Propitiations

September 3, 1998

This poem first appeared in Gwee Li Sui’s Who Wants to Buy a Book of Poems? (1998) and reappeared in Who Wants to Buy an Expanded Edition of a Book of Poems? (2015). It was also featured on Postcolonial Web and in Reflecting on the Merlion: An Anthology of Poems (2009), displayed in MRT trains and stations under the Moving Words initiative in 2011, and read on the radio programme “The Culture Cafe” on 938Live by writer Adrian Tan. 

propitiations

Propitiations

Roving down Queen Lizzy’s Walk, seeing
the dear Merlion, marble-scaled, spilling
old waters between its jaws.
A stream, circumflex by ban about
a Prometheus, forever drawing out.
Merlion and I live by laws.
The flesh is weak, I said, Merlion!
My saliva wells up and it
can find no avenue —
but I must never spit!
The Merlion cried, My son,
my son, I spit for you!

Wild Titan factories of Jurong
laid and puffing to a common song
of bad fumes from their maws.
Chimneys raising the offering of peers,
all Ixions, locked to the burning gears.
Both they and I live by laws.
Said I, the flesh is yearning on,
screaming for another choke
on life and revenue —
but I must never smoke!
The factories cried, Our son,
our son, we smoke for you!

Gwee Li Sui

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