Four Seasons

we will never know Winter in Singapore;
of waking to find
our shallow hopes iced over in public pools
and ashen cars at the foot of our block
lying defiant like frost-bitten toes
while the Padang pales with each whip of wind

or Autumn, when the flames in our forests
and fall
lining our lorongs with orange embers,
hinting at pilgrimages

or Summer, when all the island is a kiln
and we return to vessels, our mouths open
like parched pots,

the pavements simmering each time
our buried dragons sigh

we will never know the seasons–not even Spring,
the joy as our bougainvilleas bud and burgeon
on quiet verandahs
and ixoras flow again with secret nectar,
as silent geckos, roused from rest, appear once more
to clutch at our familiar corners;

we will never understand the seasons
though we glimpse at them with our first-class tickets
and listen to them unfolding, like leaves, in Vivaldi's concertos

until then we will breathe our sea-laden air

and every little cough of clouds and
slight heave of heat
will gnaw at our heads
like a fever in our temples

by Daren Shiau
from Peninsular: Archipelagos and Other Islands (2000)