POETRY

Zero Hour

By

You had woken up in an empty house built in the middle of greenery that spread out for miles; a table in the living room was weighed down with food and drinks that would be replenished when you were asleep or simply looking away; and every so often, you marveled to yourself about how you never had to work or go hungry again; how there were so many toilets in the house that never got stuck or anything; and how nice that the water was always warm when you bathed, with fresh clothes waiting miraculously on a wooden stool at the foot of your luxurious bed, even though there was nobody you could actually see or thank; the solitude became so unbearable that you decided to take a walk for longer than usual; and walked even for miles without stopping, in the hope of meeting a neighbour, no matter how distant; or just someone, anyone--but your feet only carried you, panting, and without a drop of perspiration on your skin, back toward that gray, ageless house; as if the very building were the center of this corner of the universe; again you were exactly where you had started with nothing left to do but eat, sleep, bathe and shit, day after day, moving between states of panic and boredom like a sleepwalker adrift between adjoining rooms…until you woke up unexpectedly to find that the plastic-looking bushes outside your backdoor, which never seemed to grow out of shape, were turning to gold in the daylight; those trees that struggled, in always the same manner, to shake off the predictable wind, appeared stoic for the first time, turning slowly into vistas of trees within trees within trees; and even though life in the house was still a sentence you could never, by now, hope to transcend, you were able to sit for hours on your front porch, admiring the grand scale by which the sky ascended from bright to dark; sometimes falling asleep; sometimes nodding awake; but always passively watching--what else was there to do—as every thought that would cut its jagged path across your mind grinded to a distant halt; such a path no longer a path now but a river merging with other rivers of quiet; you had no clue what was happening, except that it was happening through you; you even remembered a time when loneliness and time used to carry tremendous weight; then when you looked closely in another instant, the sky was no longer sky but an unspeakable glowing, a fire that fused everything external with everything within; not quite to your surprise, there was no longer that need for description; although for nostalgic reasons, you reached out for some metaphor to match and seize the impossible, the ever-new; only to let words go when what they failed to capture began, at last, to take over.

Cyril Wong (1977) is the author of nine collections of poetry in Singapore. Internationally, his poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Fulcrum, Cider Press Review and Asheville Poetry Review. He received the Singapore Literature Prize in his country and has been a featured poet at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Hong Kong International Literary Festival; and is the founder of SOFTBLOW, an online international poetry journal.His Still Flight (2005) was first staged as a one-woman monologue in English.

You had woken up in an empty house built in the middle of greenery that spread out for miles; a table in the living room was weighed down with food and drinks that would be replenished when you were asleep or simply looking away; and every so often, you marveled to yourself about how you never had to work or go hungry again; how there were so many toilets in the house that never got stuck or anything; and how nice that the water was always warm when you bathed, with fresh clothes waiting miraculously on a wooden stool at the foot of your luxurious bed, even though there was nobody you could actually see or thank;…