the families on tv screens will have you all believe
like some gimmicky advertisement from the sixties
that all mothers want their daughters to be something
– except maybe not mine.
maybe she’d hoped that i would turn out to be
good at nothing, or at best, a good-for-nothing,
maybe because she wasn’t anything.
so i grew up wanting to be something. anything.
and here’s what the wise ones proselytized to me
as the one gospel truth they’d all known and seen
in this backwater town of sealed fates and lips:
you’ll be ruined by your own ingenuity
before you even get to thirty-three
and, well, if you’re still around,
then you shouldn’t be found downtown
but in a lovely white-picket-fence house
raising children and chicks for the dumb hens.
you should stay married to a stable man
preferably one with a plot of land
that will soon be part of his grand command.
stay, and stay – never mind the darn old fart.’
each time i would sigh, mirroring
the silent one in their opal eyes
and with nary a shrug, i would say
just like the trajectory that rushed towards all of
like a screeching Chevy truck.
but more insidiously, still, the real danger:
the resplendent cathedral of hope we built
under crumpled linen afghans, easy as a pillow fort
or a child’s magnificent castle-mound, blaring alarm red
as i prayed. i wished
one day, to be celebrated
like the first breath of spring,
like the novel touch of puberty
which lends the lucky ones
a glimmer of beauty, a sliver of discovery
(and for me, a whole lot of acne and nothing)
that maybe i would someday be remembered
like the torrid summer heat:
intolerable, and simply unshakeable
even in the wondrous fall
that comes each time without fail
like a man in love.
well, sweetheart, i didn’t want to leave
without a magnum opus, without a legacy
to last beyond fleeting statistics
and smoky, whited-out obituaries
– but maybe it was you all along:
you, the ultimate culmination
of all my could-have-beens
all my whimsy and wistful-longings, wilting
like the pale wisterias in wintertime;
of all my incurable heartbreaks
that you safe-kept like a baby
in the cradle of your tender arms;
of all the love in me that i’d kept
stashed away like a stolen mint cookie,
or maybe a secret sin i couldn’t tell the priest
to be brought to and buried
in the delicate, forgettable grave.
Qiqing Goh is an emerging writer and poet. She was recently published in the first issue of Free the Verse. Her poems aim to cast light on social ills and the inner turmoils of those who live in it -- albeit with a questionable sense of humour and the occasional bad pun. Apart from poetry, she also dabbles in music from time to time and is working towards an EP. She currently works as a lawyer.