Or the non-Mother’s Day poem my mother must never read

My father asks – what the hell is the point of getting married if you don’t want children? I do not look in his direction when I say – so you’re okay with sex before marriage ah. He does not respond.

My mother says you can only have sex after marriage so they can’t run off. She likes to spill these kinds of runny pearls of wisdom which slip through your fingers the more you try to grasp meaning.

My mother says, like my visits to the therapist, I must not tell my father about the gynecologist. My mother says I cannot write about sensitive topics in my university papers. Like religion. Or politics. Or gender. I don’t have the heart to tell her that I minor in gender and religious studies and I am studying sexuality in a comparative perspective that semester.

Sex education in secondary school was – if you have sex outside of marriage, you will get pregnant. Immediately. With twins. And you will have aids. And herpes. Sex education in secondary school was the counseller gluing two pieces of paper together and ripping them apart, saying – you see, if a girl has sex she is always hurt. Sex education was only ever about the dangers of sex but no one mentions the foreplay or the afterplay. The cuddling. The pillow talk. The “I love you too”s and the descent into nail biting and phone checking after the texts die.

Sex education was Google. Especially after my schoolmates called me a dominatrix and I thought it just meant a strong woman. After my mother saw the pimple I had next to my mouth and said I had herpes and demanded to know whose boy’s cock I had sucked. When I was eighteen and said that male rapes weren’t possible because the guy has to want it when he’s hard which led to one of the most awkward conversations about the mechanics of male anatomy. When I learnt about the prostrate from yaoi fanfiction but not the clitoris and I still haven’t met a boy who would let me use a strap-on on them but they still have no problems trying to finger my back hole after I shout no. Sex education was a boy coming into my room with snacks and small talk and asking me what was it like for a girl to lose her virginity. To hear a younger girl panic about a late period after her first time.

When my mother realises that I’ve had sex at the gynecologists over an STD scare, she asks – how can you do this to yourself? She asks – who was it? And because I am tired and irritated at having my vagina poked and prodded at with glass and steel instruments that no woman would invent, I say – which one?

My mother says all men only want one thing. She says – if you give a man what he wants he will leave you. I don’t have the heart to tell her that doesn’t change with marriage – so you do the dishes and cooking and ironing and cleaning and you hope that this is enough for him to want.

Sex education was my mother telling me that no man wants a used thing. That my standards are too high. I tell my mother – then I will be a woman that no man wants. And eventually, I will learn to be happy with that.



When I tell a boy “I love you”, what I mean is “I would move to another country for you”. And maybe this wouldn’t have meant much ten years ago, when I was young and stupid and convinced that this was the most boring country in the world and my only life ambition was to move away from it. Bought into the glamour of Hollywood and bright lights and how freedom meant America. But now this country is home. I know it, from the way I hear myself snap at people who say that there’s nothing to do here. I tell them about the art galleries, the drag shows, the bookstores, the live bands, the open mic nights where people pay money just to listen to poetry on stage. And I would give that up for him.
When I say “I love you”, it means that I will drop whatever I am doing, take a taxi, a plane to wherever if I know you need me. It means that you might not always be my top priority, but it takes very little for you to get there and you will always be in the top three. It means that I will work. It means sacrifice.
It is why I very rarely say it.
The next time I tell a boy that I love him, I feel like I need to add a disclaimer at the end: that it is a goddamned privilege to be loved by me. And if he doesn’t remember that, at least I will.


You get off a ferry after you have gotten off a plane and then another ferry and you are on this island surrounded by this cluster of islands and you wonder what the fuck you are doing on this island with only one bag because the ferries would only allow you to take one bag and you’re the only stupid tourist stuck at the dock on an island which used to be called the island of fire and you were supposed to come here with your boyfriend because it was his idea but now you don’t have a boyfriend and you are still here and is the woman over there selling love potions in tiny glass bottles and then there is laughing and the waves crashing on the shore and now you have the love potion in your pocket but you have no idea how you are going to slip it into your ex boyfriend’s drink or if you even want to have you ex boyfriend back so you turn to the woman and you ask for a curse and she shakes her head and tells you she doesn’t do these kinds of things if you want you have to go up to the other woman who lives there she points to a path that leads into a forest and you walk there with the whine of the mosquitos ringing in your ears by the time you get to the end of it there are bright red welts rising on your skin and the sun is setting and you must have passed the house where the witch lives you had expected a smouldering twisted ruin and a similarly smouldering twisted woman living by herself but each house had looked undistinguishable from the other and now there is only the roar of a waterfall and your rippling reflection looking up at you from the pool and the hundreds of fireflies that have emerged from nowhere and are winking at you. You watch the surprise bloom on your reflection’s face. It is impossible to be angry here in this deepening twilight with lights that your city has tried to fake each Christmas. You take the love potion from your pocket and you watch yourself drink it in one swallow.

SingPoWriMo Day 24/SEAPoWriMo Day 2

The Overheard Prompt
Use Google Street View to go to a place in Southeast Asia you’ve never been to.
Write a poem about it that you overheard.
#PhoneticBonus – Include phonetic renderings of things you do not understand e.g. a foreign language, the sound of a broken air-con
#ProsaicBonus – Write a prose poem that is full of repetition.


It is the same dream every night.
Moonlight. A knock on the door.
A shadow on the peephole.
And your voice, calling my name.

SingPoWriMo Day 24/SEAPoWriMo Day 21
Write a poem in the Khmer form: 4 line stanzas with each line containing 7 syllables.
#FearBonus: The poem is about fear.
#BumpBonus: There is a loud sound in the poem, that somebody has to explore.


That day I got up like any other day.
That is, with a great deal of effort;
tangling my blanket around my body
until I suffocated on cotton.
My room smelled like the sun.
Do we ever wonder on this island
if the sun would be there in the morning?
I do not remember how I picked my clothes.
If I had breakfast. If my roommates
were out or if I mumbled a good morning
to them in the hallway. The number of times
I checked my phone. People talk about
itching phantom limbs; what about
phantom phones that buzz in your pocket?
I know I walked toward the bus stop and fell
down the stairs without a single sound escaping
my mouth. That I picked myself and my laptop up
and kept walking. I would find the dents
on the metal body afterwards but in that moment
I only had the certainty that I needed
to keep moving. I boarded the bus
and squeezed into a seat in the back.
Setting my bag on my lap. Thought again
about how I really didn’t need to reach
for my phone anymore but as I plugged
my earphones in I couldn’t help but notice
the absence of messages. So I watched
the curious expression on the girl sitting across
me, as she watched the tears fall silently from my face.



And yet –

“The world of dew
is the world of dew. 
And yet, and yet – “
– Issa

And yet mother dreamt
of building a house of stone.
She died in a shoddy flat.

A man echoes his past –
it is either me or the children.
He still waits to be chosen.

Stuck in traffic
it is possible to believe
in forever.

I am teaching myself
to exhale the past. Each fogged
breath a vanishing ghost.

A teacup rolls
across the floor. I am trying
to gather all the pieces.

Let go, I tell my mother
while I busy my fingers. This cup
will not mend itself.

I would build a tree of steel
too if it meant I could rest
in its shade a little longer.

Is it enough then, to watch
the dew bead and bloom, before
vanishing with the muggy dawn?

Continue reading “And yet –”

And yet –

Tsundoku (積ん読)

I am watching my life
pile high. The uni textbooks
that I never read for class.
Mildewed pages from
secondhand book sales.
Pristine Pulitzer and Man Booker
winners for the days I say
I will be a Serious Reader
butI keep going back
to my soft-paged Young Adult
fantasies anyway. And poetry
by god all this poetry
like if I was near enough
of the stuff I too would
become better. Once
a boy told me that I was
the best read person he knew
and I smiled and kicked
the tottering stacks
out of his sight.
Wondered when
he would stop believing
in the lie. Once these stacks
were smaller. I was younger
and poorer then, and exchanged
my books with a boy who
agreed with me that children’s
books were the most important
books that we would ever read
and had a girlfriend who would
storm off in the other direction
when she caught us talking.
I cannot remember which pile
my childhood books are in now.
Once I mailed ten books to a boy
and then stopped talking to him.
I always wonder what became
of the books. Once I could read
faster than my mother could aloud,
I told her that she could stop the
bedtime stories. I cannot remember
the expression on her face when I
told her this. Only that she never
stopped buying me books,
as though that was the only
thing that she could give.

Continue reading “Tsundoku (積ん読)”

Tsundoku (積ん読)