Loh Guan Liang

Loh Guan Liang teaches in Singapore. His poems have appeared on Ceriph, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, twntysmthg, and Moving Words 2011: A Poetry Anthology. Winner of Moving Words 2011, Guan Liang is working on his first chapbook of poems, Words Apart.




One Look

One look is all it takes for the Uncle to know what I want. Almost as if the shape of my head tells him stories about myself I barely even know, the layers of which he shaves away stroke by stroke. He never asks for my name; likewise I’ve always known him as Uncle.

Sitting there with a cloth round my neck like an oversized bib the customary how would you like your hair cut muttered in Mandarin doesn’t materialise.

Taken by surprise – by the absence of a verbal something prior the dance of steel and flesh.

Throughout the entire session we ask of each other in silences punctuated by his Hokkien exchanges with other uncles. Tales of tepid kopi-oh; pumpkin cakes and glutinous rice at Si Beh Lor; smoking zones at 口福 (the one near my house, not here stupid). I think of falling snow, mechanical droning mirrored to infinity, and practised fingers sculpting dark mysteries on my head.


Si Beh Lor: Waterloo Street, Singapore

口福: Koufu, a local food-court chain in Singapore.


(or Canberra Secondary School)

1. Birds of a Feather

Pointy comb in hand, she pecks at her hair. Out comes a flock of clips dark as night, like blackbirds out of their nest. And in one swift motion they return to the fold, never to be seen again. She sleeps her well-maintained sleep.

2. Bird-watching

The boys cry out across the block, Little bird, little bird, can you hear me? Little bird, little bird, can you see me?

The girl laughs a wordless whisper. Yes I can, but you’re in your cage with the painted boredom & plastic apathy; and the bell hasn’t set you free yet. Better luck next time, little birds.