Sunday, March 11, 2018

when the air flames

I was a eleven year old kid when I witnessed my first racial riot. Or rather the aftermath of it. My mother braved all that violence to fetch me from school, travelling a considerable distance by bus and foot.

This was also written for the Golden Point Awards 2015 competition.

ink/pencil sketch by dsnake1

when the air flames over the colour of skin

From my window I watched the flames from the torches lighting up the night air and the Chinese gangsters waving their parangs and staffs, shouting to march to Kampong Glam and the Gasworks, and in that moment, the thrusting, waving blades held more terror than all the spirits of the netherworld.

They would gather and talk later the next day, in the shop houses, the temples, over coffee and cigarettes, of last night’s battles, comparing scars, deep as the schisms of the colour of skin. How many Malays did you slashed last night, or were you chopped at instead? Did you run when the police raised their guns?

Of course I do not understand all these then, the burning cars in the streets, the acrid smoke drifting into our homes, and the eyes of the neighbours, all seething with anger and loathing. Neither my parents could tell me, didn’t great aunt treat her Malay driver like family, do we not miss their kueh when we moved to the city?

The nights have been dark
And our heroes are dead.


"Do not give them a reason!"
-- A Baltimore man, during the 2015 riots, standing between a line of police and angry protesters, trying to quell the aggression.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2018

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Blogger scotthastiepoet said...

Very effective and chilling write - an act of witness really... An important write...

11 March, 2018 22:51  
Blogger Sanaa Rizvi said...

It's not easy witnessing such a gruesone scenario ...and that too at such a young age.

11 March, 2018 23:22  
Anonymous dsnake1 said...

thank you, Scott!
it was really scary, even though i didn't know what was really happening then.

11 March, 2018 23:25  
Blogger Jae Rose said...

You brought this to life - in all its horror and honour

11 March, 2018 23:28  
Anonymous dsnake1 said...


it is really not easy, and confused too, because i have friends of other races.


thank you. :)

11 March, 2018 23:52  
Anonymous Donna@LivingFromHappiness said...

I watched race riots on TV when i was a child, and it was hard to understand....such hate and fear....and so much I couldn't possibly understand even now. Your description brought it home to me again...not that I ever forgot it.

12 March, 2018 00:26  
Blogger brudberg said...

Something it's a witness statement that make us understand much more than anything else... after all there is very little true reason in a riot like that.

I hope we can all see it with a child's eye instead of looking for a murky reason.

12 March, 2018 01:10  
Blogger Mary said...

It is really sad and frightening to experience such intolerance. Your poem is a powerful testament to what 'man' can do to fellow human beings. Humans are so cruel, and the racism seems to be spreading like wildfire everywhere once again. I am so upset with the state of the world.

12 March, 2018 01:38  
Blogger Sherry Marr said...

I really feel the lines of this poem, and a child's confusion, such loathing over perceived differences, when we are all human beings. Sigh. Yes, our heroes are dead. May some new ones rise swiftly, we have never needed them more.

12 March, 2018 02:43  
Blogger Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

I am left with incredible sadness.

12 March, 2018 06:51  
Blogger R.K. Garon said...


12 March, 2018 08:55  
Anonymous dsnake1 said...


as a child, it was hard to understand, only later do we understand that it is extremism (and a host of other 'ism') at work. i could not forget those events even as i grow old, and hope it will not happen again.


yes, there is very little true reason for a riot like that, perhaps it is the sum of some little events adding up that sparks it.


intolerance is the key word.


If we go on social media, we may be appalled at who some of the 'heroes" are. luckily there are still lots of sensible people around. :)


thank you.


thank you, friend. :)

12 March, 2018 14:22  
Blogger Susie Clevenger said...

I can't imagine witnessing such tragedy. Destruction is never a building block. We need to hear from those who've lived it, seen it so maybe just maybe we won't repeat it.

13 March, 2018 06:18  
Anonymous dsnake1 said...

Good to see you, Susie, and thanks for your comment.
there are lessons to be learnt from such destruction, measures to be taken and so on, but sometimes all it takes is just a volatile spark to start it again.

13 March, 2018 16:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep on working, great job!

16 March, 2018 00:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can definitely see your enthusiasm within the work you write.

The world hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren't afraid to say how they
believe. At all times follow your heart.

16 March, 2018 03:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles?

I mean, what you say is important and all. However think about if you
added some great pictures or video clips to give your posts more,
"pop"! Your content is excellent but with images and
videos, this website could undeniably be one of the most beneficial in its niche.
Great blog!

30 January, 2019 01:52  
Anonymous dsnake1 said...

thank you, Anon. video clips? something to think about. :)

02 February, 2019 00:16  

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