Sunday, January 08, 2006

Floor Tiling

We needed something to cover the naked floor,
delighted though we were with the concrete space,
having moved from a box shared by four families.

When Eighth Aunt was throwing out her linoleum
tiles, my father rushed us to her house. I carted
stacks of light and dark brown squares to the taxi.

With no plan in mind, Father tore the paper off
and stuck a tile in a corner of the floor. Stripes
lined up with horizontal stripes he improvised

before Mother suggested an alternating pattern,
a prettier shape. By then, many tiles were stuck
down. As a compromise, two designs co-existed.

We covered their room with light brown which ran
Out, so the last four squares were the darker shade.
Tiles crawled out of line because of earlier mistakes.

Afterwards, faults in the floor, laughed over in
the fit of work, widened into permanent fissures.
That came later. When I pressed the last tile down,

Father walked out to the corridor to smoke and stared
through the doorway at the work. Then he went off
for a drink. I did not sleep until I heard him come in.


An earlier version was published in "Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore"

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