Second Aubade for Singapore
— Janelle Tan
the water is always still here. driven out
of bed by jet lag, i dip my flip-flops
into the still. to be here is to hear
mynahs, the morning song of grey glass
rocking with the breeze. taxicabs
tiptoe—on the ride home last night
the driver doesn’t believe i was born here
until i speak. says the furthest he’s gone
is taiwan, smiles with stained teeth.
asks what america is like.
like the river smiling at me, cooler than humidity.
last night, the most recent
of many last nights here,
someone asked me what it’s like
to always be saying goodbye.
like teresa teng playing on the radio—
have we met?
your smile looks familiar.
like new york, a chance to dart
from bag to bag of trash, free
as a rat. a squeaking you cannot
understand. some days new york is
like the yellowcab driver, his face falling
to one more defeat: tell me where i can park!
tell me! the NYPD shut his door
into him. the white woman ferried here
on his back scuttles to the crosswalk.
like glancing over at the times next to me
on the subway: school shooting festival shooting
most days i fight against my glass-like nature.
most days i fight against the shatter.
like that night standing outside mood ring,
watching parliamentary debates
on my phone. tiny squeaking singaporean men
sweating through white shirts decide
if i can return while i stomp, ice falling
off my boots, exhaling into my hands,
gathering whatever warmth i can make
with just my breath.
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