Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
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Vol. 3 No. 1 Oct 2003

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The All-Night Attendant at the Foreign Experts' Compound

An attendant stands watch over the only entrance to the Foreign Experts' Compound, a rusted iron gate stuck in a mound of dirt. It is about one in the morning; I have just visited my wife and daughter who have spent this past spring with my in-laws on the main campus.

I crawl through a slight opening between the gate post and the main perimeter of the compound. The attendant does not lift a finger to help me, instead blankly looking me over as if I were another column of his daily:

A Jewish intruder comes to China to take back his child of mixed origins and to save a marriage torn asunder by cultural and personality differences and nearly fails as the onset of a middle-aged belly impedes his progress.

At last, I manage to get through, a rust mark scuffing the kneepad on my dungarees. But he is unchanged by my victory. If anything, he has grown sterner and is looking on more intently.

Am I hiding a seventeen-year old beneath my jacket? Have I smuggled in Western pornography or a bottle of J & B?

And what is in the interior of my heart? Are my attempts at reconciliation sincere, or am I looking for a story that my daughter can take heart from when she is old enough to venture on her own through the gate of the foreign experts' compound?

I drag myself to a thin cot on the second floor. It is muggy in the morning before dawn, and I cannot sleep, watching instead the shuffle of his daily in a light that persists until the close of his shift.

By Charles Lowe

QLRS Vol. 3 No. 1 Oct 2003


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  Other Poems in this Issue

On Silence
By Mark Pirie.

By Mark Pirie.

Mouth Piece
By W.B. Keckler.

Here Russia spreads her legs like the body compass of a prima ballerina
By Ronny Someck.

Return to Kuantan
By Oswald LeWinter.

modes of transport
By Shazanah Hassan.

Planting Mines
By Thow Xin Wei.


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