The Singapore Poetry Contest – Second Prize Winner

by Sue Hyon Bae


1703: Singapura offered to British Alexander Hamilton as a gift
—Singapura: 700 Years, National Museum of Singapore


A white English couple, boiled pink
in khaki shorts, takes a photo of me
drinking kopi peng from a plastic baggie.

They must think me a dash
of local flavor, on display
for free, instead of a tourist,

more or less like them, rushing
to finish my drink before the bus comes,
taking in as much as I can

of what this city gives me: this sweet
heavy coffee, the green wind, white spider lilies
growing like weeds, the broad flat canopies

of what Alvin calls raintrees, the spire
of a Hindu temple peeking over the walls
of a Buddhist temple, and, lovingly displayed

at a museum, a broken white and green plate,
the biggest piece cradling the smaller fragments.
I carry the tenderness away with me,

this Korean American, out of place
in both Korea and America; here
no one looks at me as if I don’t belong.

That, too, is a gift.


Sue Hyon Bae

Sue Hyon Bae grew up in South Korea, Malaysia, and Texas. She is an MFA candidate at Arizona State University and international editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review, and for six weeks in the summer of 2015 co-taught a creative writing workshop at NUS. Her work appears in Minetta Review, Riding Light, Please Hold Magazine, and others.


For details of The Singapore Poetry Contest, see here.

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.

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