Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
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Vol. 2 No. 2 Jan 2003

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What Work Is Not

"... each sealed in its hunger
for a different life, a lost life."

                         - Philip Levine

Work is not love. It does not waltz
nor swing to the rhythm of blood.
It does not probe beneath the skin
nor conjure a metaphor out of an ice-cream
or a bouquet of roses walking down the street.
It does not sweat through the night
to make forever last but sees fevers
through to their necessary ends.

Work is not piety, filial nor religious:
it does not kneel to offer tea or incense
nor demand public approbation
for private gestures, or more loyalty
than a soul has a right to give.
It is not communal like saints' days,
birthdays, faith-healing meetings,
or mahjong in void deck funerals,
but a democracy of aims in a new house.

Work is not art, it does not entertain
nor legislate for mankind.
It cannot offer dark epiphanies
or transmogrification of the mundane,
to work, there is no mundane.
It is unconcerned with 'What If'
but with 'What Is'. It is not pop
nor classical nor modern, it is here.
It does not charge at windmills
but marches in a definite direction
and digs tunnels for pipes and people.

What work is - it is the play of minds
and hands on plasticine reality,
it is the extinction of differences,
levelling of hills and reclamation of seas.
It is a simple commitment to live.

But when work takes a rest,
it wonders what else is there.

By Koh Jee Leong

QLRS Vol. 2 No. 2 Jan 2003


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  Other Poems in this Issue

Floor Tiling
By Koh Jee Leong.

Images of America
By Alvin Pang.

(love song, with two goldfish)
By Grace Chua.

An Exercise of Faith
By Adrianna Tan.

By Hugo Chaparro (trans. Mercedes Guhl).

By Thow Xin Wei.

By Choo Shu Jian.

Sweetness and Light
By Dominic Chua.

His Body
By Trina Nileena Banerjee.


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