Joanne Leow – Two poems

seas move away

So heartbreak pales in the backdrop of desertification, hurricanes, war, histories of violence, what unspeakable things we do to each other with sharpness and heat. Crossings are irrevocable when bodies of water themselves prove elusive and changeable. Seas move away and so the ports that call for my arrival at predetermined times turn out to be too far from the coast. I cannot find the island of my birth if its libraries burn. Words mean so little that their worth cannot be guaranteed even as they pass unchanged from the tips of fingers through these undersea cables into the air, rearranging the rare-earth minerals in this illuminated glass that I hold in my hand. Seas move away and leave debris in their wake: coral bleaches, wrecks of the past, blooms of jellyfish, beached whale carcasses dragged up from their subterranean dives. I stand on these shores and watch how the blues change from calm to undecided to fury. The tide pulls me out and knocks me over, breathless in the foam.


City Gallery
Singapore, June 2017
For K.

This city has its own
intimate weight,
its geographies of pain
its architecture of pleasure

I want to see,
as you do,
how this road running
down the centre
of my lost island,
is its central artery,
its tree-lined spine.

I want to know
its watery heart,
all its old depositories,
and its forgotten views,
I want to be miniaturized and frozen
in this model,
to trace the fickle arc of progress.

Breathe the dust of its constructions,
of upturned earth,
touch the callused hands of those
who carry the concrete, bricks, rebars,
our bones disinterred by our demolitions.




Joanne Leow is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan. Her poems and literary non-fiction have been published or are forthcoming in RicepaperCatapultSmall Things: An Anthology of Poetry (Ethos), untethered, and the Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore. She grew up in Singapore and spent most of her twenties working for Mediacorp.