Coffee Shop, Clementi

Excerpt from Coffee Shop, Clementi

Fish porridge and beefball noodles scald
Tongues out for quick thrills; where chicken rice
Bubbles, as pure kueh tutu steams,
It’s not only fast food on the cheap
I come for. Plundering appetites, voices
Riding high, eyes which eat, while waiting.

By Leong Liew Geok

Love is Not Enough

Times Books International (1991)

Forever Singlish

We don’t care: we like to speak it leh;
When we end with lor, hor, lah,
People say our English kana-sai
Why do they care? Hard core kaypoh-
Bo dai chi cho.

It got rhythm- like when you say
Who pass urine in the lift? Chau si!
Aiyah; Chau Ah Lian; Chau Ah Beng; Chau Buaya;
Chau Ah Kua; Chau Mamak; Chau kayu; Chau Goondu-
Who else?

It got reason- like when the secretary say
You hold on arh, he’s on another line;
So you wait for him to finish- wah piang, talk
So long, boey tahan, some more I kena
Scolding from boss for wasting time.

We say sorrysorrysorry to make sure we are:
So pai say, we have to repeat two, three times;
Then say excuse! When we overtake or cut in-
Only once. Short cuts must be short and sweet,
If sometimes we cannot cheat, so chia lat

No lubang; so teruk. Kiasu cannot lose,
Kiasi cannot die; machiam machiam words
We also try. Proper English? So lecheh,
So correct, so actsy for what? Wah lau,
Already got your meaning before you finish!

Vegetable Aimal, Mineral, Abstract:
It makes all this rojak, chickenfeed.
Hands all over the place; poke here, touch there,
Growing only like a samseng kia.
People cannot control, also cannot compare.

No class Singlish here to stay,
No big shot can have his way
With how people talk, what people say.
Rules are rules: our bo chap mouth refuse
To listen, follow or to choose.

By Leong Liew Geok

Women Without Men

Times Books International (2000)

When the Barbarians Arrive

When the barbarians arrive

lay out the dead, but do not mourn them overmuch.

a mild sentimentality is proper. nostalgia will be expected on demand.

cremate: conserve land, regret no secrets. prepare ashes for those with cameras.

hide your best furniture. tear down monuments. first to go are statues with arms outstretched in victory, and then anything with lions.

it is safer to consort with loss, to know the ground yet suggest no mysteries. purport illiteracy.

have at hand servants good with numbers. err in their favour between schemes. keep all receipts

out of sight. as soon as is proper, embrace their laws and decline all credit for your own.

confound their historians. give up the wrong recipe for ketupat, for otak.

lay claim to the tongue of roots, the provenance of trees. when the chiku blooms, tell them it is linden. when linden, tell them it is ginko.

recommend laxatives as love potions. attribute pain to the passage of hard feelings. there will be a surge

of interest in soothsaying. do not tell them how it will end, or when. progress, while difficult, is always being made.

on no account acknowledge what your folktales imply.

never deal in the dark unless you can see the whites of their eyes. when they speak of god

bow your head to veil piety, shame, laughter, or indifference.

dress your children like their long-dead elders. marry your daughters to them.

soon you will attend the same funerals.

By Alvin Pang

Arc Publications (2012)