Sunday, April 01, 2007

1. Head

Today I open the book of the body and read about beheadings.

It took three strokes to hack off Mary Stuart's head,
the first struck the back of her head,
the second bit her shoulder and through her subclavian artery, spraying blood like a garden hose,
the third did the job.

Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur, who warned,
the mind remains in the mind and so death seizes him by the hair,
was decapitated for refusing to convert.
The book says that at his wedding Tegh Bahadur's face was handsome as the moon.

The heads of looters stuck on poles outside Singapore's Shaw Cinema
where Japanese officers manned the radio and watched American movies
broadcast the same message
as the execution of Daniel Pearl, and those of others who did not make it to video.

If the head was taken away, how did they identify the body for burial?
Perhaps the mother claimed her daughter by the birthmark on her left buttock.
Perhaps the father asked for his flat-footed son.
Perhaps the disciples placed his palm on their shaven heads.

Surely the lover knew,
not by the marks of imperfection but by those of perfection--
toes, shins, kneecaps, thighs, cunt or cock, belly, sternum, nipples, shoulders, neck--
lessons recited during caressing nights for such a night.

Today I open the book of the body under the sun in the Long Meadow,
for I want to believe that since the soul has such a bad job history
the body is a better teacher of moral philosophy,
and I read about the body, like a flower, bowing down before power.

What kind of a philosopher is that?
It was believed that the severed head could still see for ten seconds.
We no longer believe that.
I don't know how that has been proven in the lab,

but I see that in the question mark
the body, like a curled fetus, is separated from the head.
Tenuous connection.
Here's another:

Like the fragrance which remains in the flower, Tegh Bahadur rhapsodized,
the Lord dwells deep within.
I will continue reading the book of the body
though sunlight falls on the blades of leaves like guillotines.

Plan for this poem-in-progress.


Rui said...


Haven't really read this very carefully yet, but i just wanted to say this: i really like the fact that you keep experimenting and trying different styles, that you're willing to take risks with your writing and see where they lead. So many writers / artists-in-general just settle and stagnate. It's nice to see growth, or, at the very least, the desire to grow.

:) Rui

Jee Leong Koh said...

Thanks, Rui. Yeah, trying something very new for me. Let's see where this goes...