There Is No Safety in Distance

I've posted the different parts at different times but not the sequence as a whole. All sections except one were written in April this year, as part of the NaPoWriMo. The exception, Section 9, was written on Aug 14. I've been moving the parts around and also taking out and putting in other parts. I think the present sequence makes the most sense and impact, primarily through narrowing the focus and capitalising on repeated imagery.

There Is No Safety in Distance


The body is an authority
on heartache, burned or slashed.
The bottom of an amputee
drops like a bottle smashed.

The empty-chested veteran,
decorated with dread,
crumples like a soda can.
Despair, don’t you trash my dead!


The cause of pain is cruelty,
concentration’s wire.
Bodhisattvas disagree;
they claim the cause, desire.

Biologists explain that genes
are really quite germane
while bombers show just what cause means.
The effect is the same.


Tell me what your pain is like.
When did it begin?
In the ear of bone or muscle
or the eye of skin?

Does it flicker, pulse or beat?
Burn or scald or sear?
Pinch or gnaw or cramp or crush?
Does it disappear?

Is it black as love’s rejection
in a lovers’ park?
Is it accidental as
a throwaway remark?

So tell me what your pain is like.
Please articulate.
No doctor, I’m your auditor
and your advocate.


The jury's out. It will come back.
Or have I imagined it?
But here’s my blinded torso, look--
lightning's exhibit:

black bulb, black bag, black dispatch
from mountainous Iraq.
Crouched in the courtroom of my crotch,
black dogs bark.


Please don’t make me stand so still.
That’s not the way of dust.
You will I will I will you will
I will not readjust.

Please don’t make me stand so straight,
holding up my brain.
I hate you hate you hate I hate
you hate my trousers stain.

Please don’t make me stand so tall,
teeter on my spine.
I fall you fall I fall you fall
and we intertwine.


I have no courage to leave my body,
its panic and its pain.
Why I conduct this thought experiment
is to ascertain

if I live daily with the body
solely out of choice,
the soul's hypothesis of love,
or cowardice.


Cut by an edge, the body hurts
another with its knives.
The second spears the third who shoots
the fourth, and none survives.

There is no safety in distance,
in diamond or decree,
no sanctuary within the fence
of anonymity.

Give me your name, beautiful Stranger,
though the hearts misgive,
come closer to the bodies’ danger,
cut me and cry, forgive.


Burn all flags except the flesh,
the banner hung from bone.
Soul, burn the five stars down to ash.
Burn the crescent moon.

Kiss the tits, the low brown stars
cresting heaving hills.
Kiss the folded belly scar,
kiss the testicles.

Kiss, oh, kiss the crescent slit,
uncover the full moon,
till the body present-lit
burns and does not burn.


(To write with irresistible force,
light entering the eye,
abstract of things, without a loss,

The planet is a sphere;
peace is a wish;
and in a body of water here
soul is a fish.


Larry said…
Man, is this impressive. The style (to repeat myself) is both assured and reckless, able to incorporate wild swings in and out of control, and to include ugliness beside eloquence. It has the feeling of very deep thought and feeling. Too long to comment on particulars here, but I foresee a real future for this sequence.
Anonymous said…
what larry said. plus the sly humour in some of the pieces. plus the way it's all contained in such clean, clear lines. thanks much for this.
Anonymous said…
hello mr koh! im a student from chua chu kang secondary and i happen to come across your blog. all the best in writing your book! (=

take care.
Jee Leong said…
Hi Larry and Rui,
thanks very much for the kind comments. You touch on things I am aiming for. Thanks for the support.

Hi ain,
thanks for dropping by! Come back again, if you like the stuff here! Poetry 101?

Jee Leong

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