Sunday, November 23, 2014

the light

I have grown to love this poem. I wrote this originally in response to a prompt. It was about my life in a squatter colony when I was a child, where the home has no electricity or running water.

The "light" in the poem could refer to the physical light itself, and, as I realised later, it could be a metaphor for the values that our parents taught us, without which, my path could have been vastly different.

photo by xandert
image from

the light

you know,
the light from the single
pressure lamp in our hut
keeps the night at bay
keeps the barking dogs outside
the night

there is no tv, no radio
to distract my school work
except the light will dim
after a while
and dad will pump the lamp every hour
or so

to keep the kerosene flowing
feeding the flames,
and mum joins me at
the only table
mending a dress with what squares of fabric
she has

while dad reads the day's papers
crumpled and smudged
from passing through
many hands
while outside in the village the dogs
still bark.

written 09/02/10
revised 09/09/10

“There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.”

― Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems, 1956-1968

Shared on Poetry Pantry #228 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2014

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ah Chui

On the path of my life, I come across many interesting people...

photo by Alvimann
image from

Ah Chui

He is almost seventy
but tough as steel.
I look upon him
more like a friend
than the cleaner
who cleans my office.

He always wears
a long-sleeved shirt,
even on hot days
as if he is hiding something,
a scar, a tattoo.
I never ask him.

We take smoking breaks
in the hoist bays, staircases.
He tells me he had a business
in Beijing. It failed.
I did not ask if that's
the reason he came back.

One day he gives me his lighter
a carved dragon of metal.
Take it, he just said, and the
next day I did not see him again.
Sometimes there are things
best left unanswered.


“Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?”

― Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

Shared on Poetry Pantry #227 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2014

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Sunday, November 09, 2014

i am the grass

This is one of my favourite works. Call it anti-war or what, but when I wrote it, it was intended as a perspective from the ground. When it was first published on this blog many years back, it elicited a good number of comments.

digital sketch by dsnake1, done with pencilmadness

i am the grass

i am the grass
the hard boots
of the troopers
trampled upon
going on recon
on ambush
on patrol

but today

i feed on their blood
and brass cartridges
as they left
in alarm
calling for choppers
for medic
for God.

i am the grass
i do not take sides.


“A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.”

Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

Shared on Poetry Pantry #226 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2014

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Sunday, November 02, 2014

no matter if it rains

The mind wanders back to a distant past as I was reading the words to this prompt.

photo by P. Kratochvil
image from

no matter if it rains

now this rain
seems sterile
like hypodermic needles
into my face
because it seems
to cleanse
these stinks
these grime
from the city
and the demons
that claw at me
from within.

i get off my bike
to take cover
at the bus shelter
not because
of the rain
or the wetness
or the slippery
but because i was cold
cold because
i miss you
and i feel like
and i am hoping
you will not see me
in such a sorry state
as the last lights
of the day
battles the incessant

but then
no matter if it rains
it will have to stop



Today, no matter if it rains,
It’s time to follow the path into the forest.


from "By the Same Author" by James Longenbach

I was inspired by the lines from the above poem (and some mind wanderings). This is a prompt from the Bibliomancy Oracle. It can work in aching ways.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2014

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

you are a starfish on a beach

When I was a kid, my mother told me a story about the cops coming for a relative. He had two guns with him. I did not know what he had the guns for. And I did not ask. I did not see him much, perhaps on a few occasions when, after he was out of the slammer, visited my maternal grandfather.

Somehow this little incident inspired the following poem. I have being thinking about the past again. :(

photo by mettem
image from

you are a starfish on a beach

you flick the cigarette butt
the glow arc in the dark
the wet asphalt reflects
the nights's cold lights

you are afraid of the dark
and its wild crouching shadows
and the demons that tears
and tears your heart.

you are glad that it's day
but there are lions waiting
but even the birds sing
but fear does not go away

you are at the end of the alley
the metal in your hand heavy and cold
the sirens wail and wail
the hounds close in on the quarry


you are a starfish on a beach
the sun beating down hard
the quiet creeping of sand
the crush of stepping feet.


You are afraid of everyone. Your nickname is hermit crab.
Come out of you shell, they say.


from "Starfish" by Leah Horlick

I was inspired by the lines from the above poem (and some pretty wild thoughts). This is a prompt from the Bibliomancy Oracle. It can work in criminal ways.

Shared on Poetry Pantry #223 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2014

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Sunday, October 05, 2014

Text in the City

photo by dsnake1

My poem, Rain Trees, Bedok South, has been selected for a collection of local poetry in Text in the City, a campaign about poetry and places in Singapore which will run primarily through a smartphone app. The event is presented by The Arts House and launched on Saturday 4th October 2014.

And, (shudder) hear me read my own poem at their website. Please click on this link to read/hear my poem. :)

I am with some illustrious company. :)

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2014

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tampines Bike Park

I am sorry to see it go. This bike park is the only place near my home where we can do off-road riding. So two weeks back I was there to get some long due trail riding when the security told me the park is closing its gates for good in two days time, on the 15th of September. A new town of housing blocks will be built over the land.

In the past years I have regularly gone there to improve my skills in off road cycling. I am still a lousy rider. I have left some skin many times on those gravel and stones. But for those looking for an adrenalin fix (or just for some plain exercise) it is a good place to go. I like the challenge of man and machine against nature.

I am going to miss this place. Cycling in a public park and a trail are different. I will miss the challenge and unpredictability of the latter. So before the place is totally transformed, I took some pictures with my cell phone. The quality is not so good though. Oh yes, it also inspired the haiku (and a tanka, sort of) that accompany the photos. :)

Tampines Bike Park

one of the few trees not zapped by lightning.

the birds return to the tree tops
to gossip.

elephant grass in the sunset

i think of days
in the tall grass with rifles.

the sunset is brief
it could be longer.

and then the croaking of toads.

a much needed rest after a ride

defying physics-
alloy tubes, rubber and leg power
over mud and gravel.

night is falling
all photos by dsnake1

the moon
trapped in those branches
sighs and sleeps


Get out and get some play.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2014

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