The Garden of Paper

December 5, 2009

This poem first appeared in Fifty on 50, ed. Edwin Thumboo (Singapore: National Arts Council, 2009) and is dedicated to all who fight the writer’s struggle in Singapore.

The Garden of Paper

The private smell of time is brown.
Dry twigs and old pages alike
crackle when you tread on their deaths
and then they leap to life again.
The serpents of language slither
to connect the unturned figments
of a mind. The loner’s domain,

the artist’s sunken memory
and the breeze that carries angels
all swirl within animal eggs.
In these half-dreams of verbs and nouns,
the city has put on new flesh
while its roads continue to roll
and some now-nameless boy still drowns…

The books are growing a people
within a people. They bring blades
to wild grass and parangs to shrubs;
they are clearing our view of blue.
Plant by plant, genus by genus,
the noiseless garden of paper
is taking shape and it outstrips
the anecdotal omnibus.

Gwee Li Sui

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