Facing the fish bowl, I speak the national language1:
each vowel, a gust upon glass;
each accent, a mosquito’s unsteady dance.
From my watch’s face, each second, turbulent, rises like smoke.
The English of the 50’s was but a colonial tongue.
Thinking of our national language, we’d speak Malay.
But by 1965, what was it? English? Malay? Both?
Smoke clouds roll and swallow the map.
Where can we hope to live in peace?
The Federation. Straits Settlements. Malaya. Malaysia.
Taiwan. The Republic of China.
Temasek. Singapura. Singapore.
Please, repeat after me.
This is my home country – Home. Country.
You have your own national language, as do I.
Our tongues roam free – they are by no means bound.
We sit about a round table, practicing the national language.
The fish, in their round bowl, pout the way all goldfish do.
They are like the snakes in our mouths, these writhing tongues.
Occasionally, our lips, too, are round –
when they are
they are fishes they are languages they are Bahasa Melayu they are Ü;
when they are not
they are ikan2 they are English they are Inilah Singapura3.
- 101: NO THEME 10COMING SOON with J Kinsella and J Leanne 100: BROWNFACECOMING SOON! with W S Dunn 99: SINGAPOREwith J Ip and A Pang 97 & 98: PROPAGANDAwith M Breeze and S Groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRICAN DIASPORAwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones