Offering What We Can / Cacophony – Tan Xiang Yeow


This is the music of the Hanoi streets,
those tango footsteps of pedestrians
and courtship dance of motorbikes.

Here, a symphony of dust swishes
to an orchestra of noodle scents.
Lustrous oil bubbles swell, crackle.

But do you hear the thundering?
That irate rattle of bus engines.
Here we are, sauntering forth,
tongues clacking to camera beats.

Offering What We Can

To the pagoda, they offer their best –
fruits swollen with summer’s light,
blossoms of pink and marigold.

Their prayers, they hammer and press
into gemstone chains, hard yet bright,
then laying them in the buddhas’ fold.

This life is wretched, my guide stressed,
we must bow to our turbulent plight;
let’s donate gold for it is gold.

In the sky above, those crows jest,
chasing and cawing in mid-flight,
offering dollops of white-green mold.

Photo taken by Xiang Yeow in Myanmar.
Photo taken by Xiang Yeow in Myanmar.

Xiang Yeow’s poems have appeared in The Missing Slate, LIVEpress, A Tapestry of Words and elsewhere. In 2014, he co-edited Red Pulse II (Ethos Books), an anthology centred on a sunny island set in the sea. He has also contributed commentaries to The Kent Ridge Common, an independent online newspaper maintained by the students and alumni of NUS. Although he has barely started working, he is already looking forward to his retirement which he envisions as an iteration of reading-writing-sleeping.


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