Teo Poh Leng (1912-1942)
From “F.M.S.R A Poem”
Millionaires from the New World with nothing else to do
Wander the Old World like wandering Jews;
Call here to buy wooden shoes,
Pieces of cheap porcelains,
Costly geegaws and malacca canes;
Call here to learn without learning anything new:
Some more than once to ride the familiar round
And when they leave nothing
Follows them but the sound,
The emanation of their own unsatisfied craving,
Their desire uncrowned.
Nowadays monarchy and democracy
Are mere appellatives for mediocracy,
So’s the aristocracy
Of wealth: these millionaires,
What numskulls they must be
Who are unawares of their own idiocy.
Unwittingly they come, unobserving see
The same wares they did leave behind at home,
To meet foreign jeers,
To see tigers and snakes in Singapore
And drink Tiger Beers.
But our tigers have grown timorous
And dare not come forth to meet the amorous
Whimsicality of the rich visitor.
So to the Ponggol Zoo she goes
To meet living tigers, snakes and armadilloes:
Or dead tigers guarding garish advertisement panels;
Or Raffles Museum to stare at stupid animals.
Wafting odours to the nose
And dust flying to the face
Is a sweatingly hot and disgusting place.
And everywhere about the place oat noises,
Being another hideous race
Humming, droning, ringing, banging,
Buzzing, drowning, hooting, clanging:
Babel never heard so many voices.
Here the Time flies,
Like clouds in the skies,
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, before your eyes,
Saving twenty minutes’ sunlight,
In a perpetual summer clime,
Wasting the tick-tack-tick
Of the windscreen-wiper on a rainy night
And electric light
When it’s dark at seven nick.
by Teo Poh Leng
from F.M.S.R. A Poem (1937)