Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
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Vol. 1 No. 4 Jul 2002

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Forgetting How To Swim

recurring image
swimming in the middle of a large pool
the chlorine blue surrounds me
                                           buoyant and conscious of the cool liquid
                                           running across the sides of my body
                                                   light filtering shadow.

Swimming is like playing chess with death
I always get that sinking feeling of
                                        my king
surrounded in a corner by pawns
                      nowhere to move

I have been sitting in my French class and starting to forget the language.

the simple difference
between one body posture and another
between moving your arms from side to side to up and down.

And I forget to swim.

he sits for hours at the window
misting the glass
listening to the branches in the wind
and the stray cars that wander onto the street.

In which case,
even six feet is far too deep.

The cat doesn’t want to run out of the house these days, he waits in his corner of the blue
carpet, as I turn the key in the lock and enter the apartment.

My frail grasp of anything these days, even my feet on the ground.

It’s one thing to listen effortlessly to talk of revolution, enlightenment.

Then, it suddenly dissolves as quickly as the day it began to make sense. Which auxiliary in
front of which verb?

               I thought that when I woke up there would be a wall behind me.
               The other day he said,

               “It’s been almost a year to the day we’ve slept together every night.”

               There were too many words in that sentence, but I didn’t say so.

“Yes, I know, but I thought you weren’t going to be there when I woke up.”

Why is that article here and not there?

I begin to make mistakes in basic grammar, flailing for words that I always
inside out,
like manger, promener.

I rub my boots together uncomfortably, cross one leg over the other and look at the brand
new carpeting.

The professor looks at me in astonishment.

The interior decorator insisted on pink for “little girls” and the green upholstery had been an
attempt at compromise,

though I insisted that my favorite color was blue.

The cat walks around as if he’s lost in the apartment.

I thought I was going to wake up to the glossy green upholstery that had foolhardy on the
part of my parents.

                      He calls out for something that has no name, no face, just a distinct smell.
               He hunts as if he expects it will jump out from behind the couch.
He looks at us accusingly as if we’re hiding it from him.

sometimes I forget to smile and I stare in one place for too long,

I seem to know everything and understand nothing.
I know it unnerves them.

I pull up the neck of my sweater and try to disappear into it

               walk home briskly,
even the approaching spring seems unlikely

I suspect they will call this paranoia.

               when the cat is thirsty, he looks forlornly at the bathroom sink.
When I fill his dish, he first touches the water gingerly with his paw.
He has a hypnotic rhythm to his drinking, lapping the water down the side of his dish.

               Afterwards he leans into my ankles when he walks by.

                                                   One day, I crossed the same street twice,
avoiding some unknown danger that I couldn’t pinpoint.

               In the morning I kick off the covers and place my feet on the cool top of the quilt.

               “We’ll still be under sheets when we go home for the summer, right?”

               I don’t know how to respond.

               There are no words to explain a culture like that.

               Instead I curl my neck and nestle into
               an almost too hot space between
               his ear and shoulder.

               I say nothing.

               Sometimes I forget where I am.

The month turns
I walk around the house
changing the calendars.

The cat continues to look out,
tilting his head ever so slightly
as light moves across glass.

An earlier, non-lineated version of this poem was published in The 2nd Rule, Issue 26

By Joanne Leow

QLRS Vol. 1 No. 4 Jul 2002


About Joanne Leow
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Return to Vol. 1 No. 4 Jul 2002

  Other Poems in this Issue

Watching My Grandmother Eat Fish
By Joanne Leow.

Home Purchase
By Koh Jee Leong.

Guardian Angel
By Cyril Wong.

By Lee Tse Mei.

13 Ways of Looking at a Durian
By Chris Mooney Singh.

By Eugene Datta.

Lamu By Night
By Stephen derwent Partington.

By Lau Peet Meng.


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