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Who dares to take this life from me Knows no better

for Eric Mottram

"Nur wenn das Herz erschlossen,

Dann ist die Erde schön.
" Goethe.
I An important thing in living Is to know when to go; He who does not know this Has not far to go, Though death may come and go When you do not know.
Come, give me your hand, Together shoulder and cheek to shoulder We'll go, sour kana in cheeks And in the mornings cherry sticks To gum: the infectious chilli smiles Over touch-me-not thorns, crushing snails From banana leaves, past Clawing outstretched arms of the bougainvilias To stone the salt-bite mangoes.
Tread carefully through this durian kampong For the ripe season has pricked many a sole.
II la la la tham'-pong Let's go running intermittent To the spitting, clucking rubber fruit And bamboo lashes through the silent graves, Fresh sod, red mounds, knee stuck, incensing joss sticks All night long burning, exhuming, expelling the spirit.
Let's scour, hiding behind the lowing boughs of the hibiscus Skirting the school-green parapet thorny fields.
Let us now squawk, piercing the sultry, humid blanket In the shrill wakeful tarzan tones, Paddle high on.
the swings Naked thighs, testicles dry.
Let us now vanish panting on the climbing slopes Bare breasted, steaming rolling with perspiration, Biting with lalang burn.
Let us now go and stand under the school Water tap, thrashing water to and fro.
Then steal through the towkay's Barbed compound to pluck the hairy Eyeing rambutans, blood red, parang in hand, And caoutchouc pungent with peeling.
Now scurrying through the estate glades Crunching, kicking autumnal rubber leavings, Kneading, rolling milky latex balls, Now standing to water by the corner garden post.
III This is the land of the convectional rains Which vie on the monsoon back scrubbing streets This is the land at half-past four The rainbow rubs the chilli face of the afternoon And an evening-morning pervades the dripping, weeping Rain tree, and gushing, tumbling, sewerless rain drains Sub-cutaneously eddy sampan fed, muddy, fingerless rivers Down with crocodile logs to the Malacca Sea.
This is the land of stately dipterocarp, casuarina And coco-palms reeding north easterly over ancient rites Of turtle bound breeding sands.
This is the land of the chignoned swaying bottoms Of sarong-kebaya, sari and cheongsam.
The residual perch of promises That threw the meek in within The legs of the over-eager fledgelings.
The land since the Carnatic conquerors Shovelling at the bottom of the offering mountains The bounceable verdure brought to its bowers The three adventurers.
A land frozen in a thousand Climatic, communal ages Wags its primordial bushy tail to the Himalayas Within a three cornered monsoon sea - In reincarnate churches And cracker carousels.
The stranglehold of boasting strutting pedigrees And infidel hordes of marauding thieves, Where pullulant ideals Long rocketed in other climes Ride flat-foot on flat tyres.
IV Let us go then, hurrying by Second show nights and jogget parks Listening to the distant whinings of wayangs Down the sidewalk frying stalls on Campbell Road Cheong-Kee mee and queh teow plates Sateh, rojak and kachang puteh (rediffusion vigil plates) Let us then dash to the Madras stalls To the five cent lye chee slakes.
la la la step stepping Each in his own inordinate step Shuffling the terang bulan.
Blindly buzzes the bee Criss-crossing Weep, rain tree, weep The grass untrampled with laughter In the noonday sobering shade.
Go Cheena-becha Kling-qui Sakai V Has it not occurred to you how I sat with you dear sister, counting the chicking back of the evening train by the window sill and then got up to wind my way down the snake infested rail to shoo shoo the cows home to brood while you gee geaed the chicks to coop and did we not then plan of a farm a green milking farm to warm the palm then turned to scratch the itch over in our minds lay down on the floors, mat aside our thoughts to cushion heads whilst dug tapioca roots heaped the dream and we lay scrapping the kernel-less fiber shelled coconuts O Bhama, my goatless daughter kid how I nursed you with the callow calves those mutual moments forced in these common lives and then, that day when they sold you the blistering shirtless sun never flinching an eye, defiant I stood caressing your creamy coat and all you could say was a hopeless baaa.
aa and then, then, that day as we came over the mountains two kids you led to the thorny brush, business bent the eye-balling bharata natyam VI O masters of my fading August dream For should you take this life from me Know you any better Than when children we have joyously romped Down and deep in the August river Washing on the mountain tin.
Now on the growing granite's precipitous face In our vigilant wassail Remember the children downstream playing Where your own little voices are speechless lingering Let it not be simply said that a river flows to flourish a land More than that he who is high at the source take heed: For a river putrid in the cradle is worse than the plunging flooding rain.
And the eclectic monsoons may have come Have gathered and may have gone While the senses still within torrid membranes thap-po-ng thap-pong thap-pong

Poem by T Wignesan
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