Singapore’s Favorite Poem

For Chloe Lim, a JC student, her favorite Singapore poem is “A Kind of Hush” by Cyril Wong. “I just love how fluid and expansive it turns the things unsaid into. It got me at “My hand swims / into the bay area of your hand.””

A Kind of Hush

Silent again, we begin to hear
noises in our heads, swelling

to overwhelm the sound of our
breathing. If we are silent for

long enough, something would surface
from under the wind-troubled

faces of murky ponds
our minds have become.

All at once, ripples would flee
in a singular, outward direction –

these questions of guilt or blame.
Then what comes up for air

would be a different quiet
we keep drowning, pinning it

underwater in our pride, until
its legs stop kicking.

Different because we may hear
the mirroring of fear and

a time-sharpened dependency
within it. Such a quiet we only

hear when we do not hear:
walking together, every meal,

sharing the same cab home.
Listen. Listen. My hand swims

into the bay area of your hand.
If we are silent for long enough,

we could start over.

by Cyril Wong, from Unmarked Treasure (Math Paper Press)

Used with the author’s permission


About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.


  1. hls

    Chloe Lim is quite correct. The lines, and the way they divide,–
    Listen. Listen. My hand swims/
    into the bay area of your hand.
    –are beautiful, and the synesthesia of the request, “Listen,” followed by that which can only be felt, is the poem’s center.


  2. Pingback: CYRIL WONG | CYRIL WONG

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