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The Physicist


Selected Poems
by Amanda Chong
×
Photographs
by Daryl Qilin Yam

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The Physicist


Selected Poems
by Amanda Chong
×
Photographs
by Daryl Qilin Yam

 
 

The Physicist

When we met, your hair was already
white with the shock of new discovery,
fingers jittering with curlicues of equations.

I was an intractable riddle skirting
logic’s steady glide. To decode me,
I demanded you abandon method

and tumble into mysticism. What staggering
beauty as our orbits elide! Pure propulsions
of energy looping into stellar spaces,

burnished suns flaring radiant.
Then you turned me against myself:
my sleep shook with calcified cities, children

with sloughed­-off faces. I woke to a body
emptied of secrets, snuffed to ash, to dust.
I should have known you, Destroyer of Worlds:

finger crooked over the red button, galaxies
collapsed into the coracles of your eyes. 


 
 
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Sunny


Sunny


 
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sunny

On May 18, 1965, Sunny Ang was convicted of killing his girlfriend Jenny Cheok so he could collect on her insurance. She had gone missing after a dive trip with him. Only a single flipper worn by her was found – severed cleanly at the top and bottom.

I remember your hands
strapping me to the tank,
bearing its heft till you ceded
me to water. Then your lips,

coarse as coral, snagging
across mine. This is how you
have always silenced me
by softly plugging my mouth.

I sink into the sonorous cave
of the regulator’s hiss. You said,
the key to diving was to empty
the mind, a slow surrender

of sound and colour, your body
possessed only by breath.
I think of our breaths braiding
like silk in the dark, you capsizing

me over and over, your weight
a little death. Brackish waves
thunder in my skull.
A blunder of fins.

The distant sun flays
the sea’s surface. Your kiss
a knife turned through the cage
of my teeth. My whole life

I knew nothing but succumbing.
When water strained to pin me
down – this time I wrestled back.


 
 
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Love Letters


Love Letters


 
 

Love Letters

This is how we will love each other —
our fluid forms girdled into embrace.
We will encircle the emptiness
between us. Turn inside out, expose
ridges of braille beneath our skin.

You will map my secret contours
on your body. Hold me in headlock,
as my face moulds to the warm alcove
of your cheek. Between us, we will find
a brightness that funnels out into years,

decades, the sum of us both. We will
savour it, relish it. Turn into ourselves,
wrapped tight like a scroll. Turn till we
brittle, from the strength of embrace —
this is how we might break each other. 


NOTE: Kuih Kapit (Malay) or “love letters” are scroll-­shaped snacks made by clasping egg batter in a hot iron mould on a charcoal stove. If the round wafer is rolled more than a split second after being removed from the heat, it crumbles. 

 
 
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Notes from a Colonialist, 2065


Notes from a Colonialist, 2065


 
 

Notes from a Colonialist, 2065

After the Seas drained, the Island
uncovered itself — a godless ark held
aloft by three cenotaphs, a thousand
last breaths frosting the windows.
A thousand necks cocked, aghast, at
the coming of the Waves. A whole city,

metal and glass, prostrating before
the Bay, flogged by chastising currents.
Between buckled knees of buildings, earth
cleaves like knifed butter. Underground,
arteries clogged with consumerism — recurring
shop signs blare at every turn, the same sodden 

bakeries with east­west confections, murky bubble
tea shops. Still, the air is hungry with ghosts —
strike a match and watch it swallowed whole.
Everywhere, signs of a Country screaming
against its own obituary — We are a Nation
of implausible origin. A Nation built on

SURVIVAL. A People with RESILIENCE
coursing through iron veins. The dead
clench merlion amulets in fists, lips
pruning around emptied oxygen tanks.
The desperate have slit their cheeks with gills,
spliced spines to flaccid fins. Pillars of

sea salt turn crumbling backs to carrion.
At the Island’s heart, its only legacy — freshwater
reservoirs churn bullishly under glass domes.
Trees nest within trees, noises within noises.
Last night, I heard the mangroves murmur. I slipped
off my boots and felt soil curl awake — a sure sign

Life shall again, sustain itself. The harbour
here is sheltered and deep. Send ships.