Aaron Lee Soon Yon


Sometimes it is hard
to believe that creatures of flesh and bone
may tear up the roads like paper,
peeling the rind of the earth
as carelessly as eating an orange.
When they fall to the ground and devour it,
the scenario is one
of blasted sand, harsh talk
and machinery.


I pass, and workmen rise
from the earth as rusty as the tools
with which they cut the soil, as if
they too had resurrected from the long sleep
of rivers deep underground.

I taste the dry dust of their loud conversation,
unknown syllables flapping in my face
like strung-out laundry,
familiar and incomprehensible.


And so they make the crooked straight again,
filling valleys and levelling what mountains
there are in this country.
As I walk my fingers trace
the tape which closes them in
their subterranean habitat, constructed
miraculously with new-cut seamless lines
that join and stretch down the taut tarmac
as far as I can see,
tighter even than the coarse grip
with which they hang on
to the smooth shaft and cold steel of their reality.
Neither they nor I will ever let go.


When they pack up and leave
two months or a year from now,
they will leave behind a criss-cross
of surgical scars and giant patchwork
squares of grey ad darker grey.
Almost no other sign where they had touched the earth;
no sign that is, except for the great ribboned chunk
of congealed stone and bitumen, gift-wrapped
and given back to itself.
The ground may breathe again,
though the soft-talking trees deny it everyday.

Published in A Visitation of Sunlight (1997)

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Singaporean Literature Aaron Lee Soon Yong