Saturday, January 09, 2010

Poem: "Kinder Feelings"

Kinder Feelings

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
—Elizabeth Bishop, “Questions of Travel”

So crowded here, Grand Central Terminal, people pouring
along the greatest number of train platforms in the world
(with a secret platform to whisk a President with polio
to the Waldorf-Astoria) to the Main Concourse, swirling
round the stones of tourists—moved unsurely by the rush—
dividing in intelligent streams into various passageways,
as if separated by an industrious chemist, Mercury perhaps.

So different from the one station in Singapore (one station!)
where on the walls rice is planted, rubber tapped, tin mined,
activities that happened, is happening, elsewhere, not there,
and on the platform waiting for the train I watched the grass
between the railway ties, burn, between the broken stones,
imagined miles of railway tracks crisscrossing everywhere
and stones rising to wing the helm of travel’s cathedral.

Now I am here, not brought by dream, but by engineering,
my eyes recording images my mind will work on later,
my body filling up with energy from bodies in friction,
and though tempted to disavow the broken ties of home
I look back at the kitsch with kinder feelings, learn to look
for Singapore in train timetables, at the information booth
with the fourfaced clock, each face a trembling molten opal.

for EN


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2 comments:

Shropshirelad said...

I really, really, really think this is one of your best recent poems. Not because of the dedication, but because of how it works.

The contrasts set up between the station in New York and Singapore in the first two stanzas set the stage for an external aesthetic and an internal emotional resolution that is perfectly balanced:

...though tempted to disavow the broken ties of home
I look back at the kitsch with kinder feelings...

Lovely. There is a wonderful, touching humility about those lines. A feeling of being lost, but not overwhelmed. You know where to look for direction. The clock suggests you have time. You are not just being kinder to Singapore here, you are being kinder to yourself.

Jee Leong Koh said...

You know how much you helped with the poem.