Sunday, November 19, 2006
I found an old journal and read it again recently. In it is a poem. One night a few years ago, I awoke suddenly and—this may sound clichéd but it's true—grabbed my journal and proceeded to write as if possessed. I wrote down, in a single sitting, and (as evidenced in the manuscript) with very little amendments, a poem that took up five pages of my notebook.
This is the poem, edited only slightly but on the whole still as it was written on that night:
“Because Good Doctor”I have learned a lot more about poetry—and have read much more widely—since then and when I read it again now I even cringe at some parts, but I think that there is room for improvement.
I spoke with a doctor so fine
he knew the matters of the mind.
When he asked of you and what I thought,
I thought and thought but said naught.
Why did I not answer,
the good doctor did enquire
and to this I said: I could not be sure...
Because good doctor,
When I hear of her
Stupefied was I,
Overwhelmed was I,
My mind swamped, I was speechless!
My mind drowned, I was senseless!
Because good doctor,
When I hear of her
I face a towering wave of emotion.
I stand washed under this tsunami in slow motion.
I'm helpless in this onslaught of unstructured thought,
Of this storm the very mention of her name has brought.
I, swept by the currents of my dreams
Tossed and turned by winds
Singing fearsome hymns,
I reach the calm of the storm's eye
And I finally see clearly and I try
To tell you now, dear doctor
What I think, taste, feel and hear:
The sweetness of honey;
The gentle breath of a baby;
The fresh smells of an orchard;
A frenzied beating heart;
The clearest sky of royal blue;
The soft, damp, greenest grass dripping dew;
The clarion call for prayers;
The soulful cry of a warrior;
A majestic sun at dawn;
A sunset in all elegance;
A silvery moon upon a velvet sky;
Stars bright like diamonds, a million shy;
The noble strut of a peacock;
The tick tock of a clock;
A newborn child with wonder consumed;
The fragrant beauty of a flower bloomed;
A whimsical rhyme, musical chimes
of happy times and whispered charms.
Because good doctor,
If I could describe for you to hear
All the things I hold so dear,
All the things that remind me of her,
And all that she brings me to desire,
It would not take forever
But eternity and eternity over and over.
Because good doctor,
Should I compare her
To the perfection of nature
As her nature could only be captured
I shall continue this rapture...
If her face does mirror a star,
Her eyes does twinkle with fire,
Her lips does smile that dazzles,
At the very sight: my being's ashambles.
The warmest glow she emanates,
A healing force she radiates,
She has gravity; she attracts --
And I could not muster the strength to combat,
to escape her solar might.
If her face does become my moon,
May diamond stars be her companions.
I would be an owl hunting by her light, maddened
by the sight. The facing sun would
give a golden shine or perhaps a soft silver sheen.
If I could walk upon that moon, I would see the world from a seat in heaven.
If her voice was crystal
It would be the lens they use
To gaze wondrously upon the heavens,
To see the splendors of the universe.
Oh good doctor I must say!
If the voice she speaks
Is glorious music
Her rhythmic heart would be the beat
Shaking the earth beneath my feet
Her soul gives life to a symphony,
A sonata, a melody—
so astounding, so intoxicating—
A ballad so moving in clarity
my whole being dances in ecstasy.
Of her body I could only envision
A tree, by a stretch of imagination,
Like a masterfully crafted bonsai,
Grown and nurtured under caring eyes
Her skin, like the golden bark, not fair
Yet soft and smooth like that of a pear;
Tender flesh, sweet smelling too, like a plum
The metaphors abound, and then some...
Her shade would shield me from garish heat,
Her fruits would sustain me in times of need,
And in thirst I shall drink her nectarine liquids,
And in my garden I would sow her seeds,
And I shall cover the ground,
With flowers abound—
Be a faithful gardener
As spring turns to summer,
and as autumn comes and summer leaves,
I'd rake the fallen leaves,
And I'd be a stalwart protector
against the frosty nights of winter.
Because good doctor, I...
"Pray tell the root of silence", the doctor asks
Because good doctor, I fear
She would hear this and
Ripe for revision? Comments are welcome.
— Thank you for the comments. The poem was written in the spirit of play and will always remain that way; I will change nothing. Onwards...
Posted by Madcap Machinist at 6:03 am
Monday, November 13, 2006
I don't know her name, the girl next door, but I know how she sounds like. Her phone rang at odd hours in the night, and I would hear her carry her conversations mutedly next door. She also played the piano, and played it well. Every evening, she would practice playing the piano and I, in my room next door, would listen to the music until I knew the melodies and the little personal flourishes that she adds to make the pieces her own, and that's how I knew her.
One day the music stopped and I learned that she had gone on to study in Australia. Soon after, her parents, who would every morning wake me up with the sound of a Volvo 240 starting up with the screechings of a slipping timing belt, left to be with her. Now from the house next door there is only silence.
My neighbour across the road has bought a new piano and someone is learning to play it. I heard it (the playing, hesitant and faltering) today when I sat outside to read, and I stopped to listen. Then I caught myself smiling and came inside to tell you this: it is a beautiful day.
Posted by Madcap Machinist at 2:49 pm
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
I woke up the after that first night in Tioman feeling less like Cap'n Jack Sparrow but more of a Peter Pan with a hangover. The second day's journal entry includes a dalliance with mermaids. They rescued me from drowning when I tripped over a canoe on the way back to the chalet.
Then I filed the story away.
Katea Oleska says much more in a painting than I could in words (though being able to see waterfalls over clear waters may be a tad too... fantastical.)
Meanwhile, Aquaria KLCC is looking for—amongst aquarists, divers and chargemen— mermaids:
Mermaid (Part-time)...they are going to have mermaids swimming with the sharks! Dayn-jah!
To perform mermaid shows (4 shows per day) on weekends, public holidays and school holidays
Age between 17-30 years old
Able to swim or dive
Attach a full-body photograph together with your application
Training will be provided, if necessary.
...I hope they don't mind the sotong.
...won't they want to their weights? You know... for the sharks.
...or are they going to put them with the frogs?
Posted by Madcap Machinist at 12:23 pm
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Fellow Puisi-Poesy collaborator Leon Wing needs help to find a new home(s) for these four cats or they may have to be put to sleep:
The cats look great! The first is the mum while the rest are all male cats. They are not neutered.
They are not wild strays, meaning people can pet them and they are friendly if you are friendly. They are approachable cos I watched them grow up since their births, took them to the vet if they had any scraps etc. Quite easy to handle, pick up and so forth, and they can behave like dogs, like they follow me to the car and greet you when you're back, very affectionate. The toms have a playful habit of paw boxing with you if you hold your hand up: you lightly box their upheld paws and they box back. They are very healthy and well-fed, and one a little too well fed, with nice clean coats and bright eyes.If they are anything like Turkish (Saint's & Mel's tom), who is of the same breed, then I can vouch that they make wonderful house cats. I have noticed that Turkish is an unusually intelligent and good-natured cat, which has made him relatively easy to train and keep in line.
I'd take them myself if not for the three cats we already have at home. Furthermore, since we let the cats roam outside and do pretty much whatever they want, I don't think the neighbours will appreciate four more rascals in the area.
Contrary to popular belief, I do not know any lonely cat ladies so if you'd like to take them (or even just one), or know someone who will, please drop us a line in the comments and I will get you in touch with Leon.
Posted by Madcap Machinist at 5:32 am
Friday, November 03, 2006
Whither Gongkapas? Since the mysterious disappearance of The Gongkapas Times, it was only by overhearing an off-hand remark at Bibliobibuli that I learned that Dina Zaman has a new column in The Star. Typical, missing out on the real stuff while being anal about some underpass in some ceruk, missing the columns for the, uh, bridge. *twiddles fingers*
Dina's commentary in The Star last Saturday, 'Please Look Behind The Veil' reveals more insight on the identity of a Muslim woman as a reaction to being probed like, well, an alien species.
As Dina writes:
—Incidentally, the article is now mirrored at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival's (new?) blog (one hopes that the site continues to be the forum it was.)
I was privileged to have been invited to the Ubud Writers Festival last month. After four days of interviews, being viewed as a “prototype” of Muslim feminism and being probed, I veered between two extremes — there were times when I felt like a recently launched laundry detergent and momentswhen I felt like an alien.
Heavens! Is the Muslim woman such an anomaly to the rest of the world?
Not to take anything away from Dina, it is a fine article but essentially says what is already known: a Muslim woman is a human being just like any other and wants to be treated as such—behind the veil of the Muslim woman, there is a woman. Yet, what differentiates the Muslim woman is the dakwah, and one could muse on that this is what is signified by the hijab, or any other religious garment. What is important then, is to know what the dakwah says of the role of women in society and then, to prescribe ways to ensure that the roles are kept—certainly here there has been many interpretations plus misguided ways to implement the dakwah. But then, could this be the question that people need answered: what is the special role of the Muslim women — and by extension, all women — in society as a whole?
There is a scent of this in Dina's article when she writes:
...And, mothers, stop pestering your daughters to marry. They’ll marry when
they are good and ready.
Part of dakwah is to have responsible, socially conscious daughters. Marriage may be about building a “mosque” but if a woman’s sole existence is that, and that society is led by infantile men, you’re looking at an Armageddon.
These are common issues, even outmoded thinking, outside of Muslim society. But what are universal responsibilities of women to the ummah, as prescribed by the dakwah? In other words, what are the ethics of a woman? Dina actually stops short of giving an answer right then:
Should a woman be first and foremost be an ethicist, a guardian of civil values? Very well, by that line of reasoning, how well society treats its women-folk is a benchmark and a portrait of its standards.
Women, married or single, have a responsibility to help their ummah, the rakyat. You don’t even have to be an activist: by simply teaching kindness and respect for the elders and others, you’re halfway there.
It would be interesting to hear more from the writer, or any other writers who would find a way to defeat the stereotypes of Muslim women that proliferate literature, according to Mohja Kahf, and learn of the authentic Muslim woman. Because so little is known about them, as Dina Zaman notes... I venture to add, perhaps they don't know themselves.
Whither Gongkapas, I asked earlier. I hope it will not disappear behind the veil, because I am certainly learning from Dina how a Muslim woman in Malaysia thinks.
Um, call it research.
Posted by Madcap Machinist at 1:14 pm
I don't know why I should be so obsessed with this 'saga'— it doesn't seem to be such a big deal elsewhere. A quick blog-search with Google reveals that only two bloggers picked up on the story of the bus that got wedged under the low flyover at Jalan Chain Ferry on Sunday.
Two days after the first incident, two other vehicles got stuck under the same bridge (story in Tuesday's Star). This time an express bus carrying 20 passengers collided with the bridge at 1.30am and five people were injured. Later, at around 11.00 am, a van was also involved in an accident at the same spot.
Obviously, something is wrong there. What's up with the road signs? Are the signs confusing, or hard to see? Is the 'haze' problem (I still prefer to call it 'smog') so bad in the area that not only are motorists failing to see the signs also the bridge (which is grey and one imagines will be almost invisible in the haze).
On Wednesday, the drivers were—somewhat predictably—blamed for their negligence.
From the article:
The underpass where three vehicles got “stuck” within a span of three days had height limit bars but these were knocked down by lorries and subsequently carted away by scrap metal thieves.
Seberang Prai Municipal councillor Teow Jit Meng said he had asked the Public Works Department to reinstall the bars and add warning lights at the entrance of the underpass.
“Hopefully, the lights and bars will be up within two weeks,” he said.
Teow, however, said it was the attitude of drivers and not the lack of signboards that caused two buses and a van to get stuck at the underpass on Saturday and Monday.
He said the underpass was meant for light vehicles and residents of Taman Bagan.
“It is most probably the negligence of the drivers (that caused the vehicles got stuck) as there are enough signboards on the 2.6m height limit.
“Also, these drivers may not be aware of the height of their own vehicles,” said Teow, a member of the council’s infrastructure and traffic committee.
Further on in the article a local resident tells us that there has been numerous accidents at the underpass over the last four years.
I will, nevertheless, hold my opinion that further steps should be taken to ensure that the underpass in question should be made less dangerous for road users which may have somehow missed all the signs. After all, there must be a reason why the height limit bars that were previously installed have been knocked down in the first place.
On the bright side, in the papers yesterday (can't find anything online), pictures show that the authorities have taken steps to install a new sign indicating the clearance height and reflective strips just over the underpass. Well done.
Now, how about getting someone to have a look at the lights that are not working at the Penchala-Kerinchi interchange...
Posted by Madcap Machinist at 5:52 am
Thursday, November 02, 2006
I wrote a novel for this occasion:
"The Tattoo"It took two hours,
The sight took his breath away, then she put the rubber on her self.
50,000 words? Well... bonne chance!
Posted by Madcap Machinist at 1:26 am