Sunday, October 27, 2019

the stories are a bit grim

It's tough when you have almost nothing. No water. No electricity. Just a hut. And your wits.

colour pencil sketch by dsnake1
(a copy of Mondrian's Composition C)

the stories are a bit grim

In the morning the sun brushes our squatter huts
           with loving fingers of gold.

The politicians thump chests and assure us
      that our squatter village is safe.

An old man lives in an abandoned pill box
      and sells candy by day.

Aunt goes early to the market to pick
           discarded vegetables to make achar.

Little Brother is playing with the mothballs again,
           oh please not the mouth!

Some out-of-towners lost their way
           but we do not speak English well.

Me and cousins raid the pill box for candy,
           find only old books and blades.

The kind fisherman gives me and sister
           a big catch of wrasses, all for 30 cents.

Dad comes back from work and says
           someone is shipping missiles to Cuba.

Some nights, the groans and noises from
           the neighbours' thin walls are too loud

We get very paranoid when the police comes visiting,
           it has to be something big.

Surely, we are not having pigeon soup
           with wolfberries again, it's awful!

Mother says go back to sleep but the neighbours
           are fighting like wild cats.

Little Sister is out in the yard playing
           with the chicks, squeezing them.

Some shore-leave sailors lost their way
           and pretend to take pictures of us.

Uncle asks how does a man flies three times
           around the world, folding his paper.

For a week the cops come, plain-clothes,
           shoving mugshots into our faces.

We are expecting something better
           for dinner tonight other than missiles.

Government officials come and tell us
           that our huts have to make way for a port.

Dad says we are moving to the city core
           but the stories there are a bit grim.


A variant of a ghazal. Doesn't look like one? I think this is a better option for that damn poetry competition.

Procol Harum - A Salty Dog

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2019

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, October 20, 2019

nights on a thin mattress, redux

when you don't have much and need to live...

photo by Sarah_Loetscher at pixabay

nights on a thin mattress, redux

do not tempt fate with us, our tempers are thin
when 8, 9 people are crammed into a tiny flat.
sometimes the cops call, it is the neighbours.
they do not like our ugly faces, or something.
then they see some guys lounging, smoking
a little stand fan turning, oily fumes in the air,
a stale smell of dried sweat, dirty clothes on walls.
oft times we turn on the old telly, max the volume
watch what's in the box, like everyone else
argue about why Saturday Night Fever is so big
or we will just roll out our thin mattresses
trying to grab some sleep, thinking of money
loads of it, and the hot girls we had missed.

sometimes maybe around 2 a.m., deep sleep
there are sounds of breaking glass, taunts
mentions of human anatomy, crude language
some fearless drunks down at the coffee shop
they are playing at muay thai and jeet kun do.
we come out to the corridor, to the parapet,
lean out, kaypoh, shirtless in the hot night
see if blood is spilt, money or pride is lost.
then a hothead from upstairs, sleep interrupted,
would lean over the parapet,no malice lost,
nabeh, who the fuck is making noise,
i am coming down with a fucking knife!

and the night is suddenly all quiet again,
until the day takes over, the sun rising
over the bleak factories, the muddy sites,
and compounds we will all be going to
after we have rolled up our thin mattresses,
the dust motes, clear in the morning light.


this is one of the poems that i wanted to submit for a poetry competition. This is actually a rework of an older poem. Kind of a bit gritty and ugly for a competition. Maybe not.

"You sigh too much," she said. "Sighing is a sign of defeat". We were sitting on a park bench, trying to decipher the stars in the dark blue night sky. I repeated her words again. I held her closer in the warm, sweaty night, hoping the world will not fail us both.

-- dsnake1

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2019

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, October 13, 2019


the molecules of air are charged with grief...

photo by joelpapalini from pixabay


as if you
have taken flight

quietly left
not even a goodbye
in the night

left me with
just the air
i breathe


sweet, sharp & painful.

Black Sabbath - She's Gone

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2019

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 22, 2019


it is not just about the haze that rolls in from indonesia. perhaps it is more than that...

photo by dsnake1
of an art installation at a museum


it does not look like red slag
from a furnace
red like a bruise on a face
after a fist fight
it has been like that
since september
a dragon's breath
it blows teeth
sharp as razors
the sweat rolling
down scalps
to sizzle
on dry asphalt
the words hot

the sky
a frenzy of grey hammerheads



this is one of the poems that i wanted to submit for a poetry competition. i think it is not too bad. and yes, what good timing, the haze has just rolled in from indonesia...

The sky is not falling
but it is growing teeth


from “All the Sweat Inside My Handshake” by David Greenspan

This is a prompt from the Bibliomancy Oracle. It can work in hysterical ways.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2019

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, September 15, 2019

nine eleven

i am sorry if it opens old wounds.

photo by lauramusikanski
image from

nine eleven

up above
in a canvas
of sun-laced clouds
a jetliner trailing thunder

my neighbour
sounded almost apologetic
the towers had fallen he said
to a heap of dust

maybe he wanted
to tell me that
it was not him
or his religion
that pulled
the trigger

we waited for the lift
smoked our cigarettes
wondering if a tragedy
half a world away
will change our lives

up above
a black dome of sky
the strobe lights of a jetliner
chasing the stars

jetliners will never look the same again.

various dates, sept 2008
a wee editing, sept 2019

[] []



-- dsnake1, The Height of Haiku Challenge - Day 11, i write too.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2019

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, August 25, 2019


This is from an old post but I think it is worth sharing again.

Life throws you to unexpected and strange places, but you will always come home.

photo by dsnake1


what can be seen then
when we have returned
our arms for the night
our backs against
the weathered boards
of our barracks
as we slowly savoured
every wisp of
cigarette smoke
(and some had more
than just tobacco)
our fatigues unbuttoned
boots unlaced,
as we flicked butts
towards the perimeter fence
towards the concertina
that are protecting us
keeping us in

what can be seen then
an evening sky
blushing red
the colour of
muzzle flashes
red tracers
clouds stretched thin
like oily gunsmoke
and a scimitar moon
and then
through the thousands
of kilometres

the faces of
girl friends
& children
for their loves
to return



Tracy Chapman - Stand By Me

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2019

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, August 18, 2019


Boredom needs a distraction.

pencil sketch by dsnake1

lim chu kang, mid '70's

they said she could floor you with a punch
if you make her just this mad.
so we were expecting her to leap
and somersault over the tables
like some wuxia swordswoman
or slash her way across the coffee shop
an unstoppable medieval amazon.
but she just sits quietly at the counter
looking at us like a wary hawk

we wave for another beer
she saunters over
bottle of cold beer in one hand
bottle opener in another.
she counts out the cash
pops the bottle expertly
we watch her walking back to that counter
her hips too wide for that pair of shorts
have to watch out for her dad though
he is the local triad enforcer

so we just look quietly at this valkyrie
she in her long black hair and tiny t-shirt
measuring her, trying small talk with her
drink our beer eat our carrot cakes
and prawn noodles smoke our cigarettes
sometimes sweating out the night
thick with rumours and gnats
waiting for our night transport
to take us back to the shithole
a couple of clicks away
that is our camp.


To the tough lady (sorry, i missed your name) who manned the counter at that coffee shop near our base at lim chu kang, thanks for the beer and coffee and conversations, wherever you may be.

"I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—“La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!”

--John Keats, La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2019

Labels: , , , , ,