SELECTED POEMS

The Last Headman of Ubin

His mansion is a zinc roof kampong house barely
keeping the weather out.
The last headman of Ubin ponders over his
orchard of wilting orchids, remnants of a farm
of battered coops and last remaining chickens loyal
to the feed that keeps them clucking for a month more.

Amidst the birdlime and excrement littered by
the brood of his amnesiac brotherhood,
the headman’s house hovers like the spectre of an old ghost
refusing to believe its death had done its glory in.
No harems of chicklings, no troops of fowl, no sycophantic pigs
trail after the mud leavings of the man who used to
wield the power of the chop over their heads.

On his front porch, the headman sits static,
battling flies off with his eyelids–years of rule
imprinted on every crease of his craggy mien.
A solitary bee buzzes around him.
A geriatric dog dawdles towards him.
A mango tree squeezes out a final, premature stillborn fruit.

Natalie snorts in the backdrop.
The headman struggles a lazy eye at her; they signal assent.
These are the last days of a glorified past.
Age has crept up on beast and beauty.
The headman looks down. The first drops
of a fresh shower smashes the arid ground.

Natalie shuffles her rump away, looking for refuge.
The sow knows when to go into hiding.

by Grace Chia
from Cordelia (2012)

 

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