion exists.
Nostalgic Chinese taxi-drivers tell me about the days when they shared plates of Hokkien mee, full of lard, with their Malay friends. Perhaps with the economic prosperity we enjoy today, religious abstractions offer stronger ties between the haves and the have-nots than the natural communal ties that existed before. We must find new, creative ways to bring about more chances for harmony, understanding and open-mindedness. And the technology is out there for us to exploit.
Could the Singaporean applicant not have protested
and thrust a poem of simple scenery instead?
Spot the ancient croc submerged in green,
bifocal periscope steering for terrorist movement.
Lensed, the Japanese schoolgirl gasps,
an albino python wraparound for evidence.
In the beginning, Man created Heaven,
snow globes and letter openers for the tourist.
Our sky is devoid of atmospheric cirrus.
On ground zero, tourists fluff for a jerk-off scene.
Here's a banana peel flung from the ring.
Whatta manna? You expect a durian anthem?
Kindly turn off your irresponsible mobile and
don't feed me despite my Golden Tamarin plea.
I am a meerkat standing erect on a tree stump.
A polite label explains who I am and who eats me.
The handsome Fuhrer raises his head high,
but all the audience the African Nazi has is me.
His body language - torso taut as totem and
paws arch like chips - spells gladiatorial salutation.
Today, the lexical march-past comprises comrades
armed with corporate brollies and patriotic digicams.
Did you miss me on August 9th? Flash.
Auto-roaming peacock folds his tale and scuttles away.
The national lubrication is a zoological conceit.
Stop puffing and zoom in upon Bloomingdales.
A wolf howls a parliamentary monologue.
A bear, out of range, rubs against gentle rock.
Look at the beautiful rock!
The room that Jill finds herself in is white and empty with a hollowness that reminds her of her heart. She doesn't know why it's hollow. Just that it is. And has been for a long time.
She remembers a little girl. That could have been her. Something happened. She's not sure. But when was she ever? The walls of time are caving in on Jill. The first to fall is Memory. Then all sense of Past. And finally Moment. Its collapse is the loudest.
But somehow she feels a little safer, having no sense of time.
"The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity."
Calvin, to Hobbes
a german company
but he's been made
through its automation
and now, a bus
no of course it isn't
less than half
and hard work too
he has trouble
I was on the evening journey home. The train was half full, quiet as a library. A young woman, early twenties, thin-framed glasses and in plain blue, came in and sat down across from me. She opened a score with long, thin fingers, and began to sing, practicing a hymn right there in the train. A pair of schoolgirls snickered but did not say anything. The singing occasionally went flat, but it was loud and reverential.
A child sitting opposite stared expressionlessly, not knowing how he should react. Passengers in other carriages leaned in and watched, but in our cabin there was no acknowledgement of her presence or her song. A middle-aged man with thinning hair studied a sign overhead. No smoking. No food and drink. No durians, but nothing about singing. So she could sing, she should sing, and she sang. For five stops she sang, her voice accompanying us in the darkness, countering the grating of the train against rails and the electric hum in the air. At each stop, as passengers disembarked, it seemed she would stop. Give in. Shut up. Our conformity calls to you. But she did not.
When it came to her stop, she closed her score and exited, seemingly unaware of her accidental audience. The cabin became quiet once more, but it was now a different silence.
If your face is kind, a tourist will approach you while you're waiting for a train and ask you to take a photo of him and his friends. He'll hand you a compact camera, tell you where to press and stand in front of the doors. You start to press but then he'll say, "Wait until train is coming." So you wait, holding the camera, finger on the button while he and his friends' face are frozen in a smile. You wonder if his town would have such a system one day. Was it expected in the evolution of cities? Eventually the train does come, you press on the button and it sends a flash booming against the dark glass. You pass back the camera, received his thanks and step into the train. You wonder whether you too, had photos of other subways once. When had wonder become common, and the astonishing merely interesting?
The Japanese tourist spoke no English, but still insisted on yelling at the poor flightless bird: "HELLO MR PENGUIN!"
(For your information while travelling)
Sparrows that fall out of trees.
The empty lace of an old pump shoe
by the wayside in knee-length grass.
Ants do buffet and build colonies by them
billions of food cells breed sacs of minute
Mould does transgress them with distended spouts
trillions of tentacles transpose amassed spores
Rot. Nothing is of this earth; not alone.
The rubbish heap of the century towers over all.
Smoke and ash and lava of plastic
roll silently these lands.
The vengence that cries on all hills --
They fall when the bullet spoons them out.
Centipedes lay their fingers by these broken limbs.
Man, who walks on the ground and can't be eaten
walks till the immaterial leaves.
He falls to the ground and can be eaten.
The Ordeal of Wakefulness
He wakes up one afternoon with nothing to say.
He gets dressed with nowhere to go.
Greeted with glare, traffic and pollution,
he takes a train back home,
to find a letter waiting for him;
an invitation to a dinner party.
At the dinner party were a family of strangers; his Own.
He heard the conversation but did not listen.
So after an hour he disappeared
only to find himself again in the midst of an afternoon funeral procession.
The band who were dressed in cowboy hats and all Tied-up,
were the only people around besides
the unknown corpse that lay adjusted in the coffin.
The void-deck reverberated from the echoes of the rusty horns,
that cleared their throats for a final paen.
He tried not to disturb them
albeit the mise-en-scene was vaguely familliar.
So he gingerly made his way
only to be weighed down by his sets of keys,
that tore a hole in his pocket
and fell with a loud cling-clang on the cement.
They stared at him and at the floor
for they've never seen anyone carry so many sets of keys before.
Eve: Except nothing happens. That was what the fruit was about; one bite and boredom exploded like juice to fill our mouths.
Adam: Except it was not juice. It was not any kind of matter, although it would fly up to consume us, although all we could do was pin it down with words, an entire language.
Eve: How long have we been walking? Juice. How apt. How boredom swims out of us in beads through our skin, fills the pocket of air between my legs like liquid fire.
Adam: It is also a vacuum. And the body is sucked in to fill it. Desire. This is what the word means.
Eve: Desire. Frustration follows. Then weariness. Cyclical. With an unstoppable rhythm: our hearts keep the time, drum out the tempo.
Adam: And then we have each other. Or more of us if we have to.
Eve: Let us rest here. We will build a fire for the night, as nights are longer here. The cold will be unbearable.
The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action.
we're playing poison ball today
i'll get to show the girls i love
my wonderful beautiful powerful serve
laura lau's the first to be slain
she's the tinest of them all
my heart leaps up as she squeals in pain
raucously loud for a girl so small
sweet lil' colette stands on guard
sweat trickling down her cheek
i aim the ball and slam it hard
she lets out a horrid shriek
again i grab the ball and flee
my classmates glare like it's a crime
i won't let go, just you wait and see
the girls are mine, all mine
it's time for you now, anne, my dear
she how she ducks and misses!
as her laughter turns to tears
i blow her secret kisses
last of all i play with rose
big and strong, of ill-repute
but with her master dealing her blows
my monitress is soon subdued
like the others she starts to howl
o... look at her contorted face!
how much finer she seems to me now
in this state of fallen grace
resistance is futile, you ought to know
one flick of the wrist and you're dead
in this game where i'm in control
it's no good how tough you're made
i love to see my girlies cry
it gives me such a delirious high
at times too i weep and sigh
but there really is no other way
for one as shy as i
see, i hit them 'coz i love them
that's all there is to it
laura collete rose and anne
my four fave girls, i admit
teacher says i've a cruel streak
who cares what the rest should think
as for the girls i can't say for sure
but i swear -- i saw anne wink
it's my favourite game in school
the rules are really cool
but hey! don't you dare call me a perv --
pray how else can marky show his love?
There is in this world no such force as the force of a man determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.
Instant Cafe Radio Episode 10 © 2002 Selection and Mix by Koh Beng Liang
Hunky Nuts Lupus © 2002 Yeow Kai Chai
Jill and the magic fable 2 © 2002 Shannon Low
Uncle J. © 2002 Joanne Leow
Train © 2002 Dave Chua
What falls to the ground and can't be eaten © 2002 Sherlyn Xie
The Amrahs Identity © 2002 Jeremy Sharma
Part Of A Discussion © 2002 Chris Tan
Poison Ball © 2002 Michelle Low