Wong Phui Nam (b. 1935)
I. Out of the hills
Here the boars broke in. Swollen with madness caught
from deep rifts that run far into these hills,
they erupted from the earth and night,
bursting upon our careful dusun with the rain.
Their violence leaves upon the curled barbwire
loose knots of bristle with hanging skin
and blood thickening into black buds upon the yams.
All night we thought it was the wind wounding
itself against our trees. No pain or terror
was in the faint cries blown in on gouts of rain.
I find him, our keeper, where the horde
has run him into the mud and tangled vine,
ribcage opened, agape for its trail of ants
and shocked by the morning’s fresh, devouring sun.
II. Into silences
The jungle here breaks out and then recedes
into a low sky fallen into this cleft
in the mountains as cloud, as rolling vapours
not darkened into rain. Where the mists relent,
the sun drifts over a twilight of green
and dreadful silences, a fading white disc
fallen over the sea’s rim to be doused here,
the underside from the day face of the world.
Beyond gully and rock, the last tree that I marked,
all the old trails run into a settled gauze.
Now, as the veil lifts, I see that single boar
slip back into darkness that eats into the roots
of trees, into deep earth where images stir,
jostle into a tusked herd, black bristled, rust red.
This is a cleft of silence in the hills,
of desolation rising in banks of mist,
and jungle reaching up to draw the sky in
to a river of wind and dim, uncertain light.
My bones have become here as moist, cold stone
Rinsed by the damp which feeds the fire in root
and vine in the swelling mass of vegetative life
that cleaves to ridge, fold, and crevice on these heights.
There is bare sustenance here. Where the wind breaks
into this trance, this settled cold, it takes as burden
for its sound a covert hunger. The passage
of its breath playing on rock and tree
blows in a presence of faint scent. More than the wind
trample the darkness under the shaking giant ferns.
IV. Bright moon in the hills
A clear blaze rises in the wind that breathes
the sun into the jungles in these exhausted hills.
They fracture into emerald in the unaccustomed light
as day breaks into distance, arching with the landscape
into fire not visible but as fierce cerulean.
Even the boars now have gone to ground.
In the thin air, no moon of faint ash and rock
appears, fades into a white crust for the evening’s cold,
but low conflagration, defining itself into glass,
into the round of light streaming from the core of suns,
from angels, who crowd down the open stairwell
into a sky more terrifying than that ancient dream.
I cry out for so much brightness burnt into my eyes,
for fear he bends over so close I cannot bear his light.
by Wong Phui Nam
from Against the Wilderness (2000)