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Issue Seven: Summer Issue

⇜ An NUS Literary Society Publication ⟿


Masthead ________________________________________________________________ A philosophy and theatre studies major, Isaac founded Symbal in 2011, when he joined NUS Literary Society, in the hopes of promoting and encouraging budding Singaporean writers.

Isaac Tan, Editor-in-Chief

He’s an enthusiast for all things artsy as he can be seen hanging out in theatres, bookshops, museums and galleries. He hopes to be a professional actor someday and perhaps, in some possible world, a flamenco dancer and a writer as well. In his meagre spare time, he blogs at http://pre-lude.blogspot.com

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Justin Tan, Executive Editor

Justin is a political science major and literature minor. He has served in the publications department of NUS Literary Society since 2011, and thoroughly enjoys reading every submission it receives. An orchestral film-score junkie and inveterate dreamer, he professes interest in any subject unclaimed by math and formulae. In such time as he has at hand, Justin hopes to be a writer, concept artist, amateur naturalist, and photographer. He finds aesthetic wonder in almost any environment, but is happiest amidst grand old architecture or boundless, pensive scenery.

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Suranjana Sengupta, Executive Editor

A Computer Engineering major, Suranjana joined the NUS Literary Society in 2012, hoping to unite her love for Literature with Science, along with meeting fellow students who share similar interests. As a reflective poet and a passionate writer, she enjoys reading everything from Early Medieval Literature to Contemporary Fiction. She loves Nature, Classical Music and just about anything to do with History. She also has an earnest interest in Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy. Although Suranjana aspires to follow a career in Computer Engineering, she also cherishes the goal of becoming a well-known author one day. During her tenure with NUS LitSoc, she hopes to participate actively in Literary Events in hope of encouraging innovative works of fiction, poetry and plays.

_______________________________________________________ Feel free to contact us and tell us your thoughts at symbalmagazine@gmail.com ! Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Symbal-Magazine/149399518533621 Twitter: https://twitter.com/symbalmagazine


SYMBAL MAGAZINE

Editorial Swan Song The Crane Leoson Hoay Going Back To Emerald Hill Chew Yi Wei Watching My Juniors Play Football Goh Koon Hui

A Spectrum Framed Isaac Tan The Fisherman Casey Ang Her Name Their Words’ Worth Tham Zhen Teng Planes Tse Hao Guang Announcements Submission Guidelines


-⋄ Editorial Swan Song ⋄Of Firsts and Lasts When I first started Symbal two years ago, the thought of writing this letter never crossed my mind. I was so busy trying to ensure it stays afloat and to make it comparable to other journals out there despite having absolutely no budget or experience to start with. Seven issues later, I still do not have a budget but I do have smidgen of experience and Symbal can now walk on its own. One thing I realised after these two years is that while the journal has a lot to do with the writers, the process of editing and deciding the line up is an art form in itself. You have to be consciously mindful of the trajectory in which the reader will take should they (hopefully) decide to read it from cover to cover. As such, how do I put together an issue that not only celebrates how far Symbal has come but also something to signal a transition; a change of leadership as I bid a fond farewell to my baby? After musing about the concept of transition, I felt that it really is at the same time the end of something and a beginning of another – of firsts and lasts. Well, the latter is already inherent since it is indeed the last issue by my team but what about the firsts? As luck would have it, this issue has broken new frontiers as we published a play and reprinted a piece of creative non-fiction for the first time. While sharp readers would quickly point out that we have already published plays in the previous issue, those plays are decided by external judges but The Fisherman by Casey Ang really caught our fancy with its subtle yet not-so-subtle message. As for Going Back to Emerald Hill by Chew Yi Wei, our first non-fiction piece, it could not have been a better fit for this issue as she struggles with memory, changing landscapes and how something so familiar is no longer hers. While I am sure that my successor will do a better job, I know that I will face the same struggle as Yi Wei when I look back at Symbal after I have graduated. Of course, one cannot neglect our usual fare of beautiful poetry and prose. For that, I shall not spoil your surprise but only urge you to


turn the pages and be surprised. It is heartening to see that most of the works featured are contributed by writers who have sent us their works before. It is an assurance that we must be doing something right for them to entrust us with their works – something precious and personal to any writer. For that, I thank all our writers past and present. I simply cannot hand this magazine over to the next generation without thanking my assistant, companion and over zealous worker bee, Justin. Most of the formatting you see here are done by him and despite the rudimentary software and skills that we have, I am sure you will agree with me that he is doing a great job. Thank you Justin! Lastly, I would like to thank all the readers for their support thus far and wish my successor the very best! Enjoy the issue! Bidding one and all a very fond farewell. Isaac Tan Editor-in-Chief 18th August 2013


The Crane A leg Out of water Creating a perfect Stillness. Stillness Supported by Quivering muscles pulsing Nerves straining joints Beneath A perfect picture of harmony Too often A peaceful and prosperous system Masks the relentless Toil and dissonance Of energy that Keep its Legs out of water. ~ Leoson Hoay Leoson is a Social Science & Business undergrad at NUS. His scribble-happy hand has always been an unyielding companion since childhood, and to him poetry is like an emotion camera, capturing a particular moment or idea in a way that touches the senses and also the heart. He has been published in some anthologies such as Romance Vol. 1 (2008), Love Notes (2008), and dabbling in Chinese poetry too - Raffles Institution's hallmark Chinese Literature publication, The Sky Of The Eagles 17 (2007). He loves journalistic and creative writing equally, and has written for school publications and even corporate magazines for as long as he can remember. He currently writes for the NUS Original Music Society Press and his Fusion Music club in Tembusu College. If you need to reach him for any reason or feel like you just need to sing praises (Ha!) , feel free to drop him a message at leosonhoay@gmail.com.


Going Back to Emerald Hill By Chew Yi Wei There is an old place, ensconced snugly and discreetly in a pocket of Orchard Road that I will always return to, no matter how long ago it has been since I left. Like going home, this return journey is irrepressible and gravitating. This place is none other than Emerald Hill – the grand old dame which is today a site of real estate prestige, a regular haunt for merrymakers and tourists; the regal queen which has been mythologized in plays like Emily of Emerald Hill, a place where stories originate and perpetuate; the glowing gem that has been iconized in the annals of Singapore’s history and architectural heritage. Today I make my way there on foot; the surest, most contemplative means of travel where one is able to absorb the quintessence of her surrounding environment, its sights, sounds, texture, gaining as it were an emotive resonance through perambulatory pleasure. Emerald hill is flanked on both sides by old Peranakan shop houses. During the late 80s and early 90s, I used to walk up those dusty corridors, five days a week. Many other girls like me walked the same path – some in the morning, others in the afternoon and in the evening, back down into Orchard Road. As I enter Emerald Hill, those years like sad, friendly ghosts greet me quaintly, with a sigh almost. As my pace gathers unhurried, measured ground, I find myself sinking into a sort of time warp. The hustle and bustle of Orchard Road fades away and a strange quiet takes over. Just a few steps into Emerald Hill and the sounds of passing traffic turn into a m u f f le , u s h e r i n g i n a mo r e s o m b e r , p l ai n t i ve s o n i c environment. Traces of what used to be start to reappear,


forming a spectral layer over the solidness of the present. It is not that things look particularly different; more insidiously, they only have the semblance of difference. Because time has passed, I expect things to look older, but they do not. Conservation efforts merely simulate the past, giving us only a pretty, charming but ersatz image of it. Conservation is nostalgia with a lost cause. Can we not retain the past by leaving it alone? In a bid to keep the past, we sap the life out of it.

Shophouses along Emerald Hill

The shop houses do not look the least bit aged; on the contrary, like the rest of Orchard Road, they have not been spared the artificiality of anti-aging mechanisms. The old flapping wooden doors have now been given a new, polished glaze. Gone are the creaky, flaking wooden doors that once graced the corridor of this long line of shop houses.


Corridor of shop houses with glazed doors and modern tiles.

What strikes me amidst this ambivalent familiarity however is the old antique shop with its red exterior walls. For six and a half years (1988-1994), I walked past the shop not bothering even once to set foot in. To my then immature mind, antiques were meant only for people who had an excessive abundance of time on their hands to waste away. At least I am now able to appreciate them as delicate evidences of the past. Today I decide that I need to break that long spell of un-entering, to finally make my first foray into one of the places in Emerald Hill that has been left determinedly untouched. It seems even quieter inside the shop. Nothing stirs. The two old men, proprietors of the shop, have probably been there since the beginning of its time. They watch me furtively. Only their eyes move. Not a word is said. I feel their scorching, uncongenial gaze on me as I thread carefully around the cluttered shop. Like resigned relics they sit, unmoving, not bothering an iota if I would even have the slightest intention of making a purchase. If


these two old men were collectors of antiques themselves, they would have also added the years to their collection. And as such they remain, to this day, the precious few living voices still able to tell the story of Emerald Hill. Hand-carved wooden fishermen in straw hats stand uncomplaining in the glass display cabinets. Little China boxes, intricately hand-painted sit reticently on rose-wood tables layered with dust, concealing years of unopened secrets, eternally lost to me. Enameled vases, vessels and cookware placed securely on long sideboards speak of a dynasty immortalized in a glossy finish; the furnace they had to go through to attain that end embellish them with a dignified resonance and resilience that rebels against the passing of time. At this moment, my sight dalliances with my olfactory senses and I conjure the words of William Carlos Williams who says with defiant irony in his poem “Smell!”: “Oh strong rigged and deeply hollowed / nose of mine! What will you not be smelling?” (92)1 And indeed, what could I not smell in this little curio-city shop! What antiquated odors would not tickle my nostrils and gently project me back to those days when I trudged past it! It is unmistakable, and as Edward Thomas would intone: “It is enough / To smell” (79)2! That dustcovered, mildewed, musty, fusty ol(d)-factory effusion; the smell of younger days, the odd scent of memory. I know it instinctively and at once, I see my eleven year old self walking past the shop in my blue uniform and canvas shoes on a hot mid-morning, glancing at a huge vase standing at its entrance and wondering who in the right mind would ever buy it. Then the smell greets me and I am one step closer to the start of another school day.


If one could demarcate an area on his or her mnemonic map, then the invisible arms of smell would inevitably figure as some sort of boundary, a signpost to single out the particularity of that place in question. Some smells only belong to some places. One smell can sometimes only belong to one place. I am glad that I never lost the memory of this smell. Its distinctiveness, not quite redolent though it is, represents a part of my life that I can never return to; the encapsulation of my school days in Emerald Hill enfolded and gilded into one permeating, intimate smell-scape. I step out of the shop. The two old men show no visible sign of reacting. Before I run off, I turn to its signboard in a bid to commit the name of the shop to memory. What is within closest reach is always furthest from us: it never occurred to me to find out what the shop was called when I had the opportunity to walk past it everyday. So today, I confront my long-time apathy: the One Price Store, it is named, almost like an epithet. A very clever way of telling its customers that it isn’t quite tolerant of bargain hunters. One would have thought the shop deserving of a more austere name perhaps. Despite the forthrightness in appellation, the shop survives. I inhale its signature staleness for the last time and walk on.

The One Price Store (Courtesy of travelfish.org)


A few doors down and I’m back at the old school. The side entrance – an old metal gate – once open morning, noon and evening is now perpetually closed, and sealed. What used to be a metal gate with square grids is today sealed with a blue plastic sheet. To my delight however, the wall framing the gate has yet to lose its cracks and stains; a dignified oldness remains, reticently retaining a sense of connection and continuity to the past, my past.

The old metal side gate, now covered with a blue plastic sheet.

Some steps away is the bus bay, where buses and vans used to park bumper to bumper in the afternoons and evenings, first alighting a hoard of girls then awaiting another hoard to board once the bell rings. As I stand at the deserted bus bay, I realize now just how short the length of the area is. Places are polymorphous; their dimensions change with time, and age. Leonard Shelby poignantly mutttered in Momento, a film about short-term memory loss, that “memory can change the shape of a room, it can change the colour of a car.” The reverse can


also be true – places and colors can change the form of memory because perceptions shift as one grows in height, size and age. Being young and being old(er) are periods shaped mostly by perception. When I was seven, the bus bay looked immeasurably longer, wider; and the pillars that hold up the entire block, the Song Ong Siang Block as it was known for so many years, were of course, much taller. Despite the shifts in space, there is however one thing that remains staid, unchanged – the sturdiness of these pillars. Today, the old Singapore Chinese Girls’ School stands, still, despite the mercurial weather and the merciless march of time, because of them. I try to peer through the narrow slits in the main gate to see if there is indeed anything I can recognize. I never thought gates to be so fancy; once again, what used to be a brown, iron gate which never bothered to conceal the interior of the school is now a covered, aluminum one. Squinting through its narrow slits, I can only see what was once the field.

The bus bay, pillars and the main gate (of the now Chatsworth International School)


The field – what we then referred to endearingly as “the cabbage patch”, is now a boxed-up and walled-in soccer-cumhockey court. There were seasons back then when no one was allowed on the field because she was “balding”: barren patches spread out sporadically amongst grass that was browning and drying, especially in the hot months of the year. When the capricious torrential rains fell, she perked up whimsically, her bald patches witnessing little blades of sprouting grass. Then when the school holidays came, when she was left alone to resuscitate in the December rains, she would flourish, as if preparing a welcome freshness for us when the January term began. It was only when the field regained her verdure, her patina that we would be allowed to run on it again, freely. Games like “zero-point”, “catching”, PE lessons, National Day celebrations, outdoor assemblies, fire drill gatherings, or simple strolling were the activities we had on that small, friendly cabbage patch. We loved her as she loved us; despite the intermittent seasons of receding grass-lines, she was still our outdoor sanctuary, our sylvan space outside the classroom. She was the meadowy lawn we could step on without feeling guilty as we would the trimmed turfs of today’s landscaped gardens. There was an intimate and organic relationship between her and us, she knew our feet as we knew her sheaths. On the day we left the old campus in 1994, she was graciously, and appreciatively trod on, for the last time – this time not with the heavy thumps and jumps of gaming feet but the lilting affability of a picturesque folk dance – a dance like a swan-song, to bid goodbye to an old, friendly field. There is nothing to preserve now, nothing to let grow or rejuvenate, no dew or mud balls to avoid in the morning, no earthworms and millipedes to squirm away from – the cycle of grass-growing seasons, ended. Forever. For the grass is no longer there; what lies instead is a court with a rubberized


surface for the games of expatriate or foreign students of the now Chatsworth International School. A ball is whacked against the wall that surrounds the court. A resonating “bam” is heard, reifying the loss of a humble grass patch that, in its day, was the cherished playground of so many pairs of feet. If a ball were kicked this hard back then from the field, it would probably roll to where I am standing right now, some distance away, without the safety of walls, the hardness of floor.

The cabbage patch and folk dance on the day the school moved from Emerald Hill to Dunearn Road. (Left picture courtesy of Singapore Chinese Girls’ School Yearbook, 1993)

Something roots my feet at the gate. I stand there, peering in still, not wanting to leave despite my obscured view. Somehow, undergirding the act of squinting is a defiance, a persistence of sight. Even if it were impossibly difficult to


achieve an open, unobstructed view of the school’s interior, at least it would afford me the luxury of remembering on-site, of phenomenologically experiencing those halcyon days there and then. Anne Fadiman, in her cult classic Ex Libris devotes an entire chapter to the act of reading in the actual place at which a piece of fiction or non-fiction is set. Under such wonderful auspices, we can say with delightful satisfaction that we have entered into a “You-Are-There” moment where we “see exactly what the author described, so that all we need to do to cross the eidetic threshold is squint a little” (67)3. If I could transpose and appropriate this verisimilitudinous experience to the present moment, then my act of remembering at the place itself intensifies and amplifies the aura of being-there. Somehow being at the actual site and remembering it is indescribably and infinitely more profound than remembering it from any other place or looking at some faded, old photograph of it. While being there exacerbates the loss, it does at the same time render a kind of site-specific materiality to the memory that any other mnemonic object can never provide. Past and present conflate into a single protracted moment, proffering as it were, a kind of double consciousness of the There and Then, the Here and Now. Oh how memory seems to fit better when you take it back to where it originated! It’s like finding an old t-shirt, putting it on and realizing just how well it fits still, despite the passing of time and the changing contours of your body. While all “You-Are-There” moments can never reclaim the essence of the past, at least they give us the pleasure of dancing with its vestigial ghosts, in the present. Squinting, my eyes take me now to another part of the school compound. To the left is the canteen. From where I am standing and through the insufferably narrow slits, I am obviously unable to see just how it has transmogrified.


But sight is not the primary mnemonic sense that I need to rely on when I think about the canteen. Of all the places in the old Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, the canteen is veritably a space characterized by sound and smell, more than sight. To my memory at least, this small, humble eating area, or “tuck shop” as we once so quaintly called it, peppered our daily dining experience with the sound of heavy footsteps thumpthumping above our heads. Because the gymnasium with its long, creaky but sturdy wooden floorboards was right above the canteen, forming its “ceiling”, recess and lunch breaks were often accompanied with the background rhythms of jumping, running feet against hard wood. A PE lesson or a game of badminton perhaps could be taking place upstairs as we ate. The canteen is thus a queer, quirky little space where ceiling meets floor, constructing as it were, a soundscape that we grew so accustomed to as each day passed. Completing this auditory thudding was the ever-so-distinct concoctions of smells – black vinegar, flat yellow egg noodles or “mee pok” and fried chicken wings. Emanating from different stalls and permeating the canteen, these smells made up my daily olfactory diet. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School is known not only for her unmistakably sexy school uniform, she is also wellreputed for having one of the best-made “mee pok” dishes in the country. The secret? Black vinegar. Lots of it. Served together with a steaming hot bowl of “ta mee pok” (dry flat yellow egg noodles) or “kway teow mee” (flat white noodles), one would hear the ubiquitous request of “Uncle, jia chu!” or simply, “More vinegar please, Uncle!” Way back in 1988 when I was in Primary One, I had my virgin taste of this signature school dish. A bowl of “mee pok tang” or soup noodles for an unbelievably sweet forty cents. That was enough to fill me for the day. I spent the rest of my allowance – a mere eighty cents a day – on a packet drink or a fried drumstick (wrapped in a square piece of paper. No plastics


yet!). I would still be able to save at least ten to twenty cents. The “mee pok” stall held the largest area in the canteen. That this was so was of course nothing quite surprising. The stall consistently garnered the best business and back then, mother and son, an old lady and a middle-aged man, would unfailingly whip up that delicious local delicacy, bowls and bowls of it to generations of girls who would leave the hallowed gates of the school, not without having a taste of this dish that is till today, so dear to the palate of most, if not all SCGS girls. These two pioneers, responsible for the creation of a collective gustatory memory have since passed on. I do not know for how long more this business would last; as it is, people have complained that the “mee pok” no longer tastes as delectable as it used to. I don’t suppose the descendents of this mother and son pair would desire to take up the mantle. When pioneers die, their distinct heritages can sometimes follow them into the grave. If one is fortunate, someone else would bravely perpetuate what the previous generation has built up. But then again, this would not come without some modification, some kind of variation, leaving only token and polite traces of the past, eroding away the authenticity of the original. Perhaps the legacy of Uncle Mee Pok – as he is affectionately known to us all – would remain, evermore, only in the epitheliums of our tongues. I continue squinting in spite of my left eye getting a little tired. I see my seven year old self ordering a bowl of “mee pok” for the first time and later holding it so cautiously back to the nearest table, ensuring that a spill would not happen. I make it to the table successfully and for the very first time in my life, I sip the vinegar-laden soup from the pink plastic spoon, and there it is – a taste that would grace the memory of my palate, forever. Accompanying this humble gastronomic experience is the sound of moving feet above me, and the field with her bald patches in front of me, creating the auditory and visual coup


de grace of one of my most consummate and unforgettable multi-sensory dining experiences, all in an unbeatable price of forty cents. I give my eyes a rest and walk around the bus bay. Because the school looks more like a gentrified, gated community now, out of bounds for those who were once its inhabitants – for those who know its secrets, its nooks, its corners – there are parts of it I am not able to reach from where I am standing. So, for all its worth, I continue in my “You-Are-There” reverie and usher in another memory. It is about 11 in the morning in the year 1988. I am seven years of age, my first year in this weathered building. The bell has just rung, semaphoring the end of recess. Almost liturgically, we rush to the shelter, line up orderly and wait for our respective form teachers to take us back to class. It is a ritual that is carried out everyday, a regime we have grown so unthinkingly used to. Later on we are told to stand in line again, this time cup and toothbrush in hand. Another ritual awaits. We move towards the sinks in the canteen and there, once again in methodic fashion, fill our cups with water. Our form teacher, Ms Ee hurries us along to the drain that stretches a good 50 meters and we squat in a row, side-by-side with our cups and toothbrushes. Staring at the longkang, or drain below us, we anticipate further instructions. The daily dental observance begins, this time not with any dentist, but with our teacher teaching us how we should brush our teeth, supposedly in the proper, dentally prescribed way, only without toothpaste. It is sagacious we are continually told, to maintain good oral hygiene. Back in 1969, the Government decided that it had had enough of teeth-related diseases and denture-donning adults; to prevent the next generation of Singaporeans from having their


teeth fall out by the age of 40, they instituted a scheme that emphasized the importance of preserving the wonderfully solid, calcareous combination of dentin, pulp and enamel. “10 times on your left, 10 times on your right!” Ms Ee booms, more like the teacher she is than the dentist she is not. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10!” she counts. Little toothbrushes move in militant fashion, proffering a sight of horizontal uniformity. We, flanked on both sides by our classmates partake in this oral ablution, day after day. A cleansing ritual that marks our fleeting days in Primary school. “Ok! Gargle and spit the water into the drain!” orders Ms Ee. We follow her instructions mechanically. Like automatons, we take in the water from our colored mugs – mine is red – irrigate our mouths and spit out the slatternly liquid into the drain with aplomb. A resounding collective splash is heard and the ritual is complete. We get up, line up and head back to class as the ascendant sun makes his way to noon day high, evaporating away the repulsive mixture of spit and drying up the scintilla of food left behind from the morning’s recess. I did wonder to myself during those times where this was all leading. Would I be spared the sad dentile destiny of my parents? Would I really not have to see myself dipping dentures into a mug of water before I go to bed in my old age? What was the point of brushing my teeth without toothpaste? Though I delighted in not having to squeeze a tube of fluoride onto my toothbrush, these were the very thoughts that preoccupied my young mind as I robotically participated in the ceremonialism of honoring my teeth. I don’t hold any grudge against the humdrum of those sessions. In fact, I look back at the communalizing of such a solitary practice with some longing, with a wistfulness of heart. Instead of staring into the mirror while brushing my teeth as I


have been doing all these years, I was able to do so in the company of classmates, shoulder-to-shoulder, with the imperious didacticism of my teacher who was probably just as amused as we were that a national dental care exercise of this nature had to be carried out. Surely teaching us how to brush our teeth was not part of her job scope. Today, I hold the record of only having had one cavity in all my thirty years. Do I have those days to thank? Perhaps. I look at my watch and realize that a good thirty minutes have passed and that there are other parts of the school I have not yet revisited. As such, I make my way further down Emerald Hill towards Hullet Road. It seems like I cannot escape the pull of the past even as I walk down the short remaining stretch from Emerald Hill to Hullet Road. Hullet Road is a transition zone that bridges Emerald Hill and Cairnhill. Every step is a frisson of memory, an uncanny arousal of my past. Even the old trees that stand austerely by the pavements greet me as I amble past them. They were there then as they are here now. If trees are indeed sentient beings, then they must have witnessed with some sadness how the little Hill has metamorphosed through the years just as they would be able to provide some kind of record of the people who have passed by their weathered boles. I am one of those recorded in their memory and perhaps they, with some mellowed delight say hello me today with a silent nod and a lulling rustle of leaves. Along with the tress, a warren of shop houses with ornate Peranakan facades acknowledges me, silently. Smoothly, automatically, my steps take me from Hullet to Cairnhill. What flanks Cairnhill is a basketball court and private apartment. This basketball court is of course the property of the now Chatsworth International School. Before, it was ours – the concrete alternative to the cabbage patch for similar activities of gathering. There are a few basketball


courts in Singapore that form the storehouses of my memories. But it is in this basketball court that my best memories of basketball are amassed: it was here where I first decided that I loved the game; it was here where I had my first training sessions in Secondary One; it was here where my friends and I gathered to play the beautiful game before afternoon classes started. Other than the canteen and the classroom, the basketball court was the place where my friends and I bonded, not over food or idle chatter, but over games and games of basketball. We have these few sites to thank for the solidifying of our friendship. How many footsteps have we made, footsteps that formed intricate patterns from the sheer number of games we had, running up, down and around the court? If I could plot out the lineage of my friendship with these very people, it would start on Emerald Hill and its basketball court – a complex, spirited and beautiful pattern of footprints, invisible but reified, that define the cartographic journey of friendship, where little feet grew steadily to big feet, in a dance of basketball games, PE lessons and 1.6 kilometer runs. I walk in step with these memories as I watch the Chatsworth students run with abandon in their own game – not mine – of basketball. I must admit that I do not feel very happy for them; I cannot empathize with their fun because my better past stands astride their present and mine, and it only exacerbates what I have already lost. It is of course no fault of theirs that they are the ones playing basketball here today, but still, I cannot help but blame them for taking over what was once so preciously my friends’ and mine. I empathize with Jonathan Franzen who confesses ever so bluntly in his angst-ridden essay “Meet me in St. Louis” – St Louis being the little town he grew up in – that he “hate[s]” the people who have moved into his old house. “My feeling about the people who live here now


is that they’re not the people who used to live here, and that I hate them for it. My feeling is that I would die of rage if I had to live on this street where I once lived so happily. My feeling is that this street, my memory of it, is mine; and yet I patently own none of it� (296)4. Nostalgia can sometimes be so taunting. Palimpsests are all I am left with now, and when I see the place that was once almost my second home being used by total, complete strangers, I am seized with an unhealthy combination of envy and annoyance. Their present mocks my past, which I can now only experience as a trace, an apparition that is frustratingly so real and so impossible. And so, I complete my little detour and ramble, my walk that re-lived the peripatetic ritual of yesteryear. If I could retrace my life in steps, then Emerald Hill and Orchard Road would constitute a very significant part of my mnemonic terrain. Rewalking those steps is both pleasurable and torturous. Pleasurable because of the sublime strangeness of embodying two time zones simultaneously. Torturous because of being there, but not quite. There is always something very confronting and possessing about revisiting a site where you used to frequent, a place that is so physically familiar, a space that is so dynamically personal, and precious. I am a compulsive walker and through the years of travelling with my legs both away and at home, I have come to realize that walking is the only form of movement that seals any sort of experience for me because it is only by the gathered, reflective pace of walking that I am able to formulate and fashion a deeper impression of the place; because it is only through the walk that I am able to understand and immerse myself in the affective dimensions of space. When walking into a memorysite, what kills me is the total implausibility of exactitude; each step is a step of ambiguity: I am there, but I am not. I have it, but I do not. The past is there, but it is not. The present is here but it is not. The past enfolds but the present engulfs.


Much like the Romantic poets, the hopeless romantic in me laments the passing of the past, the hapless impossibility of ever attaining it again. While I thrive in nostalgia, I totter in it as well. The constant disenchantment with the present is fuel for my not-forgetting.

Plaque commemorating the old Singapore Chinese Girls School at Emerald Hill.

In this mnemonic haze, I plod on, my return journey made, but never completed. Emerald Hill has changed. I have grown up. Home is now another place.

Going Back To Emerald Hill was first published in Eastlit (Volume 2, Issue 5 April 2013)


Works Cited Willaims, Carlos William. “Smell!” The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams: Vol. 1, 1909-1939. Ed. A. Walton Litz and Christopher MacGowan. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1991. 92. Print. 1

Thomas, Edward. “Digging (Today I think).” The Annotated Collected Poems. Ed. Edna Longley. UK: Bloodaxe Books, 2008. 79. Print. 2

Fadiman, Anne. “You Are There.” Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998. 63-70. Print. 3

Franzen, Jonathan. “Meet Me In St. Louis.” How To Be Alone. London: Harper Perennial, 2007. 286-302. Print. 4

Yiwei is currently a PhD candidate at the Department of English Language and Literature (Theatre Studies), National University of Singapore. She has been published in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Transnational Literature, Eastlit and the Journal of Postcolonial Cultures and Societies.


Watching My Juniors Play Football Four testosterones-charged boys kick balls in school attiresWhite shirts tucked out, shoes with laces slacked, shoeless with black soles flat nerd specs plus goggles specs‌ Taking in random spews benign crude words, volleys of overestimated strength, volleys of underestimated strength, unintrospected self-absorption, alluding to "that time..." fulfillments of "this time..." deflations into hysterical laughters like lion cubs on Eden’s grass. This is how life should be, not a 'has been' but a 'should be'. For all the pain and heartache should not end with a childish death. It is not a Divine Comedy we live in, nor is it a Journey to the Westno need for fire, no need for tribulations. It is simply a life, as how a life should be when four boys kick balls at a street soccer court, running helter-skelterly while the sun sheaths its many swords with the clouds and the soft gust glazing the trees... ~ Goh Koon Hui Koon Hui is a fourth year Theatre Studies-Literature double major at NUS. He is also a prolific writer, performer, dancer, theatre-enthusiast, poet and arts educator. Having written poetry since his JC days, he has also gone into script-writing in his freshman year. His script, On the Curry Question, has won first prize from the NUS Literary Society Creative Writing Competition 2013. Koon Hui has also been involved in various productions with various different groups such as NUS Thespis (B. in 2012), NUS Stage (Mind Games in 2010 and Play! in 2013) and NUS Theatre Studies Department (Apes and Moths in 2012 and Family in 2013). Recently, he has also written, directed and performed for ECHO, a multidisciplinary performance, at Litup 2013. He has also directed in Chamber Readings 2013 under the NUS Stage. He is currently also the Vice President (Creative) of NUS Stage.


A Spectrum Framed Tad farther moves the watchful moon as stillness grips those below; Entranced in idle chatter and worries proclaimed in bold. Slow enters a lady, hunched, old, and round her head wraps a bandana, as she, a pirate lady looking for gold. In bellies of green bins, she loots the depths of unwantedness; Of foods, flyers and cigarettes, display a scene and sin of wasted expense. Unnoticed, she sinks her teeth-tongs into her next meal which depends on branded aluminium by Coke, Sprite and the like. With her bag half full, a decent haul, the old pirate lady ambles back whence she came; into a crowd that see her not. Lulled by the sounds of the day's boasts, gossips and complaints -A spectrum framed.

~ Isaac Tan First published in Eunoia Review, 22 June 2013


The Fisherman By Casey Ang

By the river. An old man in brilliant white sits by it. He has a fishing line in hand, and dips it into the water. JOHN enters, and they meet.

Old Man

Rare to see someone here. And young too!

John Only because I walk easier and faster. Old Man

Hm. The young have too much energy in the legs.

John We walk easier. Old Man Rare to see a young man here! People like you don’t like to see the river where I sit, being slow and watchful. John

What do you mean?

Old Man See, you’re blocking the sun a little…everything changes. The shades of it…Just watching, that’s what I meant. You learn to observe things. What’re you staring at? John Your hair’s so white. And your shirt too, like snow. Only your face is different. Old Man When you are my age, you appreciate the colour white. White… is a smart colour. It makes a man shine, the way the sun reflects off it. It commands attention; courageous; pure martial spirit. White is the colour few men have taste for. John I find it glaring, cutting, and cold. Old Man

Maybe you need aching knees to see white good.


They are silent. The old man catches a fish in his line. He takes it up, observes like a child his toy, before letting the fish back into the river.

John What’s that for? Old Man

Hm?

John You let the fish go. Old Man

I did.

John Just…fishing? Old Man Just fishing. I’m not going to keep them. But just look! They are so agile. If there were five or just six, you can’t catch them at all. They swim past the hook… But look – so many. Sweep out with your hand, and you can catch them. Your hand will be full. John Strange… why’s there so many?

Old Man I don’t know. That’s the mystery of this river! Ha- Ha! Look! You don’t even need a bait, there’s just so many! So unusual. One of them will surely catch the hook. See… He catches another. Alright, never mind the fish. (Very earnestly) Rare to see another man here! Talk to me! John Talk about what? Old Man Young man…comes here…talks about walking faster…surprised by the river…Weren’t you walking along the river, anyway? (…) John What can we talk about?

Old Man Hm? Oh, yes. Well, let’s say, what do you see in this river? I told you just now, the shades and tones change…You know, I’ve been here all my life! Look at the fish. They turn, and turn, and turn, but what for? Always, the sun is above watching them. Look! The sun is in the water. Young man: What do you see?


John There’s so many…I don’t know where to begin…Some of the fish, their scales – Old Man

You see scales?

John Scales, yeah. Anyway, they’re beautiful, and in the water they make rainbows. The water turns the rays. Old Man

(Incredulously) Rainbow? Where!?

John It’s subtle – Old Man Nonsense! There’s only the sun. Only the sun! You look into the river, and you see that shining object, there’s the sun. That’s all. The sun is in the water. (Earnestly, a little more calmly) Never – okay, tell again, what rainbow? John I said it’s subtle. The red, the orange, the yellow, the blue. They’re all there. You just have to – Old Man You want me to rupture my eyes? There’s no rainbow. Only fish swimming under the sun. They try to swim away from it, but it keeps following. Look! They slip, they turn, they skid…There’s no escaping it, the sun is in the water. I’ve been watching this river all my life. Starts turning grouchy and mumbling to himself. (Cautiously) What rainbow? John There! – I said, it’s subtle, you just – Old Man

(Loudly) Never mind! I don’t want to hear about it!

John You can’t miss them! Those are such lively colours! Old Man

There’s only fish.

John You can’t miss them!


Old Man

There’s only fish.

The old man turns a deaf ear. John Maybe it’s your stupid shirt, all the white is blinding. We don’t just walk easier, we see better. Old Man

(…)

Rainbow? (…) Rainbow? You know when you’re a kid? You always receive those little presents from your parents. I had one too. They gave me some very pretty thing, and I loved to play with it. It was a prism… You just put it above your head, and a rainbow will come out from it… You could see all the seven colours. John And…? Old Man But I did not like it after. It was so pretty that it irritated me. I threw it hard, against the ground, and it smashed into pieces. Then you see, those pieces shone like white sand, but brighter. White light. White light is all that matters.

Casey is a third year student in Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, National University of Singapore. He picked up writing when the opportunity presented itself, and has since dabbled in it now and then.


Her Name When my grandmother died I scratched her name “po po” severally on the floor of the funeral With a burnt stick, underlining it several times. I didn't know her very well. I've forgotten her name. We've stopped Going to visit on grave-cleaning day. But I think of her sometimes passing My neighbours’ houses hanging gardens of pecked tangerines and pots bristle-backed with spent incense, white silk dust. I think of the eighteenth-floored underworld's Gatecrashing dead on the seventhmonth. I think of orange steam cakes heaped there. I think of black-wicked fingers staked by The shambled pavement altars. Po po Might have to steal some of these now none of ours Blew burnt hell money up to her by air. I hear a collapsed face and a wheezy foghorn voice. I remember my mother and I the first night After the wake when we cuddled up Together for the last time. I will not agree With terrible attachments that bring ghosts back To their children's beds, dry footprints On the flour-scattered floor for seven nights, Night after night, or a sticky shrine with a cold vase Who is my grandmother. I think of the hospital calling About someone's iodine X-rays. I think Of po po holding out an apple I didn't want. ~ Tham Zhen Teng


Their Words' Worth I know the names of foxgloves, hearts and apples and of rock-roses in the Alps. Far-roaming, Gutenberg’s pioneering has brought them home to roost on my shelves like doves.

On the wide world-webs in wanton droves there are shrubs from which swarms of red ants rappel, fouling flowers that resemble but are not flame ofthe-forest. Here then, far and wide are tulip-shaped knots that can burst into tides, white shocks for me, child, to pluck and blow as Mrs Blyton says must be done – and she should know – with dandelion clocks, but which have no name but for younger ones yet who slip from the riddle into mango tree shadows from the cat and the fiddle, typeset and proper nouns, like this. The rain waters more than these things that in further-flung fields scatter as the seed but do not grow where they each may exist in the open, or at even the keels of our common speech, but solitary remain as they are, as such, beyond words' reach. ~ Tham Zhen Teng Tham Zhen Teng lives in a house full of dust bunnies and a closet that is secretly alive. When she was eight she had a dream in which her discipline mistress was eaten by a dinosaur. Tributes are acceptable if they come with cake.

'In real life, Zhen Teng is currently studying at the National Institute of Education, learning to teach children how to read and write.


Planes By Tse Hao Guang

I remember when I first told Mei that I was going to church. It was during my university summer break and she had taken some time off from her lunch hour to meet me. We could have met over food I guess, but I felt like I had to see her as soon as possible. I was on fire. Boundaries were arbitrary. I had found Jesus. I ran towards her and, in an MRT station overflowing with harried office drones and too-cool-for-school schoolchildren, gave her a huge hug. “I’ve found the meaning of life!” “Oh no, don’t tell me. You read some inspirational book about happiness again.” “Even better! Paul brought me to his church camp. I accepted Christ!” “Oh, David. That’s worse and you know it.” It was here that I stepped back, slightly stung. The human figures seemed to run by us, in between us, in slow motion. I caught a glimpse of a blue pen, perfectly placed, slotted into the pocket protector of one of the men pushing past us. Why do people even use pocket protectors these days? “Look, sorry, but it’s the easy way out, don’t you see. How can you let someone else tell you how to live, without first figuring it out for yourself?”


The memories of what happened later are slightly fuzzy to me now. God knows I’ve tried to recall what I said to her, and what we did after that. Did we eat lunch like we were supposed to, agreeing to disagree? Or did I leave for home in a fit of childish anger, disturbed at the easy insouciance I read into her every word? Perhaps it didn’t matter after all. What I do remember was that I had a sudden urge to take Paul, eyes ablaze with heartfelt conviction, and thrust him upon Mei, hoping to dazzle her into silence with the brightness of God’s glory. My own flame had flickered, but I wasn’t ready to let it die yet. Maybe we did eat together in the end. --When we were young, our mothers used us as implements in their subtle wars with each other. I always imagine what kind of conversations they would have about us, as they sat watching us play in the park near my old house. “Ai yo. Ah Mei ah, always eat so little. Don’t know why she can still grow so tall. Your David, does he eat a bit only or a lot?” “OK lah, he’s growing slowly. Soon he will be tall and big. At least he is playful, look, so lively. He is a good boy.” I remember our first day of school. It was a cold blue dawn. I had just cheerfully waved off my mother’s frantic fussing, eager to make friends and explore a new world. I found Mei at the pavement just outside the gates. She was crying silently. I tried to ask her what was wrong but she refused to say. She wouldn’t budge. I stayed with her for a long time, until one of the prefects came and wrote our names down in his blue book. My mother locked me out of the house that night.


It was no use bringing this up to tease her, as I found out over the years. “David, I really don’t remember. It was sweet though; I’m sure I would have appreciated it. I can’t imagine what I would’ve been crying about though.” I was in secondary school and in my mock heroic phase, complete with fake British accent. “Begone, you ingrate! If you did, it would surely have been etched in your memory. What a tale of chivalry you would have told your grandchildren! Ah, well, some things are just not meant to be.” I can still see myself turning and running, galloping off on my steadfast steed. “Hark, the wild witch beckons! My gallantry is wasted on the likes of you!” I ran off to my anxious mother, and heard Mei’s exasperation fading off into the distance. Before we knew it, we grew up. Months could pass before our next meeting. And at other times we saw each other daily for a week or so. Without the need for aimless talk about the best places to go drinking and how our families were getting along, we managed a friendship that in the eyes of many of our other friends seemed to withstand the test of time. Truth is, it wasn’t so much time we were testing as each other.


I saw her grow from weeping child to quietly confident young woman. She saw me, a thoughtless, careless boy, turn into a man far too conscious of his failings. She saw me become a Christian. I sometimes wonder how much I’ve truly changed. What would Mei say if I asked her? In the quiet of my heart, I find myself afraid to hear even her imagined answer. I’m afraid to hear her say that she didn’t really know who I was at all. --When I stepped into church that week, slightly late, panting, I knew exactly what I was supposed to feel. Worship had started. It was time to praise the Lord. Some days, knowing what to feel made me question the veracity of my feelings. That day wasn’t one of them. That day, I knew that God was all and all was God. I knew with all my heart that Jesus was the saviour of my souI. I knew I was loved. I knew that I was damned if I cried, damned if I didn’t. I brushed away the thought. We are one in communion, I insisted, as the music swelled to a crescendo. Here, I was safe. The sermon, unsurprisingly, was about salvation. “When did Jesus’ work on the cross end? Did it end once He arrived on earth in the form of a human? When He died on the cross? When He rose again?” I yawned. To my credit, I did feel like I needed to know the answers. I knew that beneath this barrage of self-important questions lay the key to the answers I was looking for. I just couldn’t focus. I watched the parishioners around me as they strained with whiplash intensity


at the pastor. I noticed that the old woman sitting to the left of me was wearing a jarringly bright yellow dress. She suddenly turned to me and flashed an equally jarring smile. I’m pretty sure I smiled back. As long as it wasn’t a daydream. Days later, during cell group, I stared hard at the first question in my Bible knowledge quiz. My eyes scanned the lines over and over again as I tried to sort my thoughts out. I tried not to blink and counted the seconds ticking off on the wall clock. I managed 15 dry ticks. Finally I read the question aloud, hoping that, like God, my vocalizations would speak the answer into being. “What was God’s purpose in creating the world and man? a. I don’t know, only God knows b. To do His will and obey Him c. To glorify Himself d. In order to save it e. For His pleasure in the enjoyment of His creation” I stared at the paper for what seemed like an eternity. The air conditioning chilled me to the bone. I tried to daydream. I left the question blank. The quiz had 26 questions. I had one hour. I left early. Paul called me later, probably worried that I hadn’t said goodbye, but I missed it. --Many days later, Mei and I met again. I had since graduated from university. My life had, up until then, seemed like an endless treadmill of following orders and doing the right things. Even when my church told me that the treadmill was


all in my heart, and that my heart could be changed, I still stuck to what my mother kept telling me year after year after year. She was the pastor that no church could match. She told me to reach for the skies -- I graduated with first class honours. I remember thinking at the ceremony that my mother probably felt more satisfaction than I. I remember deciding not to invite Mei.

When Mei asked me out for lunch soon after, I made time. I was eager, hoping to tell her about my plans for a job, my applications, my dreams, what God was showing me in my life. I knew she also had something to tell me. We sat in the crook of a small café I had introduced to her. Rays of sunlight streamed in through the windows, reflecting the bits of dust that settled on the floor. I noticed how dirty it was. We sat in silence as I inspected the table that squeezed in between us. Here in front of me were a few inches of wood that might as well have stretched to infinity. I contemplated the patterns of the falling dust. “So how are you keeping? It’s been a while.” “I’m good, got invited for a few interviews. I’m hoping to land a decent job so my mom might stop breathing down my back.” I cringed inwardly at the baldness of the statement. Mei didn’t seem too concerned, though.

“I am going overseas to work, David. My flight leaves soon. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier, so many things have been going on.” “Oh no, don’t apologize. I’m so happy for you. What is it you’re up to then?”


“I got offered a place at UNESCO. Isn’t that wonderful? I’m going to France, just as I said all those years ago.” I stared down at my salad. I suddenly remembered that the people in France ate snails. I imagined a French man with soiled hands, tending a garden of lettuce. The funny thing was that the leaves of all the lettuce heads were full of holes. The garden wasn’t meant for cultivating lettuce -- it was for growing snails. I saw a French woman stirring a soup pot, like thousands of other quaint European housewives. Only the pot was not full of clams, but full of snails. I suddenly saw Mei stirring the pot instead. I blinked. Mei was stirring her clam chowder. --Later that night I found myself turning and twisting in bed, in an agony of hot and cold. I cursed the cafe’s air conditioning. I moaned damnation at the pesticide in the salad. I was sure that it was coursing, glowing green, through my veins. I was certain that I would die. I shivered, and with pale hands tried to swaddle myself in blankets in an attempt to deceive myself into thinking that I had become a baby again, pure, clean and unborn, suspended in amniotic fluid. But I couldn’t; drafts of monsoon season air wormed their way through holes in my manmade womb. A wisp of ice curled around my toes. I flinched. This must be some sort of punishment, I thought. It might have been minutes or days later that I drifted off into a clammy sleep. I saw Mei, dressed in a tight electric-green tube top and skinny jeans, dancing around my bed, menthol cigarette in between yellowed fingers. She looked like she was having the time of her life. Her lips were car-paint red. Tears were streaming down her face.


They were the same shade as her lipstick. Could it be that that anorexic plastic surgery party animal was who she wanted to be? I knew that if it was, she would be it the best she could, once she left the strangling confines of her country and her mother. Ah, mothers. How could I fail to see them? Hunchbacked, half-blind, terrible twins, each desiring that their child be the better child, the smarter child, the most enviable child. They sat next to my bed, mouthing chants and blessings upon their only baobei progeny. Droplets of ink started raining down, mixing with their pious tears and my own sickly sweat. I tried to scream but my mouth was stuffed with paper. “Boy ah, boy ah, boy ah, wake up! Boy ah, boy ah!” Chubby, slightly drooping jowls. Hair permed and dyed and teased to the height of 1980’s fashion. Horn-rimmed glasses overwhelming beady eyes that shone full of unconditional love. Mother. I mumbled a reply, the sleep-fuzz in my mouth threatening to choke me. “Boy, I went to Dr. Wong for you. I told him your symptoms already, he gave me medicine. You ah, never fall sick one. Why this time? You have a job interview on Tuesday and one more on Thursday, you must get better soon.” “Ma, how can he possibly give you medicine without me being around?” I saw a flash of the kindly doctor, whistling a familiar tune, fluffing up the pillows for my mother, unwitting participant in my smothering.

“Never mind never mind, he give me means he give me. Don’t ask so much. I have boiled some soup for you already, I put it here on your dresser table OK? Must drink ah. Must eat your medicine. Good boy!”


She left, her Dior J’adore lingering in the room as if to make sure I followed her well-meaning orders. --Back when I was trapped in the clutches of National Service, my mother and I had a huge argument. I was a clerk, several rungs of respect lower than the lowest recruit, but at least I got to go home every night when the rest of the guys were confined to double-decker beds and 10 p.m. lights-out curfews. Yet, I had chosen to stay in camp for days on end, going home on the weekends with the rest of my friends. Everybody thought I was crazy, not least dear Mother. How she screamed in indignation that I was drifting away from her, I was an ingrate, leaving her lonely and lost at home. Without an object of affection to occupy her heart, it seemed, she would have to turn into a monster in moisturizing mask and curlers, sobbing at the cruelty of life in front of the television. “Why must you always tell me what to do? I have listened to you all my life. All my life. Which school I went to, which tuition centres I applied to, sometimes even, even, what clothes to wear. I drink your vile soup every night. I haven’t met Mei in months. What more do you want from me, huh, what more?” “How can you say that to me? Do you know how painful this heart is? All my life I only have you. You know your father ran away when you were just born, and I have to take care of you by myself for so long? Do you know how I am bleeding, here, but you cannot see it? I want the best for you but you see nothing. How can you say that to me?” I measured out thick, sickly-sweet syrups and inspected the clinical


buffet of multicoloured pills fraternizing in my hand. I drank the soup, black and bitter, sadomasochist’s coffee. I found myself remembering for days afterward the taste of Dr. Wong and my mother, mingling in my throat. --“Mei, promise me this one thing.” She looked at me quizzically. The day had arrived. It was just me and her at the airport, no friends, no family. We were standing slightly too far apart. The only accompaniment to our last words was the sound of bags unloading and the departing footsteps of crumpled businessmen. “Promise me that you won’t turn into some foulmouthed, SPG skank. And promise me that you will never buy anything in electric green.” “What on earth are you talking about? I hate partying and you know I only swore that one time. But you asked me for two promises. What if electric green becomes the new black?” She allowed me to see her smile, quickly and quietly. “You have to promise me something, too.” She paused. I suddenly saw the small girl, neat pigtails guarding her soft oval face, tears streaming one by one down her cheeks, mouth clamped shut in the disavowal of her own presence. “Never stop believing, David. Especially not because of me.” It seemed like the airport had turned to glass. I felt like I could see


planes overhead, angling their way up into the clouds. I caught a breath of cold stratosphere. “I always thought you disapproved.” “I was wrong. Everyone’s entitled to their own search for truth. And I’m not saying this just because your friend Paul calls me an aggressive atheist.” I suppressed a snort as I saw Mei in my mind’s eye, dressed in a black velvet robe, broom by her side, requisite wart on her nose, burning bibles and cackling in the secrecy of her boudoir. “Yeah, yeah, he still does.” Mei frowned as if not fully daring to say what was on her mind. She shook her head slightly, her curls taking in the harsh morning sun. “Something has changed in you these last few years. I think Paul would like to call it humility, but I’m not sure what it is exactly. I puzzle over it sometimes, wondering why I make so much out of seeing it in you. The way you blinked when I laughed at you after you told me the meaning of life. The way you wiped your mouth after your salad the other day. The way you look right now.” I stared at my toes for a long time, searching for the right words to say. I looked up, into the face of the girl who for the longest time made me feel like a stranger in my own skin. Finally my mouth opened, the sounds slipped out. “Will you sit here with me awhile?”


She stayed until a flight attendant called out her name over the intercom in the detached urgency of an immaculate professional. “Last call for passenger Mei Lim, Mei Lim. Your flight is departing in five minutes. Mei Lim, please.” I could almost imagine the stern woman behind the voice, lips pursed, writing down Mei’s name in a little blue book. Mei turned to me and smiled again. Then she was gone. But I could still see her plane, rolling off the runway, striving for the sky.

~ Tse Hao Guang

Hao Guang is interested in form and formation, creativity and quotation, lyrics and line breaks. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ceriph, Coast, QLRS, OF ZOOS, The Ayam Curtain, This City is a Strange Song, Microcosmos, After | Thought and LONTAR. He is involved in the Mentor Access Project under the guidance of Alvin Pang. A chapbook, hyperlinkage, is forthcoming from Math Paper Press. He can be found online at www.vituperation.wordpress.com.


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Submission Guidelines Submission of Literary Works Symbal welcomes works from NUS undergraduate and graduate students, staff, students from other tertiary institutions (local junior colleges, polytechnics, ITEs, and other universities) and even those who are serving their national service. Unlike other publications, we welcome any kind of work that is of literary value regardless of whether it is poetry, prose, dramatic extract, commentaries or treatises. Due to space constraints, however, we would like the writers to observe the following guidelines: Poetry – Any form of poetry is welcomed but do keep it within two pages of a Word document. Longer submissions will be given secondary priority. Prose – Any genre is acceptable, but try to keep the word count between 500-2500. We will consider longer or shorter pieces, but these will be given secondary priority. If you would like to submit a much longer piece such as a novella, please provide us with a summary of your work (and the full text, if possible). Do bear in mind that your piece will be serialised, with the content spread between a number of issues. Dramatic Extract – It should consist of no more than 2 scenes. It is advisable that the scenes should for the most part be able to stand on their own (i.e. the reader should be able to make out what is generally going on as well as the relationship(s) between the characters). Of course, if you would like to submit a monologue, you are more than welcome to do so.


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When to Submit Symbal is a quarterly publication, and is always open for submissions. However â&#x20AC;&#x201C; if you would like us to consider your piece for a particular issue â&#x20AC;&#x201C; it is recommended to send it at least a month before that issue is due for release. This will give our editors time for reviewal and compilation. We will then reply you with regard to whether your work has been approved for publication. Unfortunately, space restrictions may still prevent us from doing so until a subsequent issue.


Submission Guidelines # Submission of photographs/illustrations What is a magazine without some pictures or illustrations? If you would like an avenue to showcase your artistic abilities, we will be delighted to help! All forms of photos, drawings and paintings are welcome. However, do bear in mind that Symbal currently lacks a dedicated section for the featuring of visual art. Unless you have submitted creative writing or a descriptive passage to complement the piece, it will be published in a given issue only if space permits, or if it is relevant to an already featured theme or work. However, do check back on the submission guidelines from time to time as there may be a section calling for visual art / photography in the future. Submitting an image to us will be an indication of your agreement to grant us the rights to retain it (you will still be credited when it is used). Your work will not be edited without permission; however it may be rotated, flipped, or resized.

How to Submit Send all your works to symbalmagazine@gmail.com. The subject title should be prefaced as follows: “Submissions: <title of work>”. Please submit your works in the body of the email or in an attached word document (do note that PDF files will not be accepted). You are highly encouraged to append a short personal biography of about 50 – 100 words to the email. Should you have further enquiries, kindly write to us via the same email address and preface the subject heading with “Enquiries: <area of concern>”. We seek your cooperation in following this template so as to allow us to sort the mail easily. Thank you.


Issue Seven  
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