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
            shooting 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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