Cyril Wong

Sapphic Exhortations

                             in my late grandmother’s voice

 

1

What sits from the centre of all things sits still –

unfurls, swings back lovingly, trembling slightly
out of time we die in. But know you’re full of

what we’re still made from –

 

2

Few don’t love as how I keep loving us still.

How you love me – others, too – did I teach you

love in spite of everyone? Love like ours should 

outlive the planet. 

 

3

Leaves scrape windows; stiff ash from smoking faces

lit at Mandai. I watched you watch me enter

you as winds died, leaves sifting, locking us in

together in place.   

 

4

No place still good enough for ciphers like us.

Placeless places here on earth if we dare to

make them out of leaves and breath – place to start is

imagination. 

 

5

I was old and motherly, mostly to you –

grandson, best son, sun in the cloud of vapours

sorrow blew through all my life. (If I’m hackneyed

it’s because death is.)

 

6

If you write of how I’ve lived, I’d forgive you
if you get me slightly wrong. To forgive like

how I touched the sewn mouth of grandpa as he
froze in his coffin. 

 

7

Men have treated me badly. You’ve loved badly –

don’t love like them, callously. You tell me you’re

trying. Your life isn’t the same as mine. Leave

bitterness to me. 

 

8
Well-wrought safety, survival, misbegotten

truths here, thus that void only faith and fear fill –

Sappho speaks: In Lesbos, my sole concerns were

tenderness, pining

 

9

Grandpa’s heart went flickering swiftly out. I

wish quick death for everyone. If you’re lucky,

you might sit so still that you slip free from your

burdensome body.

 

10

Tumour like a sweet grenade bursting kindly – 

Praise for ending misbelief, praise for being

mortal, praise for agony. Death is surely
opposite of time. 

 

11
Things we strive for together – empty stillness
untamed, aerial vigilance. Leaves are questions

browning into answers that leave us doubtless

nothing must matter. 

 

12

Thanks for love that I’ve stayed to give you freely

without being here at all – leaves still gather

at the window you open, frowning, hopeful

leaves aren’t all that’s left.  

Cyril Wong is a poet and fictionist living in Singapore. His last poetry collection was The Lover's Inventory, published by Math Paper Press.

© Terrible Orange Review 2019.