Bernice Chauly Poems

G MINOR

If we do not love each other
how come the thought of you dissolves me, like sorrow?
like the world being poured back into a dead lake
bereft yet congenial

Perhaps love is a burden, devoid of simplicity
perhaps you would have been bored by happiness
you would have found it dull

Is your home in St. Gilles
I imagine an etymologist's study
the stag beetle I gave you, placed on a promontory
facing a wall of books, other framed dead beetles

I need to write you out of me
like a diminishing carapace of dots and lines

And after a few sips of whiskey
I no longer think of you.... more »

JERIT

(Malay for ‘howl')
And so he says it again

through headlines screaming black bold Serif
on undulating white perimeters

Write − You will have the freedom to write -
He says as he spouts jibber-jabber from pink, watery lips
like swine-filled halos of doom

from the plume of corrupt plinths of marble arches
stretched across the abyss of power,

You, who have seized morality from cowards
engaged in chit-chat over the rights

To write - What is right?

stemming from pulsating vagus nerves
wandering over loose craniums, viaduct throats
binary clots, loose thoraxes, abdomens filled
with bilious bull,

You who rile with constipated gall

You who sing the loose song of false freedoms

You, who in toothless defense watch the night cower
with homeless street urchins on Bukit Bintang

hungry from spent mothers who spread their thin thighs
to the glazed-eyed workers high from inhaling toiled
humid days, sifting their morals and might from concrete
constructing more pricks to adorn

the history of this city of mud,

Will you let us write of new pages by those

who in yellow-infused riotous colour

betrayed the hallowed streets of the city

in the hundreds, in the tens and tens of thousands
who fought back the tear-gassed alleys
with brave tears and Maalox

and damp Good Morning towels
armed with children who shrieked
when the extra-strength gas laced
their young eyes, nimble throats?

Of those who were faced with the ends of black-eyed boots
swirling batons, swallowing their own blood

and the towering lies of a people's revolution

pulsated by the wrath of pubescent
policemen in nameless fatigues -

your shadow army, while we passed on
mighty green, yellow balls

and sang bravely whilst clutching
empty hand phones that gave not
their paid networks, the final strains
of the Negaraku,

Will you let us write of the deaths in police custody
in the corridors and balconies of the MACC, which
in their silences welcomed the deaths

of those who did not deserve to die
of the grazed back and bruised torso of Kugan
of the twisted neck that Beng Hock did not use to bear
of the sultry songs that she, with new breasts

sang while she squatted and was made to lie

on soiled concrete floors?

Or of the incandescent C4 that blew her up

and the unsinkable submarine that colludes you

with an unspeakable crime, with

the One of the wind-blown face and sticky hair of grime
witch-doctor magic, that soiled her childhood with dark filth
and the loin-cloths of bloodied cocks

of the tiger child lulled by the wind

of the monsoons that birthed her -

her legacy of guilt?

Will you let us write of the hunger that sucks us

in meaningless traffic voids and unworthy

side-kicked, bastardised mantras of feel-good phonetic tunes
in between pin-pricks of holy spaces

in between cars that reek of carbon monoxide

the cacophony of Toyota's, Hyundai's

Proton's and Myvi's

that scream unholy visions

of cancer-ridden ploys?

You, with emptied-out legions of xanax, cocaine and ecstasy
who wither into the cunning dreams of spirit guardians

and the ghosts of suburbia, who with endless

glee roam into your days and nights
penetrating ethereal slumbers with porn-filled ease

with the magnetic sweep of jazz, K-pop and gangsta-rap
thump-pa-thum-thumping into the blackest of black nights,

The city of mud and shadows will claim you

and night-toils reap you, of ingrained

once noble philosophies of Islam and Al-Afghani
Hadrami traders who fought your wars
made you sane and insane from the trollied bulwark

of petroleum patsies, nightshade bullies who set

the motions of torture in pastured green camps

where you made them write and sing unbridled anthems
of mean civilian wars and with magnetic strains of
Malaysia-Truly Asia,

You who lull uncertain trash into

our sullen skies, with more leaden lies

and rare-earth plunders, the haze

from forest fires of late night tangerine whores
behind doors, willing to pay that little extra
for, "Sir, I give you happy ending",

And against the backdrop of a hundred thousand
rainbow-clad warriors at Stadium Merdeka

You know that we are free

We are free
We can be,

Do not make it Your right
to give us the right -

We will always have

the right to write,

Yes Sir

We will write a new text

We will write a new beginning
We will have a better ending
We will write a new country,

Free from fear

from vicious ding-dong lies and decrepit cowardly threats -
We deny this bongo-bongo land and its oil palm-republicanism
and We will seek flight in the multi-coloured tapestry

that Is this great country

from the ends of this coloured cloak

of the new and old regal Malays, Indians, Chinese

Iban, Penan, Kadazan-Dusun, Temuan

Rungus, Ukit, Lahanan, Jahit, Chewong tribes

and the sullies of Allah and
whose tongue it suits -

It suits us All and

We take offence,

You will not stop us

and We will rise to fulfill
the birthright that

Is this nation -
We will write this
in All our voices,

And You
Will listen.... more »

SOMETIMES

Vindula dejone erotella
Delias oraia
Urania leilus
Grapium sarpedon
Appias nero figulina

Papa
I repeat the names of common Malayan butterflies
from the book that used to be on the long white shelf
in our house in Taiping, where my memories begin

Papa
I fear I will never recover
I know this kind of love begins and ends with flowers
not words, not alcohol, not tears
not even sadness

Papa
I am tired of the earth
I remember catching butterflies - they lived
for a while in tall glass bottles and once, a green Mino tin
slowly their wings faded and turned
into mellow dust, collecting ites
like unwelcome strangers
into a dark world

Papa
I remember the orange and brown bedcover
prickly to the touch, my green pinafore and sunflower curtains
Ah Kong standing in his white shorts
wondering where you are -
it has been forty years, since you left me
a child crying by the shattering sea -
I fear I have never recovered

I think I have outstayed my time
unlike you, there is no more mourning
there is no more darkening of the sky, of the
liver, throat and spleen, of in-between coloured boats
that ferry nightly metaphors to sweet darling madness

Papa
the birds and cicadas are asleep
the floods are gone
but the butterflies -
they still lie
awake, in
the garden.... more »

Bernice Chauly Quotes

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