My nephew of five comes to me
With a walkie-talkie of
Two Heinz Beans tin cans
Tied from end to end with a magic string.
He says to talk from a distance without
Seeing my face, the movement of my lips.
I hide behind the dragon and phoenix
And speak play-pretend giggling soft.
But my nephew says I’m inaudible,
The can in his ear only rumbling hollow.
I reflect on the malfunction and explain to
‘Of course my adult voice could never
Come through, a voice that’s undergone
A distilling process purging it of
The words I speak are often not mine,
Strung together to mimic surface civility.
They give the impression of sound speech,
But are in fact true lies that mask
The Bacchus reborn in my heart.
When I speak to another adult,
The words reach out but don’t quite touch
His playacting ego.
No connection in faith despite
The 6.8 billion cellphones buzzing
To be heard.
But sadder are the unspoken words
Amputated and omitted to preempt
Every night arrives with no fanfare,
No sound or fury,
No passion or exhilaration.’
‘Except sometimes when it rains
And two would-be friends find themselves
Over the clashing din of city life
(Heart to heart and soul to soul)
Rearranging the puzzle of past/present
And trading in the future tense.
The voice overrides all manipulations then.
The words learnt by my younger self return
– One pure notion at a time –
To remind me of the forgotten growth
Of the budding lotus in the sun.’
25.7.16 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia