Alfian Sa’at, writer, poet, playwrite (Singapore)

Singapore You Are Not My Country
(For Noora)

Singapore you are not my country.
Singapore you are not a country at all.
You are surprising Singapore, statistics-starved Singapore, soulful Singapore of tourist
brochures in Japanese and hourglass kebayas.
You protest, but without picketing, without rioting, without Catherine Lim,
but through your loudspeaker media, through the hypnotic eyeballs of your newscasters, and that weather woman who I swear is working voodoo on my teevee screen.
Singapore, what are these lawsuits in my mailbox?
There are so many sheaves, I should have tipped the postman.
Singapore, I assert, you are not a country at all.
Do not raise your voice against me, I am not afraid of your anthem although the lyrics are still bleeding from the bark of my sapless heart.
Not because I sang them pigtailed pinnafored breakfasted chalkshoed in school
But because I used to watch telly till they ran out of shows.
Do not invite me to the podium and tell me to address you properly.
I am allergic to microphones and men in egosuits and pubicwigs.
And I am not a political martyr, I am a patriot who has lost his country and virginity.
Do not wave a cane at me for vandalising your propaganda with technicolour harangues,
Red Nadim semen white Mahsuri menses the colourful language of my eloquent generation.
Your words are like walls on which truth is graffiti.
This has become an island of walls.
Asylum walls, factory walls, school walls, the walls of the midnight Istana.
If I am paranoid I have learnt it from you, O my delicate orchid stalk Singapore,
Always thirsty for water, spooked by armed archipelagoes, always gasping for airspace, always running to keep ahead, running away from yourself.
Singapore why do you wail that way, demanding my IC?
Singapore stop yelling and calling me names.
How dare you call me a chauvinist, an opposition party, a liar,
a traitor, a mendicant professor, a Marxist homosexual communist
pornography banned literature chewing gum liberty smuggler?
How can you say I do not believe in
The Free Press autopsies flogging mudslinging bankruptcy
which are the five pillars of Justice?
And how can you call yourself a country, you terrible hallucination
of highways and cranes and condominiums ten minutes drive from the MRT?

Tell that to the battered housewife who thinks happiness lies at the end of a Toto Queue.
Tell that to the tourist guide whose fillings are pewter whose feelings are iron
whose courtesy is gold whose speech is silver whose handshake is a lethal yank at the jackpot machine.
Tell that to my imam who thinks we are all going to hell.
Tell that to the chao ah beng who has seven stitches a broken collarbone and three dead comrades but who will not hesitate from thrusting his tiger ribcage into another fight
because the lanterns of his lungs have caught their own fire and there is no turning back.
Tell that to the yuppie who sits in meat-markets disguised as pubs, listening to Kenny G disguised as jazz on handphone disguised as conversation and loneliness disguised as a jukebox.
Tell that to all those exiles whose names are forgotten but who leave behind a bad taste in the thoughtful mouth, reminding us that the flapping sunned linen shelters a whiff of chloroform.
Tell that to Town Council men who feed pigeons with crumbs of arsenic.
Tell that to Natra Hertogh a.k.a Maria who proved to us that blood spilled was thicker than water shed as she was caught pining under a stone angel in the nunnery for her husband.
Tell that to Ah Meng, who bore six hairy bastards for our nation.
Tell that to Lee Kuan Yew's squint.
Tell that to Josef Ng, who shaves my infant head amidst a shower of one-cent coins, and both of us are pure again.
Tell that to my Warrant Officer who knew I was faking.
Tell that to the unemployed man who drinks cigarettes smokes tattoos watches peanuts
unself-conscious of his gut belch debts and wife having an affair with the Salesman of Nervous Breakdowns.
Tell that to our Maya Angelou's who are screeching like witches United Nations-style poems populated by Cheena Babi Bayee Tonchet Melayu Malas Keling Geragok Mat Salleh.
Tell that to the fakirs of civil obedience, whose headphones are pounding the hooving basslines of Damyata Damyata Damyata.
Tell that to the statue of Li Po at Marina Park.
Tell that to the performance artists who need licences like drivers and doctors and dogs
when all they really need is just three percent of your love.
Tell that to the innocent faggot looking for kicks on a Sunday evening to end up sucking the bit-hard pistol-muzzle of the CID, ensnared no less by his weakness for pretty boys naked out of uniform.
Tell that to the caretaker of the grave of Radin Mas.
Tell that to Chee Soon Juan's smirk.
Tell that to the pawns of The Upgrading Empire who penetrate their phalluses into heartlands to plant Lego cineplexes Tupperware playgrounds suicidal balconies carnal parks of cardboard and condoms and before we know it we are a colony once again.
Tell that to Malaysia whose Desaru is our spittoon whose TV2 is our amusement whose Bumiputras are our threat whose outrage is our greater outrage whose turtles are weeping blind in the roaring daylight of our cameras.
Tell that to the old poets who have seen this piece of land slip their metaphors each passing year from bumboats to debris to sanitation projects to drowning attempts to barbed neon water weeds on a river with no reflections a long way off from the sea.

O Singapore your fair shores your garlands your GNP.
You are not a country you are a construction from spare parts.
You are not a campaign you are last year's posters.
You are not culture you are poems on the MRT.
You are not a song you are part swear word part lullaby.
You are not Paradise you are an island with pythons.

Singapore I am on trial.
These are the whites of my eyes and the reds of my wrists.
These are the deranged stars of my schizophrenia.
This is the milk latex gummy moon of my sedated smile.
I have lost a country to images, it is as simple as that.
Singapore you have a name on a map but no maps to your name.
This will not do; we must stand aside and let the Lion
crash through a madness of cymbals back to that dark jungle heart
when eyes were still embers waiting for a crownless Prince of Palembang.