Featured Poem

by Mohamed Latiff Mohamed


Tonight, if we stain our hands with henna
I will guide our people, hand in hand
Towards the fiery red well of lucidity
A sign that my battle is just beginning

Should the bridal grains gleam
I shall light up the night with flame from a candle
Incensed with seven seasons of flowers
Heralding the return of Jebat, waving his kris.


Translated from Malay by Annaliza Bakri, the poem is reprinted with the author’s and translator’s permissions. The translation was originally published in Segumpal Api Selingkar Pelangi: Puisi-puisi Pilihan 1967-1977 (Singapore: Solo Enterprises, 1978).



Bio from Singapore Infopedia: “Mohamed Latiff Mohamed (b. 20 March 1950, Singapore– ) is a prolific poet and writer in Singapore’s Malay literary scene. A teacher by training, he is best known for his works about the struggles of the Malay community in post-independence Singapore. A three-time winner of the Singapore Literature Prize, Mohamed Latiff was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 2013.” Read more.


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. I am curious of this recalling of a particularly cruel time, and violent events, centered on a vicious weapon. That said, I understand the pun involved with the use of “Kris.” (Thanks, of course, to google.)
    That said, I want to look for the conflating of love and death/war, but could not find it. The conjuring of Jebat, if it is meant to refer to revenge-bent Hang Jebat.

    Note: one does not wave a Kris but stabs with it, is this a poem in opposition of tyranny or of violent love?


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