Friday, August 5, 2005

Oasis

It has been years since I've sat at a cafe to read a book and sip drugs. The quiet Starbucks at Far East Plaza has closed and is now replaced by a Subway. I love that place; a tiny, quiet, out-of-place that few people know existed. The walls are curved so one could just hide behind them or the strategically placed pillars, and disappear. It's an oasis in the midst of noisy and crowded Orchard Road area. So I walk around to see if I can find another similar place to have some Ice Mocha. I need a quiet place. And I think I've found it, as I'm walking around Wheelock Place tonight; the rear entrance of Borders, the CoffeeBean. I've walked there countless times but have never really noticed it. The large area at the bottom of an atrium isn't crowded tonight. I order my five dollar mocha. The vortex of energy created by the curve-moving escalators seems to swirl anti-clockwise, much like a tornado. Funny thing is, sitting there feels like being in the eye of the storm; it's absolutely calm. The coffee-sipping patrons already there are all in pairs. The chair in front of me screams its emptiness. Yes, I don't have a date. I am my own date. With the book I have with me tonight. Two fluffy seats away, a couple snuggles; the lady with a white top and short shorts is saying something to her spouse, into his ear. She's almost nibbling it. This goes on for about ten minutes, maybe more. I read my book, the chapter ends with a poem by Neruda.
Body English We speak in tongues. My mouth to your ear. Your ear to my mouth. We speak in tongues, Use body English. Mouth to mouth. Heart to heart. Parts of speech. Each. Our every slip of the tongue is graceful. Our best syllables are silent. We speak in tongues. Our skins make conversation. Talk to me.
Two secondary-school kids move up the curving escalator. She lifts his chin up, touches his face with the back of her fingers. I smile at them, their young love that knows no heartache. A couple diagonally in front of me seems more stressed up; they look uncomfortable. The guy gestures with his hands, the woman sits passively, as if listening to some bad news. Is he breaking up with her? Or is he just a confidante trying to beat some sense into her? Another attractive couple gazes into each other's eyes. They aren't holding hands. Maybe they are just friends. To have friends like that is just wonderful; love, per se, for its own sake. A new pair drops by, a perky woman with a very short flowing skirt, and her bald friend. They sit right in front of me. She distracts. Nonetheless, I will finish my book today, at this oasis that costs five dollars. I should do this more often. And you may take the empty seat...

7 comments:

petals said...

hey.. thank you for your poem. :)

will share two more with you.

+++++

Speaking in Tongue - Singapore Style
In days of yore Grandpa laid down the law,
Speak mother tongue he used to say:
“Hokkien lang kong Hokkian way.”

Though Grandpa from Java spoke only Bahasa,
She followed Grandpa’s rule to kong Hokkien way,
And she saw to it we grew up kong-ing Hokkien way.

Then we moved from Chinatown to Emerald Hill
Our friends now Muthu, Dollah, Bongsu,
So (boh pien lah!) we also chakap Melayu.

At school, Sir insisted: “Speak English!”
So, apa lagi, we anyhow speak English too,
Chin-chye, chap-chye, choba kind also can do.

Then Japanese came and we benkyo Nippon-go;
Their ABC kata-kana: Ah, ee, oo, eh, oh,
No problem, we just champor: Kaki lu bengko’.

And now (kao peh!) Speak Mandarin campaign!
Must jiang hua yu, Hokkien way no can do.
Kena again: t’ak ch’e, belajar, bengkyo, study, du shu.

At first we swear at those campaign mandarins:
“Dammit, sial only, so suay one!”
but being kiasu, soon it’s Xian Sheng zao an!

Goh Sin Tub


+++++

You Have Two Voices
You have two voices when you speak in English or your mother tongue. When you speak the way your people spoke the words don’t hesitate but flow like rivers, like rapids, like oceans of sound and your hands move like birds through the air.
But then you take a stranger’s voice when you speak in your new tongue. Each word is a stone dropped in a pool. I watch the ripples and wait for more. You search in vain for other stones to throw. They are heavy. Your hands hang down.
You have two voices when you speak; I have two ears for hearing. Speak to me again in your mother tongue. What does it matter how little I understand when the words pour out like music and your face glows like a flame.

Nancy Prasad

petals said...

hmm...

it didn't came out the way it should. my apologies..

will try again.

You Have Two voices
You have two voices when you speak in English
or your mother tongue. When you speak the way
your people spoke the words don’t hesitate but
flow like rivers, like rapids, like oceans of sound
and your hands move like birds through the air.

But then you take a stranger’s voice when you
speak in your new tongue. Each word is a stone
dropped in a pool. I watch the ripples and wait for
more. You search in vain for other stones to
throw. They are heavy. Your hands hang down.

You have two voices when you speak;
I have two
ears for hearing. Speak to me again in your
mother tongue. What does it matter how little I
understand when the words pour out like music
and your face glows like a flame.

Nancy Prasad

jeffyen said...

Nice... Singaporean tongues sure is one of a kind lol Thanks for that, petals. :)

Ali said...

This is interesting. Next time, carry a pen and paper and listen to other people's conversations! I want to know if that couple broke up or not! :P

Mr Wang Says So said...

Hello Petals

I have a poem about mother tongues as well. Will post it on Reader's Eye shortly. Feel free to use it for your Lit lesson again, if yu think it appropriate. It might not be appropriate, it is a bit politically incorrect.

rijac said...

very nice!

by the way, you could try the spinellis at the forum...

adinahaes said...

i know the book in a cafe feeling.

if you ever need a fellow bookworm to fill the empty seat try asking me one day.

i like just chilling out there with a good book all day.

Though I have to say that nothing beats reading on my own bed or couch.