It was school vacation, my daughter skiing with her father,
my husband in board meetings,
mynah birds drumming on the window panes, autumn gifts,
my first ex. in a condo in Kuantan,
(true friendships don’t crowd us, they are not a phrasebook.)
But it was just the grief I felt in his apartment, a stopover,
sufficient to release claustrophobic
stanzas, one by one, a sorrow, unclenching into silence.
Shopping at East Coast Mall, the lap pool,
gymnasium, the trees peeling outside. I could call it respite—
forgiveness. I was at odds with bureaucracy, the clinics
who treat psychiatrics like offenders,
gagging them with psychotropic drugs, they surfaced,
gas-filled whales buoyed into my office
while Indonesian boats sank their cargo, politicians waged.
I could write more—hours spent with innocent refugees
tried by narrow halls, waiting for visas,
medical assessments or suicide. I could detail the security
frauds, bribery, Typhoid, children turned
in the hands of frustrated men like outdated dictionaries.
Or I could mention the Rohingya Burmese father of four
closing the door, in haste, unlocking
suitcases to scribble down their UNHCR-ID on the back
of some food coupon, the sound of a hose
filling buckets of water for the day’s quota, his exquisite wife.
Perhaps, I should confess how prohibited I felt, ferrying
back to a 5* hotel in evening’s pollution,
encrusted lights of traffic. I had no appetite for dinners,
swimming laps, late, without purpose.
Hibiscus swishes calmed my traitorous lungs— how I forgot
everything I knew.
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