So Long, Ah Kong… and Thanks for All the Fish

October 24, 2015

This poem was published in The Other Merlion and Friends (2015). It first appeared on Facebook soon after Lee Kuan Yew’s passing on 23 March 2015 and was read at the launch of The Other Merlion and Friends and at Singapore Writers Festival 2015.

So Long, Ah Kong… and Thanks for All the Fish

52 low-resYou Da Man

You our father and our father’s father and our father’s father’s father how that was even possible I dunno but you Da Man

You turned us from Swamp Thing to something a think-thing tinted and tinkered by a thinning Tintin whom we knew affectionately as you Da Man

You dragged da other men kicking and screaming out of jungles and sarongs and put them in homely hives and ironed workpants and through you our women became educated for which we are most thankful more thankful than you might actually be but you Da Man

You got us to shun yellow culture to cut our hair short not to speak dialects not to be corrupt to be courteous to stop at two to work to flush not to litter not to spit not to chew gum to work to save water electricity money to work and we listened in every way because you Da Man

You led us from Third World to First World like how my Literature went from F9 to A1 in 1986 at a time when we still feared becoming Second World which we little knew was dying and so was Literature in schools since it was da plan

You Da Man you da constant in every constituency that has only known walk over and over and over because no one dared to face your mighty party because they understood too well how you Da Man

You da strongman and da wise man and da great man and da noble man and da sweet man and da man with da Kikkoman that made everything you cooked taste so good and made us go O you Da Man

You Da Man scaring da angmos and da non-angmos and da non-non-angmos everyone was in awe of you when you said to jump we shouted how high and then worked hard to afford foreign talents to do da jumping for you Da Man

Da Man who stood at da far left end since all da rest had to be right-hand men

Da Man at da top in all but housing where technically we in modern flats live on da second floor and up

Da Man you and we loved you but we feared you and we loved you but we also feared you and we dunno anymore because you were larger than Life and Life itself loved and feared you and said to you you Da Man you Da Man you Da Man you Da Man you Da Man

Doing so for as long as it could until we took over and in its place resoundingly proclaimed you Da Man!

Gwee Li Sui

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