The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: love

Second Saturdays

I regularly attend what is known as the “Second Saturdays” reading series — an open reading session that showcases Singaporean and often American writers. People — amateur and experienced writers alike — are invited to share their work and at the end, a featured writer usually reads from his or her published work.

For the last session of Second Saturdays, before it goes on hiatus for the summer, I decided to read something that came from my own work and also that of Josh. I always saw the series as a great way to bring Singaporean and American writers together, and what better way to end the season than a piece that came from both places?

Before Josh died, he was very protective over his writing and never let anyone read anything he wrote — I’ve scarcely seen any of his work. Upon his death, with access to his lifetime of thoughts, notes, and writings, I wondered if his ghost would be angry at me for 1) reading something he never felt comfortable sharing 2) sharing a part of his work with strangers 3) deriving a piece from his and my collection of words.

Combing through his thoughts was difficult: his verses were often dark and macabre; testament to his life’s tribulations. But to represent his true self to others is to preserve his words in their entirety — life, death, foolishness and wisdom unedited.

Combining Josh’s work and mine was an endeavour. He had a penchant for profusion, I gravitated towards brevity. His ideas were surreal and mine were grounded in observational reality. Quite like the differences in our personality, our writing styles clashed. It was a wonder being together had even worked out. I had thought I would need to weave in and out of his poetry to integrate his words with mine for the collaborative pieces — that attempt felt contrite and was a failure. In the end, I found out that the best way to marry his work with mine was simply the way we had worked out — by coexisting side-by-side, without needing to become one.

The three pieces I read at the session are: An excerpt from a 10-part poem he wrote, a poem I wrote on my recent visit back to Singapore, and finally a poem which I had used his poem fragments and a part of one I had shared on this blog.

A Southern Gothic

3.
Pairs of lampposts
thunder towards us
at 60mph — two eyes
that widen, and then are overcome
by the next pair of posts,
more crooked than the last.
Tributaries of concrete,
the bloodlines of an efficient world,
blast their way through forests
and limestone walls.
Mechanical beasts shift their trunks
into the sides of pumping stations
and savor the black blood of the earth.

From time to time I will be at the wheel
and awake with a start:
Am I heading the right way?
And my grandmother whispers in my ear,
Let them pass you,
let them pass,
as they always will,
let them face the wrong way signs.

And now I can face the fireflies — the one spark
in the dogwood on the left,
then a torch of beings on the right
that ignites the forest into an enormous,
seizing strobe. Canals of concrete writhe
with the bodies of fallen bugs,
blinking like turn signals,
like lighters at a funeral,
like a child’s sparkler
on a hot and hazy
Fourth of July —
flowing as a gluttonous river
into the eye of blindness.

Washing Machine

When I was young
my father once punched a hole into the washing machine.
We were suppose to leave on a trip
but my mother had dallied.
I remember the yelling, the gesticulating,
and in a coup de grace,
he slammed his fist into the toploader
and plastic gave way to flesh
but not before leaving a gash
and he held in blood and pride
with a paper towel.
My mother was left speechless —
not solely because the appliance had been left splintered
but what is one to do when your husband
batters a daily household convenience?

I used to peer through the hole of the washing machine
and watch my worries spin cycle away.

Today,
the strength which punched a hole into the washing machine
now stoops and pauses to take more naps
as the anger has left
and all that remains is bitterness
from memories of an era bygone.
The rage which punched a hole into the washing machine
has crystallised into salt
that the elders supposedly consume — more than we do rice —
as we sit around and nod our heads
in obeisance.

NPY

I watched you bargain with the end of your cigarette,
contemplating, ruminating,
obsessing
with the concept of a minute
and how you wished you didn’t understand it.
You exhaled
and life and smoke exited in a curlicue.
“Everything is a spiral motion,” you said.
— Embracing arms, ivy choking a tree,
adulthood, regression, the corkscrew plot of our later years.
I frowned, and you silenced prematurely the dying ember
that hangs from your fingers.
We taste each other with our bodies
and read the future in our bones
and in our newfound knowledge,
we roll over to sleep.

I woke up and found that I have wet my bed
with tears that I cried into cupped hands
that slowly seeped through my fingers
because I forgot what you looked like.

A pile of clean laundry lies on one side of the bed
because I can pretend that you are there
as you used to enjoy jumping on top of it
when it is fresh out of the dryer.

Who will help me put the covers on the comforter?

I still sleep on my side of the bed
with my head faced away from the middle
I still try not to snore when I sleep
so as not to disturb your ghost.

The Seventh Day

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(This is post is backdated, written on 23rd July, 2016)

It’s been seven days since you left us. You were always asking about Chinese customs, and we believe that on the seventh day, the spirit returns to the home for a visit and a meal.

I went and got you fresh flowers because you like them, even though you don’t put much effort in watering them. I had to replace the water for the bouquet I got for you for Valentine’s Day all the time. Those flowers were yellow, as are these. I know you know I don’t care for fresh flowers, as I think they represent imminent death. Fresh flowers wilt and die, and then we replace them — why should we perpetuate death any more than they should occur naturally? You know I would get them for you anyway simply because you like them. Hopefully these flowers will stay alive until I can bring them to you in Kentucky.

I took the 5 train back home and when I got to our building, I realised I had forgotten my keys and left them at work. I chose to walk towards the Q train because 1) I don’t like retracing my steps and 2) the Q is probably faster to get to my workplace at this time. As I walked towards the Q, I walked past Popeyes. The Popeyes you had always gotten chicken tenders from because they didn’t have any bones and you were picky and ate like a kid. The Popeyes that, back then, when I decided to buy a five-piece-for-$5 chicken (with bones) deal, you were so lazy you always asked my to buy your chicken tenders on your behalf. Maybe it was coincidence, maybe it was divine inspiration, maybe it was subconscious guidance. Maybe your ghost wanted chicken tenders and you made me walk past the Popeyes to buy you chicken tenders for your seventh day ghostly visit meal. I bought chicken tenders when I came back with my keys.

We never got a cat but hopefully Conrad the bear and Peanut the bear suffice to greet you when you return.

I was half hoping I’d open the door and see you with hands on hips, saying “Hiii! What’s up?” as you make that goofy smile. I wouldn’t even have been that spooked, I think. Traditionally, in our culture, we would lay out a tray filled with talcum powder to capture the footprints if the deceased visited on the seventh day. Knowing you, you’d probably have kicked it over and made a big mess. I don’t want to have to clean that up. So no talcum powder.

I set down the chicken tenders, set up the flowers, set Peanut and Conrad around and took a picture. This is the 21st century, I can’t communicate with you via a medium, but I can do so via another medium — I posted on your Facebook.

For some reason, as I ate the chicken tenders, I couldn’t finish them all in one sitting, as you never did. You always ate the tenders and had leftovers and put them in the fridge, as I did that night. It sucks not being able to finish my food, and I blame your ghost for possessing my stomach.

I don’t know why it takes seven days for spirits to return to their home visit — neither more days nor less. But you’ve always had a terrible sense of direction so maybe it would take you that long because you were probably lost trying to find your way back. You got lost whenever we had moved to a new apartment, be it the one in Chinatown or in Brooklyn. I won’t be taking seven days to see you. Just three more days. I heard your body had arrived in the funeral home in Kentucky already.

I’ll see you soon in Kentucky. Until then.

 

<– DAY 6

<– DAY 5

<– DAY 4

<– DAY 3

<– DAY 2

<– DAY 1

<– DAY 0

The Detectives

(This is post is backdated, written on 23rd July, 2016)

(Going through his belongings)

Who is this person? Who is that person? From whom is this card from? What shall we keep? What does this say? What does it mean? Where can we put this? Would you want to keep this? Why did he save this? Why did he save this? Why did he save that?

Why did he do that?

Why did we not know that? Why did we not do anything about that. Why did he not let us know?

What could we have done? What could we have done?

What shall we do? What should we do? What have we decided?

I think we are done.

 

<– DAY 3

DAY 5 –>

The Dishes

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(This is post is backdated, written on 23rd July, 2016)

It is 6.30pm and I need to do the dishes to make food. I haven’t eaten all day. I have a lot of groceries that you had left behind that I need to use so they don’t go bad.



Josh, I can’t do the dishes you left behind. The cup with the poppy seeds for your stupid poppy seed tea, I’m sorry for getting mad at you for leaving poppy seeds all over the floor. I’m washing that giant measuring cup you filled with Lactaid because of your lactardness. I don’t know what the fuck was in that bowl that was your last meal you had while alive. I don’t know how to grieve in company. You were the only one I ever cried openly to. I don’t know how to do this. Yes I always noticed when you cleaned the house. Yes I always noticed when you did things for me. I just never said it. I want to be able to call you a cup slut again, when you use up all the cups in the house. I know you went on reddit Singapore to ask them about what to get me for my birthday. I really appreciated it and the gifts you got me, even though you were tight on cash. I just never told you that. I don’t know how to do your dishes, Josh.

It is 9.30pm. The dishes are done. I can finally cook now.

 

<– DAY 0

DAY 2 –>

I want to hold your hand one last time before it turns cold but I don’t know how.

The Death

(This is post is backdated, written on 23rd July, 2016)

0715

My alarm gargled. Why had I even chose this alarm on my phone? Whatever, I’m awake, but I didn’t want to wake. Waking up to make a living to live is hard. I stay in bed for another 5 minutes.

0720

More gargling. Ok I’m up. I walk down the hallway to the bathroom to shower and get ready for work.

The door was locked. I opened the room to his door, he was not in the room. Well, he’s in the toilet. I could hear snoring sounds. Seriously, why couldn’t he have just slept in his bed like a normal person? But I guess if he were sitting on the toilet till he fell asleep, he must be having some intestinal issues. It’s happened before.

More snoring. I knock loudly on the door. No response, but the snoring continues. I knock even louder; knuckles, palm, heel of hand all rapping the door. I rattle the doorknob. Five minutes must have passed, probably. I am starting to get irritated. “I have a job to get to, you know,” I thought to myself, with a further thought in parentheses (why do thoughts even need parenthesis?) “…unlike you.” More rattling, more rapping — I was an irate rapper.

0730

Then the snoring stopped.

“Josh. JOSH.” I was slapping the door, the door had offended me. Rattlesnakes rattle because they warn that they represent death. I rattled the doorknob and I was murderous. Should I kick the door down? Nah, I don’t want to pay to replace the door. Maybe if I did I’ll have Josh pay for it. But he won’t be able to pay for it. Let’s not do that, let’s not tax his financials.

Do our bathroom doors even have master keys? I peered at the doorknob that has its keyhole cap removed. No, it seems, but I spy with my little eye: a screw. The master key is a screwdriver.

Turning around and into the tool/everything closet, I tried to look for my small flathead screwdriver. Where is it? Josh probably took it and never put it back. For some reason, I suddenly thought about that episode of Family Feud I saw on TV with my friends when we went upstate for a holiday, and the phrase was: “Stop using my _____!” The third most voted answer was “tools.” I finally found a small flathead and unlocked the door from outside.

0735

He was keeled over the bathtub, completely naked. It looked like he had fallen asleep/passed out, leaned over the bathtub. His head laid sideways in the bathtub. There was a small puddle of brown vomit in the bathtub. He can’t be asleep in the bathtub. The vomitus was putrid and a slurry in the bathtub. I need to get him out of the bathtub.

Finger to nose test: indeterminate
Finger to jugular test: no pulse

What do I do now?

/system override: panic; uncertainty;
initiate: forced calm
/lift
feedback: grunting heard
processing: state=asleep?
initiate awakening processes
/slap /shake
feedback: no response
initiate emergency systems: CPR memory retrieval
andrenaline booted up, please wait
retrieval results: A-B-C
[commentary: isn’t that outdated? isn’t it like CBABC at this point?]
detecting breath; detecting pulse
= 0; = 0
commencing compression: start cycle 8 counts; check for breathing
feedback: loud wheeze accompanying 4 compressions
/STOP

override failure: composure broken

What do I do now?

compressions resumed, 8 counts achieved, loud wheeze with each compression

/STOP

composure regained
status report:
URGENT — pull him out into hallway
URGENT — place him on side
URGENT — call 911
URGENT — email boss that you’ll be delayed

And so I did.

0750

The EMTs arrived.

“What happened?” “Tell me about the person,” “Name? Age?” “How are you related to him?” “Does he have any form of ID?” “Any known drug allergies? Health conditions?”
“No pulse, no breathing.” “Let’s hook him up.” “Asystole.” “You got the drugs?” “Yea I have them ready.” “Can’t do compressions, lungs not inflating.” “Need head elevated.” “Do we have a pillow or something?” [yes] “Intubate him.” “Is that blood in the air pump?” “Seems to be. I don’t think it was intubation puncture.” “Pneumothorax?” “Not sure.” “Still no pulse.” “Time?” “Eight minutes” “Is that all the drugs?” “We still have one more.” “Let’s use it.” “Ready?” “Secured into leg.” “Keep doing compressions.” “How’re we doing?” “No response.” “Time?” “14 minutes.” “We’ll keep going until the doctor says to stop.”

“Sir, it’s been 18 minutes of attempts to resuscitate. We’re in touch with the doctor, but because it’s been 18 minutes”

“He might tell you to cease resuscitation. I understand.”

“Right. You know that the moment he shows any sign of life we would have whipped him to the hospital immediately.”

“I understand.”

“At this stage you might have to prepare for what comes next.”

“That he might be pronounced dead. I understand.”

(Ma’m, we’ve got in touch with the doctor. We’ve told him that we’ve attempted resuscitation for over 20 minutes. He says that we can stop resuscitation now.)

“Sir, I’m sure you’ve heard that. I’m sure you know what this means.”

“I understand. He is dead.”

08??

I understand that he is dead.

 

DAY 1 –>

Corporeal Property

The coldness of your touch
makes me think that rigor mortis must follow
and indeed,
stiffness at a touch;
the flinch, the recoil,
like from a pistol,
shots fired, and a
blank
silence hits the floor.
And so many words, so many words
rapid-fire
ejected
to change the topic
so that you won’t have to deal with the issue
that you no longer love me.