the cities of the interior

the cities of the interior are not mapped
for geylang, land of the free

“… partly untouched by urban projects and developments and so far spared by the gentrification process that has changed the face of Singapore since the 1970s, Geylang’s combination of shophouse scenery and hectic day and night life, including a red-light district, foreign workers quarters and karaoke lounges provides an alternative view of elements the rest of modern Singapore generally does not have. Geylang is the only place in Singapore where there are licensed brothels.”


when i walked in i stumbled.
i felt endlessly for an exit in the dark,
lost through the narrow wet alleys with
bricks that seeped through with sweat.
i thought maybe the sky could offer help
but the buildings sealed me up
inside themselves and i could not get out.

here the lights are far above
and spell themselves into words
i can no longer recognise.
here there isn’t any need for alphabets,
though my mouth keeps shaping itself into o’s
and becomes a great dark cavern.
my advertisement says, you can explore me.

in the dark all the mazes are the same.

– two.

i’m not light
though the weight of their years press
on me, distended and
heavy. the day i met him
my eyes were like torches, and bright –
i had to, or he would not have seen me.
he said, i don’t need the lamp on,
so i said i could lend him my hands for the night.

– three.

that time was good time,
there were only two hands on me.
he was no explorer – he mapped
those cities of my interior
naming them as he went. that night
his tongue taught me a body
could be a living metropolis,
and each point of his self traced
the same route to a different destination.
when we reached i saw stars. other times
a wave, a city skyline. a word without vowels,
without sounds that was part of my job to make.

– four.

i thought maybe he had lost his way
or perhaps there was no way to return.

each day i walked to the ends of the streets,
counting how long the
light took to run through
to the middle. i counted off nights
like lamp-posts, waiting.

in the dark the same routes are different,
and all the mazes are the same.


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