Singapore’s Favorite Poem

Teng Sijie, a Junior College student, says of Cyril Wong’s poem “Arrival”: “I love this poem, especially the lines “the drawing forth of an invisible string from the centre of your chest”, where love unravels between the speaker and his lover, binding them together in an intimate connection.”


During our first few dates, we
scribbled our confessions on paper,

sending them like fast-forward
letters back and forth across the table.

Then you relented and taught me sign-
language, demonstrating how “like”

is the drawing forth of an invisible
string from the centre of your chest

like a loosened thread, freed from
the constraining fabric of your body,

while “love” is the crossing of
both arms in an act of self-defence

and a warning, or simply that “X”
which marks the point of arrival

upon the very treasure map of you.

by Cyril Wong, from Below: Absence, Singapore: Firstfruits Publications 2002.

Reprinted with the author’s permission.


Cyril Wong has been called a confessional poet, according to The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry (2013), based on “the brutally candid sexuality in his poetry, along with a barely submerged anxiety over the fragility of human connection and a relentless self-querying”. He is the Singapore Literature Prize-winning author of poetry collections such as Unmarked Treasure, Tilting Our Plates to Catch the Light and After You. He has also published Let Me Tell You Something About That Night, a collection of strange tales, and a novel, The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza. A past recipient of the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award for Literature, he completed his doctoral degree in English Literature at the National University of Singapore in 2012. His poems have been anthologised in Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond (W. W. Norton 2008) and Chinese Erotic Poems (Everyman’s Library 2007), amongst various journals and publications across the world.

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.

One comment

  1. datta2014

    Dear Cyril ,Greetings! A beautiful poem where flesh and feelings,
    body and boon of genuine love move ,a treasure map . Good rendering. My mail id is please forward some more poems ,apart from ,for currently am doing some research on SINGAPORE WRITES.
    Any possibility of downloading your books of poems?
    With regards


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: