Heng Siok Tian (b. 1963)
My City, My Canvas
How do I colour my city
with creatures busy in living?
Do I walk along as if on an errand
seeking a lotus pond afloat with enlightenment?
Do I go in search of orchid petals
to unfurl whorls for hybrid pollens?
Do I hurry along street plans and measure landuse
to draw lines and shapes for my canvas?
My city has no mountain ranges
to be unscrolled broadened brownness,
neither has she bushfires nor epic tragedies
but her sky can be
as dry and distant as a desert’s.
My city has campaigns, policies and long-term planning,
has a reputation for drivenness
of a small country,
has shopping malls and more…
Is my canvas
a surrealscape of
a slim city slowly coated with melting cheese
where there are clowns with broken legs,
jugglers balancing on shaky stakes,
children spinning on top of whales
growing up to be adults with briefcases
on top of flying clocks?
I want to hiss a snake out of a kettle,
drink it like coffee as the steam scatters,
that I may
frame with passing beatitude and mosaic wisdom,
my city, my canvas.
by Heng Siok Tian
from My City, My Canvas (1999)