The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry considers Cyril Wong’s Satori Blues recalls “turn of the century Geoffrey Hill in its intricately patterned probing”. One of the most productive young poets from Singapore, Wong has been labelled a “confessional poet,” due to his violent sexual poems, unique in Singapore’s landscape. Interviewing Cyril Wong was one of the highlights of our trip to Singapore. Please read his interview here, and his unpublished poem ‘Weather.’ Cyril Wong also gave us permission to publish ‘Heat’ and excerpts of ‘Thanksgiving’.
PUBLISHED WITH PERMISSION
Thanksgiving, Cyril Wong
Thank you for the subtle S&M;
the light bondage, the sharp spanks;
for turning on every lamp
under the skin. Thank you for trust
and experimentation; for mild
kinkiness to what-the-fuck-
were-you-thinking? Thank you
for still believing in limitation.
Thank you for submission
and for accepting contradiction:
for understanding “yes” when
I meant “no”. Thank you
for binding us together
to the here and now;
for the art of our amnesia
and a purgatorial world outside.
Thank you for the necessary things;
for keeping us safe and not inviting that guy
who could have been a cop in disguise,
eager to fulfil his entrapment quota;
for standing at the window with a cigarette
poised like a warning on your lip
to scan passers-by beneath your flat;
for taking a walk to the lobby downstairs
at the requisite hour to see if vehicles
were suspiciously parked outside;
for informing me of your health status;
for making sure anyone you asked
to join us would be kind and adaptable;
for keeping our glasses filled with drink;
for asking, midway, if I was hungry
because my stomach made a noise;
for seeing me to the door and only
after checking that I’ve taken every item
that I brought with me into your home,
ensuring I leave nothing of myself behind.
Cyril Wong, The Lover’s Inventory. Singapore, Math Paper Press, 2015. Buy here.
After Amanda Heng's exhibition, I Remember ...about the Japanese Occupation during World War II.
The siren came back: a tail of sound
whipping the air, rising and falling,
ending in that long note like a sustained
stab to the mind. We ran to hide
under the stairs in an emptied school.
A man from one of the classrooms
approached us to offer grandma
a space with his family. She thanked him,
but said no. That classroom was bombed
and everybody died. When we went
back home, it was already morning,
and shrapnel had grown in our backyard
like alien fruit. We stared at it
from the doorway as the morning
basked in an unusual peace.
This was why the siren had made us
run. We thought about its scorched bits
flying to burst our skulls. We imagined
our punctured bodies littering the lawn.
We walked out one by one to touch it,
tasting its heat through our fingers.
Cyril Wong, Like a Seed with its Regular Singular Purpose. Singapore, Math Paper Press, 2018.
What else can the lovers do now
but quarrel? The crack in the ceiling.
The pipe still clogged under the sink.
Far better than news of another
lover: the shock of his underwear
under the bed, a pack of condoms.
Children or money may seal
the marriage. In these homes,
adhesive may turn acidic, unhappiness
spreading like a maze of cracks
from their feet till death do they part.
Some fights are trampolines
for lucky lovers to reach new heights.
The lovers stand on balconies
like the lovers their parents were,
in reconciliation or war. They lay
in their bed now, tumbling apart
or toward each other in sleep.
The lullaby of their breath
is a knot tightening, or
Cyril Wong, Tilting our Plates to Catch the Light. Singapore, Math Paper Press, 2012.
whether the world is salvageable
matters less than the weather
of smoky clouds outside the window
that rise up like chubby men dancing
arm in arm across a pale ballroom
floor slowly catching fire
why can’t the mind remain this far
from doubt and anger
bursting with everything the world
could have been
a song plays on the television
a song we actually like
I want to pull you off our sofa
and do a foxtrot if only we knew how
but you are asleep and from your loopy grin
you could be anywhere
Cyril Wong is prolific poet and fictionist whose last book of poems, The Lover’s Inventory, received the 2016 Singapore Literature Prize.