Saturday, March 03, 2012

Poem: "Singapore Buses Are Very Reliable"

I received my green card in the mail on March 1. GH left two official-looking envelopes on my table. One was a questionnaire to find out my eligibility to undertake jury duty. The other held my permanent residency. Responsibility and privilege come hand-in-hand, they say. I will have to live here for five years before I can apply for citizenship. I don't know yet if I will, since I am reluctant to give up my Singapore citizenship. Neither government encourages dual citizenship, unfortunately. I think I will try to write a poem about dual citizenship sometime.

Last night, at the Son of a Pony reading, I shared the good news and the audience responded warmly. Then I read this poem, which I introduced as the other face of becoming a permanent resident in a foreign country.

Singapore Buses Are Very Reliable

And they told him that in Prague his mother died.

            Polina Barskova, “Motherhood and Childhood”

She will tell me herself that she has died.
She won’t let anyone else call me from Singapore.

She will tell me first that my father has seen the lung specialist
who thinned his blood and helped him sleep better,
that Fourth Aunt has been diagnosed with breast cancer
and refuses to eat, that Raymond, my brother-in-law, is going
for minor heart surgery, or so he says. The girls are okay.

Finally she will tell me that she fell headlong from a bus,
like the time when bruises padded her eyes for weeks,
but this morning she could not get up from the road.
She had reached for the handrail, as I had urged her do,
but grabbed a fistful of air,

like that day when we were about to cross Orchard Road
and I refused to give my hand to her
for I was six.

Sorrow sorrow and sorrow.
She will compare one day to another. That’s what the dead do.

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