Sunday, January 05, 2020

and all i see are wet petals on asphalt

"And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
         Not shaking the grass"

-- Ezra Pound

Osaka, Japan, at night
photo by dsnake1

and all i see are wet petals on asphalt

the train doors close
like a breath exhaling

and i slip out of the station
to an empty street

a cold wind blowing
and a long way from home


* “Where are the people?” resumed the little prince at last. “It’s a little lonely in the desert…”
"It is lonely when you’re among people, too,” said the snake. *

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Shared on Writers' Pantry #1 at Poets and Storytellers United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2020

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Sunday, December 15, 2019

no one thinks of politics when he is hungry

somehow, there is order in chaos...

photo by darksouls1 at pixabay

no one thinks of politics when he is hungry

i feel like
i am the crab in the glass tank at the zi char stall
staring at the raffia strings tied around the pincers
and trying to escape.

the waitress comes holding the menu askew and recommends the song fish head in black bean paste. the same fish that caused the poisoning cases some time back, no thank you i don't want to be another statistic. i order a plate of hor fun, you don't expect me to finish that damn fish head alone anyway? she saunters off, shouts something towards the kitchen and hides in the smoking zone to steal a puff.

The beer lady is next, walks over, smiles and asks how many bottles of Heineken I want. I blink. In my not too distant past, i can drink like a hippo, but no more. i tell her i just want a teh, she says something like uncle join that queue at the counter for your teh and walks off, swinging her bottle opener.

i feel like
i am the crab in the glass tank at the zi char stall
scratching at the thick glass walls before the chef
comes with the cleaver.

revised : 07/04/2019

actually, this is about politics. sorry, my foreign readers, lots of local terms.
This is also an intended entry for the 2019 Golden Point Awards poetry competition.

some foreign notes :

zi char - a hokkien term in Singapore (literally cook and fry) describing a Chinese food stall which provides a wide selection of common and affordable dishes, found in most kopitiams and hawker centres.

hor fun - Cantonese rice noodle strips stir-fry over high heat and served with seafood or meat.

teh - tea, from the Malay language, which was in turn taken from the Hokkien dialect.

song fish - Asian Bighead Carp, a freshwater fish.

uncle - no, not about relatives. any middle age or elderly man

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2019

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Sunday, December 08, 2019


"The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour." - Japanese proverb.

photo by dsnake1


Who would like to visit a graveyard when on a holiday tour? Not many, I guess.

But here I am, in one of the largest cities of the world, somewhere in Tokyo, on a cold balmy morning. Around me, are weathered gravestones with wooden votive plaques. Incense smoke rises from some holders. But this is not any graveyard. This is the resting place of the 47 ronin. I will not go into their legend. There are books and plays and movies. Yes, Hollywood has shot a movie about them with Keanu Reeves and though embellished with fictitious additions, it still try to stay true to the original incident. To the Japanese, the story of these ronin stands for duty, honour, courage and loyalty, the things that drive their psyche and soul.

I stand before these weathered stones, like the thousands and millions before me, bowing to them, trying to understand their courage and fears and sacrifices.

Perhaps we will never truly understand. Just like I do not understand how I navigated the chaos that is Shinjuku Station, the largest and busiest train station in the world, where I earlier had taken the train from.

An old lady comes, clutching a handful of incense. She walks with slow but determined steps up the stone stairs, to the graves. There are a couple of businessmen type there, in sharp black suits, and holding briefcases. They are sombre, silent, heads bowed before the graves. Perhaps they are seeking guidance on some difficult decisions?

The sky is threatening to rain. I walk down the stairs, out of the graveyard, and back to the main temple compound. Workers are trimming the ancient pine trees there. A teacher is bringing a group of young school-children, speaking in rapid Japanese. I do not understand his language to his charges. I just need to understand why I was here.

overcast skies -
a red maple leaf
falls from a branch.

written 21-11-2019
revised 07-12-2019

photo by dsnake1

It is 8°C in Kyoto when I leave for Tokyo. It is warm in the shinkansen train. I watched the countryside of Japan flashing by as I eat my bento meal. Power pylons, houses with satellite dishes, squares of tilled land, rivers, mountains with autumn hues of red, orange, yellow and green. I do not want to sleep, like most of the other passengers, and miss all these. Soon, after slightly more than two hours, the train rolls into Tokyo Station. Back into the cold, and the rush hour of Japan.

photo by dsnake1

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2019

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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

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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

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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

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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

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