In this house there is no need to wait for the verdict of history
And each page lies open to the version of every other.
--Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, “In Her Other House”
In my other house too books line the floor to ceiling shelves,
not only books on investment, catalogues, self help books,
but also poetry, Edwin Thumboo, Lee Tzu Peng, Alfian Sa’at,
and the one who moved away and who wrote Days of No Name.
My father comes home from the power station and when rested
(and this is how I know this is not real) he reads to us again,
for the seventh time, Philip Jeyaretnam’s Abraham’s Promise
in a sweet low voice, unbroken by a frightened young supervisor.
When he closes the book, my dead grandfather stirs from a dream
and says a word or two, that really says he has been listening.
And my beloved, knowing his cue, jumps up from the couch
to clear the dishes, for, as he says, dishes don’t wash themselves.
Softly brightened by a feeling I do not hurry to identify,
I move to the back of him and put my arms around his waist.
His muscles twitch like the needle on a motorboat’s dashboard
as he turns a porcelain plate against a rough cotton cloth.
The light from the window looks like a huge, blank sea.
In this other house there will be time to fill it but now
the bell rings with a deep gold tone, and here, on a surprise
visit, are my sister and her two girls coming through the door.