Sunday, September 02, 2007

Poetry Reading

Yesterday, I attended my first poetry reading at a local bookshop, BooksActually. I had to made a rush from the office after work, but I am glad I made it. It was a smallish affair, a few of us reading our works, but it was a good opportunity for me to meet up with my forum friends.

I have not made any speech in front of an audience since many moons ago, and I expect my voice to crack. Perhaps it was the friendly ambience of the place or maybe I was a bit thick-skinned, but my voice just did cracked a bit. I just read one of my personal favourites, "Toolshed", which was published in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore

Sorry, folks, time for another re-post. I am posting the poem that I read yesterday. :)

image enhanced by dsnake1
from a photo from

construction site, Punggol fields, 1972

It is my job
to fill that soot-blackened kettle
with water,
throw in a handful of tea leaves,
put it over a fire of disused wood
and watch it boil
in the early light blues of Punggol.

My father is in that toolshed
poring over blueprints
of a farm
briefing his foreman,
as dust and insects floated
in the harsh light
of fluorescent lamps.

Soon my father will amble over
pour himself a drink from that kettle
into a grimy metal cup.
I will offer him a cigarette
and we will squat there by the wayside
smoking, the sweet wisps of Camels
swirling in the cool morning air.

Then we will go over to the toolshed,
collect our claw hammers, plumb lines,
nails, tape measures,
light up some joss to the earth god,
as Blackie, the mongrel guarding the shed,
darker than Cerebus from Hell,
comes over sniffing our heels.

We haul planks, measure, hammer,
in the uncompromising sun,
sometimes seeking solace
in the shadows of the wooden moulds
jutting out of mud and rock like pruned tree trunks.
The smell of sawn wood clings to us
like a stigma.

When the day is done,
the sun painting streaks of gold and crimson
on the clouds, we dust
ourselves of sawdust and wood shavings,
feed the dog,
and gather at the toolshed,
lingering, for a final smoke in the fading sun,

as did our forebears before us
in America in Hong Kong
building railroads, harbours
hunched over camp fires,
drinking tea from grimy cups
swopping stories about home
in Canton half a life away.

Then we pile into
our cars and bikes
for the weary journey home.
the stars are coming out
in that vast bowl of sky,
the cirrus clouds rolling
dark angry strips of floss

in the darkening light
over a plain of wild grass

the exact centre of our universe..


mood of the day
the mood is good

Labels: , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We haul planks, measure, hammer,
in the uncompromising sun,
sometimes seeking solace
in the shadows of the wooden moulds

my favorite ...thanks


02 September, 2007 22:17  
Blogger floots said...

really great blend of gritty reality and warm recollection

02 September, 2007 23:50  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

glad that you enjoyed the poem. the life of a construction worker is hard. :)

thank you. though i followed my dad around only for a couple of weeks during that period, the memories are hard to forget.

btw, that's a lovely new avatar you have there. :)

03 September, 2007 00:10  
Blogger steve said...

Good for you to go and do the reading - and great choice to read this piece about working with your father, the moments together and the hard work.

03 September, 2007 04:34  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

thanks! it's interesting to see and hear a poet read his/her own works in front of you. :)
our forum is planning to read at least once a month.

i am really satisfied with this poem i wrote, because all the effort i put into it paid off, and i cherished those moments i worked with my father.

03 September, 2007 21:59  
Anonymous alson teo said...

I had a good time too. Looking forward to the next reading in October! :)

03 September, 2007 23:55  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

thank you, friend!
you did very well at the reading. :)
really appreciate your efforts in organising it.

04 September, 2007 00:10  
Anonymous gautami tripathy said...

I am going to read this again. So much in there. I already read twice before commenting here.

Read- meets are good. I enjoy those.

04 September, 2007 00:16  
Blogger polona said...

love the intimacy of the poem and think you chose right for the reading.
well done!

04 September, 2007 03:35  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


so how many poetry readings have you participated in? :)

actually, i was in a hurry, and the poem happens to be in the thumbdrive i was carrying around. and yes, i think it was a good choice. :)

05 September, 2007 00:10  
Blogger J. Andrew Lockhart said...

I wish I could have heard you read it!

05 September, 2007 11:45  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


maybe i will try Odeo again, and try to post the audio clip here. the last time, i couldn't get the thingy to work, and gave up. :)

05 September, 2007 19:18  
Blogger Plus Ultra said...

Lovely, this is the longest I have read of your works, I am not complaining, it was a leisurely stroll on a sunday morning....and breathing in every word!

05 September, 2007 23:14  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

thanks for your kind words.
yes, most of my poems are much shorter than this. :)

06 September, 2007 22:04  
Blogger Pat Paulk said...

Having worked in construction for 30 + years--mostly concrete and steel, but that smell of sawdust and sweat is very real. That blending has a unique odor you never forget. Wish I could've been there to hear you read it. Never been to one.

07 September, 2007 20:00  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

that's a long time in the industry, pat. :)
yes, that odour of sawdust and sweat is unique, some people keep clear of it. :)

as for the reading, it was my first time, and it was a rather small group.

07 September, 2007 22:58  

Post a Comment

<< Home