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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Blogger brudberg said...

This is the underbelly of all the fantastic products we buy and throw away... no cost shall be spared on salaries and life for the worker.

21 October, 2019 00:12  
Blogger Sherry Blue Sky said...

It sounds like a difficult existence, yet one many are forced into, with crowding and insufficient income. I could see it all clearly. I love "sighing is a sign of defeat." Of fatigue as well.

21 October, 2019 00:41  
Blogger Mary said...

Your poem is one of contrasts -- of the night and of the day. I like the way you work sights, sounds, and smells into this poem. I can feel its vibrations through your well chosen words.

21 October, 2019 01:02  
Blogger Lori said...

It seems tempers are as thin as the mattress. The heat in the night air is almost palpable. I can both see and feel this poem. It makes me feel tentative and nervous.

21 October, 2019 01:53  
Blogger Vivian Zems said...

No one can say that the characters in this piece lead a boring life! I love the grit in this👍🏽

21 October, 2019 03:26  
Anonymous H. Hennenburg said...

I like the grit...a lot. It inserted me into an experience that was, in some way, unknown to me and enabled me to feel it. Gave me a raw glimpse into another life and helped me view living through a different lens. Very thought provoking.

21 October, 2019 07:58  
Blogger Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

I like your gritty poem and don't see why it would be unsuitable for a competition (unless the comp had boundaries that would exclude it). I think it's always good, and often necessary, to describe truthfully some ugly things that really ought to be fixed.

I also love your other sweet fragment.

21 October, 2019 12:20  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


this was the time i was just starting work after my discharge from the military, and work then there is, mostly low-paying unskilled jobs.
even today, it may be even worse, especially for the PMETs, as they have to compete with imported foreign talent. once retrenched, those in their 40's, 50's are like throwaway products.
the characters in my poem are the soft underbelly of our society.


thank you!
it is difficult, but we are managing.
that little story, i am glad you liked it. yes, of course, of fatigue as well. :)


thank you!
i wonder how it will fare in the competition. :)

21 October, 2019 13:01  
Blogger J Cosmo Newbery said...

My thoughts are of dystopia, a living hell.

21 October, 2019 17:25  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


thank you.
perhaps it is not a place for faint hearts. :)


certainly not a boring place. :)


what i was writing about was during a period of much flux, the future uncertain, there were demands for housing, for jobs. there was not much time for luxuries, for social interactions. maybe it's hard to understand why, but we adapt.

21 October, 2019 19:00  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


no, i don't think there are OB markers in the comp. perhaps it is just my own self-censorship, which is a really bad thing for a poet. anyway, if i had send the lot in, this poem will most likely be among them. :)

J Cosmo Newbery,

thank you! perhaps in a way, it is, but we are fighting to get out of it. :)

21 October, 2019 19:15  
Blogger Jae Rose said...

You create such a vivid scene - dark and gritty yet I like how it ends with light

22 October, 2019 17:13  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

thank you, Jae! glad you liked it. :)

22 October, 2019 17:30  
Blogger Sanaa Rizvi said...

This is incredibly evocative! I resonate with the idea of tempers being as thin as mattresses .. as life throws challenges our way and we have to manage things in our own way.

24 October, 2019 02:53  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

yes, we try to manage as best as we can...
thank you, Sanaa. :)

24 October, 2019 22:43  

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