Two poems by Jerrold Yam



Then I feel myself pressed on the gnarly woodwork
of the restaurant wall, inching away
from our table where friends decipher

steak with hushed incisions. Third birthday lunch
of the week, the gelatinous air
chastising me, and I cannot understand

the script of hands in perpetual
movement as if to heed some
divine calling, coaxing knives

out of napkins as a mother
rouses her baby. Six people
together is enough cause for mirth.

How can it amount to anything else? Bowls
wait to be used. Lamps angle overhead
like rumours. By candlelight

I am unable to discern the names
of my friends or tell them apart.
In time, applause will weaken

to footsteps, arms pining after jackets with
a lover’s ferocity, our silhouettes untouched
by squeaks and stains, the aftermath.



Four days after we first met in that café
I used to avert each morning
with guarded indifference I mistook
for courage, I am on the plane home,
suspended hours
trailing in your wake, time
a circuitous ritual christening
my inability to forget. Who found
the other? I was so sure that my eyes
could not confront yours
for long, escaping to the display of cakes
and exotic teas, their need of anchorage
fulfilled, sated as lovers. Maybe
we found each other, how fickle
paths on a map seek solace
at a well or marketplace, but the finding
came too late, or too early;
you with your boyfriend and I
not returning for three summer months.
Maybe this shall not endure, brief
as a kiss or handshake. In my seat,
I find myself rehearsing
our armoured embraces,
liquid caution. How my heart
hastens to keep up each time
I see your silhouette outside the restaurant
where we are supposed to meet
a half hour ago, your smile
like the curve of an upturned palm
in worship. And below the baggage shelves
looming dense and whitewashed
as hefts of shale, I am ready
to love again.

JerroldBorn in 1991, Jerrold Yam is a law undergraduate at University College London and the youngest Singaporean to author two poetry collections, Scattered Vertebrae (Math Paper Press, 2013) and Chasing Curtained Suns (Math Paper Press, 2012). His poems have been published in more than sixty literary journals and anthologies worldwide, including Antiphon, Counterexample Poetics, Mascara Literary Review, Prick of the Spindle, The New Poet, Third Coast and Washington Square Review. He has been awarded poetry prizes from the British Council and National University of Singapore. He is the youngest Singaporean to be nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and has been invited to the London Book Fair and Singapore Writers Festival.

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