Mermaid Princess

Grace Chia

My Bonny lies over the ocean
My Bonny lies over the sea
My Bonny lies over the ocean
Oh bring back my Bonny to me

spoke too soon
too loud
too much out of turn
too brutally honest
too empowered by your sense/x/uality
too much of I, I, I, I --
I think
I know
I understand
I love
I, I, I, I.

But I love you for your
I, I, I, I,
pretty kampong girl from the little isle
who kicks sand in the eyes of those who stare
too hard at you -- maybe that's why they got mad
because they got thrashed by the
pretty kampong girl from the little isle;

no one talks about raunchy tales of those
kebaya-clad glamour girls,
behind-the-scenes groin-grabbing of those
in the goggle-box teams,
nocturnal routines of testosterone-driven
army-released hound dogs of boys in dorms.
You took the tabloids by the thorns
and wrote your life with your spilled blood but
they made you the scapegoat of
Nonsense and Insensibility,
called you witch, bitch, itch that plagued the
nation's innocent minds,
and overnight, you became from a blossoming bouquet
to a faded pressed flower glued
to the margins of your page.

If you hadn't called the book a
me-moi-r and had
filed it under fiction, you would have been given a prize
for amateurish, over-indulgent, creative invention
but they punished you for being
brash, rash, trash, a gash that gaped open the
mindset of middle-class prudence
and when they saw your red gash in the raw
they screamed "Vagina! Porn!"
From another angle, I thought that what you had drawn
was a broken heart sewn together by blood rocks
with pink new beginnings.

With a suitcase of disappointment and angry tears
you sailed away without saying "Goodbye"
and tried to start over a new life;
years passed, I grew up
and often wondered what happened to that
pretty kampong girl from the little isle
and one day, I saw, as all of us must have seen,
your name
on a list
amongst those who have turned
from flesh to ash
in the instant when the plane crashed.
No one knows what really happened
so they made the crocs the scapegoats
while passports, cards and cash were plundered
and you received instant posthumous forgiveness;
from the Whore of Babyloin you became
Saint Bonny, angel, misunderstood
pretty kampong girl from the little isle,
but I knew all along they were wrong;
you were a woman, then, I was a girl,
and drawing margins with a pencil
in my exercise book when they put you on the stake
and I read your tract in my room
with the door locked to the world
and my eyes locked to your words.

I am a woman now, Bonny, and was once also a
pretty kampong girl from a little isle.
I hold pens, men in my hand and a pencil
sharpened at both ends.
Your spirit in the breath I breathe,
I take in, daily, a woman's chant, paint my face,
become warrior, live in the den of my own clan
and howl with grief for the mermaid princess
who couldn't fit in,
whose time ran out,
and whose voice was incomprehensible
deaf-like dolphin shrieks --
who turned into bubbles in the risen air
with her unrequited heart.

Published in womango -- 1998)

1. The late Bonny Hicks is the author of the controversial and autobiographical book Excuse me, are you a model? which depicts life behind the catwalk, based on her experiences as one of Singapore's ex-top models. She was one of the 104 people who perished in the SilkAir MI185 flight which crashed near Palembang, on the way to Singapore from Jakarta.

2. Hicks spent seven years living on Sentosa when her mother was a caretaker for a bungalow on the island.

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Singaporean Literature Grace Chia