The Way Things Are

Aaron Lee Soon Yon

6 a.m.
Lightning shivers in the spaces
between skyscrapers.
I can see it all through the rain-speckled
window of the bus I'm in;
hurtling comfortably toward heaven
on the arched back of Benjamin Sheares,
navigating by the constellation of lights
in the city centre.
This is not so much a place as a pause
between moments, as easily shattered
as the silence before the next word is spoken.
Such words as are uttered
by the signposts that I see now as I pass;
one for every one of us,
populating this island like a second race.
There is a chosen people on the edge
of a new land, two geographies
engraved on their foreheads forever:
this is who we are,
this is where we have come from
and where we are going.


Tanjong Pagar is a soundscape
of steel creatures colonising our shores.
Speaking a skeletal roar, what they disgorge
by day and night streams forth
in early traffic forever.
These are some thoughts at the tail-end
of a millennium; the same thoughts that perhaps
inhabited the old shophouses huddling elbow to elbow
on the edge of this river as they watched
every sunrise and sunset of a century.
they will be whitewashed houses
indolent in the sun. But for now,
there is only the slow dismantling of our lives
from the inside, until all that will be left
are the streetlights disembodied
above the trees, and morning rain
falling lightly over the city.

Published in A Visitation of Sunlight (1997)

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Singaporean Literature Aaron Lee Soon Yong