Cyril Wong

Cyril Wong won the Singapore Literature Prize for his fourth collection of poetry, unmarked treasure (firstfruits, 2004) and his fifth collection, like a seed with its singular purpose (firstfruits, 2006), was launched in Singapore. His poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Poetry International, Fulcrum and online at The Cortland Review and Cordite. His books are available online at



Night Bus

Awake, I strike a word against the dark
like a match. This could be the past
we are leaving. Buses on high beams;

wild eyes that ride down the road’s
unpromising narrative. The sky at a loss
for stars, thick as a foreign tongue.

Shadows bleed and every tree, thought
or breath is black. God is here
and not here, his retreat or restraint

everywhere around us, filling us
like cooling lead. Between nowhere
and everywhere, this is no hegira.

Where do we end up but at another
interchange? Sobering light gives us
pause, night pooling into memory.

The future takes its time to get here.


The Promise

The morning drizzle
fails to perform

its threat of a downpour;
the sun only returns,

blunted, flexing its light
for the long haul.

You said we’d make love
upon waking−

some appointments
are still kept,

the future made real
by the promises we fulfil.

Otherwise, maps
lose their meaning−

the school you were told
would be there

has become a reservoir.
All I know about me

is what I once promised
myself, and you,

to believe.  
And when everything fails,

there is always that song
on the radio, news

of something heroic,
another long walk

in the park, another cigarette,
a sudden prayer.



           The portrait you see remains unfinished.       The mirror pounces like a single headlight.
       Eyes deduce what its glass mouth devours.       Some days you come back a distorted echo.
            But no artist may ever know you better.        But no artist may ever know you better.
     Some days you come back a distorted echo.        Eyes deduce what its glass mouth devours.
      The mirror pounces like a single headlight.        The portrait you see remains unfinished.


The Apples

The apples wait in a bowl. Pick one.
The apples tug at the hem of my hunger − the love of apples.
The apples appear in a poem about a bowl of apples.
The apples are as serene as monks.
The apples cannot know the colour of the bowl they are in.
The apples in the poem are not edible. Neither is the bowl.
The apples fight for my attention. In fact, this happens very slowly.
The apples revel in their nudity and know nothing about sin.
The apples genuinely believe they are the original fruit.
The apples sometimes wish they were more than themselves.
The apples have heard of apples larger than themselves.
The apples deny any relationship to pears.
The apples wonder if it is true, that green apples exist.
The apples riot in the dark, but they cannot win. Still, they try.
The apples are a reminder that time is never still.
The apples fear what awaits them after they have been eaten.
The apples would like to be reborn with legs.
The apples are too restless to meditate.
The apples were communist, but they soon converted to capitalism.
The apples knock each other off the top of the bowl − the politics of apples.
The apples curse quietly when one of them is chosen.
The apples dream of orchards, the generosity of rain and sunlight.
The apples remember suspension, gravity, then falling −
The apples mourn when none of them is chosen.
The apples concede to my teeth, filling my mouth with their insides.
The apples, unlike us, would prefer time to hurry.
The apples at the bottom admire the apples at the top.
The apples wait to steal my life and turn it into an apple.
The apples cannot think beyond the bowl's bright rim, the open window.
The apples are still waiting.