Wang Gungwu, Head, East Asia Institute, National University of Singapore

Makan Ikan Laughter

Laughter heard on a grassy beach,

Youthful, gay,

Youthful as the growing day.

Romeo laughed at; shoes

Singing Cinderella's lay;

And notes of joy from loosened Jews,

Victims of Yokum's moon the night before.


Hunt! hunt! gold for the bold!

Anxious faces search beneath banana leaves,

(Here a clue misleads, deceives;)

Fingers tickle a coconut trunk;

Eyes inquire the bottoms of chairs;

Then it's oe'r, and the luckiest shares

The hoarded treasure found in heaps of junk.

Now a grasping couple

Moves to monotones

From a moaning needle;

Hips so supple

Rock to the rhythm of knocking bones.


Monkey! splashes the ball;

Arms outstretch and torsos heave.

Water churned recruits a little force,

U-boats mud and slime --

Soon must burning bodies hurry out.

Food in the garden-hall!

Oranges ravaged by Time,

Chicken without sauce,

Cookikula, you wretch!


Laughter more.

Here a laughing lady,

There a laughing bore.

Open mouths of laughter,

Ovens breathing happy flames,

Red as lips of lipsticked dames.

Laughter in the grass; on the trees;

I hear my own too.

You are my own laughter,

My only laughter.


Laugh, youths.

Worlds are at your feet,

Sorrows still unseen.

Much discord in steady beat,

Extremes in the Man, --

All are yet to know.

Bliss ah ignorance!

Feed these sensual creatures,

Make their passioned features,

Chastize them of future fears,

Start and steer those phonic gears,

Oh stir their mirthful laughter!



Reproduced with the kind permission of Wang Gungwu.

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Singapore Literature Overview

Last Modified: 25 July, 2002