Patricia Lockwood (and me!) in the Vulture

This article may well be my greatest claim to fame! That I knew Patricia Lockwood when we were participants of the online poetry forum Poetry Free-for-all in the early aughts. In fact, she was one of three judges to crown me winner of the forum's PFFA Apprentice contest (a la Trump) after several grueling rounds of poetry challenges. It was always an occasion when Patricia posted one of her own poems in the forum for comment. The voice in the poems was always mesmerizing, the writing startlingly original. She deserves every bit of her success since then. The Vulture article below describes the long years spent in the slush pile before she was picked up by major publications. It also recounts the devastating health problems and family tragedies that have plagued this writer. After reading the article, my admiration for her has grown even stronger. How wonderful it is, that in the face of everything that life throws at you, you can remain funny, filthy, and tender.

Inspector Inspector (first draft done)

Inspector Inspector   The Goldfish Bowl   Supposedly a show of support for medical workers, the banging on pots and pans at exactly 5 pm every day is to scare off the demons. Listen to the hysteria detonating like Chinese firecrackers just beneath the grimness. You can hear it also on the liberal Internet. It has the sadness of dead goldfish floating to the top of the goldfish bowl, or bodies in body bags stacked into refrigerated trucks outside the hospital. Mask up, one health inspector says to another. I can’t breathe, says the Black man locked down by a beast with six knees and hands. I should take to the streets, I say, but what if I catch the virus? I will write instead, in the privacy of 5 am, banging my pot against my pan in this way.   The Zoom Background   The missing person poster was sent to all households in the year of the Great Election. The picture was of my dead father. His face, racked with pain, became the most popular Zoom background, downloaded ov

"We Have Felt the Light of Freedom in Our Lives"

 Weekly column written for the Singapore Unbound newsletter. Sign up here . This week, in solidarity with the citizens and democracy activists of Myanmar, we're publishing a letter of appeal from a young writer living under the current military coup. (For a primer on the coup, read this .) Please help to disseminate this letter. It is published below as we have received it. Dear Reader, I was born in 1994, under the shadow of the previous military regime. It was a time when a picture of General Than Shwe would hang in the offices of every business, ministry, school, and hospital, much like an unholy saint. My father, who was born in 1961 also grew up under this same shadow, his saint was General Nay Win. For those of us who have grown up living under the watchful eyes of the Tatmadaw (Army), we know life is unfair, we know it is unpredictable, we know what is taken from us was never ours to begin with and understood to leave some things as unfortunate events and not p

Inspector Inspector (1-12)

The Zoom Background   The missing person poster was sent to all households in the year of the Great Election. The picture was of my dead father. His face, racked with pain, became the most popular Zoom background, downloaded over a million times around the world. I wrote to the Internet safety bureau every day to ask them to scrub the web clean of the image. I did not wish to share my father with the world. In any case, he was not missing, he was dead. I saw his body pushed into the fire. I dropped his ashes into the sea. Finally, annoyed by my harassment, the Inspector General rained fingers on his keyboard and changed the poster from missing to wanted. The pain on my father’s face now looked sinister. It was downloaded faster than ever, reaching a billion times in China alone.     The Cartoon Tavern   Cheap shots. Surgical strikes. Under the nose of the inner inspector, I have been drinking too much to make up for missed drinks and dinners with friends, book launches an

Inspector Inspector (1-10)

The Quaker Sunflower   Everyone on the show is paranoid, except for the Quaker, who is plain creepy. I have located her creepiness in her calm. While the detective inspectors are dashing all about Dusseldorf, hunting down clues and connections, she gardens at home, pausing to listen to your woes and dispense wise advice. She is a friend to everyone. Her face is round as a sunflower. She reminds me of a certain civil servant in Singapore, met at a roundtable on arts diplomacy. After flashing his PowerPoint slides at us, he took me aside to tell me that he did not understand my unfriendliness towards the National Arts Council. Surely it was better for everyone to have their knives chained to the wall and identified by QR codes? He did not say this, but he could have.   The Harlem Harem   I think I am collecting a harem of birds in Harlem. I am not sure. I must be the most unsure Shah in Persian history. Some days, the birds thrash in the luxurious appointments of my head. Oth

Inspector Inspector (1-9)

The Beard Video   My friends are growing beards on Instagram as if they are not afraid of being mistaken for Muslims. They post pictures of the different stages of their growth. They even post time-lapse videos as they are working from home. Finally the man whom I have been stalking since we met at my reading in Kinokuniya also gets into the act. When I watch his video while lying in bed, the cotton sheets rattle quietly and pass their thread count into me, as if I am a curtain of hanging beads easily parted. My body becomes indistinguishable from the Alice blue bed sheet. My face is masked efficiently by the pillowslip. To the facial recognition software and the DNA test, I may as well not be there. When my boyfriend reports me missing, how would the great detective inspector find me? Would he know how to read my phone dropped by my side of the bed?     The Inauguration Poet   According to the regulations, only eight people are allowed in the KTV room. A conspiracy of yo

Inspector Inspector (1-8)

The Inauguration Poet   According to the regulations, only eight people are allowed in the KTV room. A conspiracy of young foreign women is in attendance. The TV menu presents the following options: a gunman snipes at the President-elect and kills him; a gunman snipes at the President-elect and misses him; the FBI disarms the gunman before he can take up his position on WhatsApp; the gunman is from the FBI. A conspiracy of critics takes down the inauguration poet. They wish to control the narrative. They release a statement that their target is cancel culture, nothing personal. But who is the ninth person in the room? After inspecting his nails, from the left corner he moves to the front, and he sings “Unchained Melody.”     The Mechanical Dog   The mechanical dog does not wish to be mistaken for a real dog. Its long-legged purpose is to scare the citizens of this purpose-built park into wearing their masks. Its eyes, two video cameras, hunt down offenders tirelessly. Its