i ii
iris tan swee ling
(24 & back pains)
Thursday, January 18, 2018
we are two skeletons but one soul, bound together by shared affection and nothing more. your lines are traced with powdery debris you assume clean in the light, yet do not deign to erase in the dark, and mine are equally messy despite. when we walk alongside each other, your face buzzes into a blur against a grey background—i do not understand you, cannot understand you, do not want to understand you. instead, i try to pull you into my familiar screen of black and white, and you show me the rough edges of the grass blades across your skin, carving scars you cannot easily heal. these hurt me the same way it does you, but sometimes i forget that what i know is ultimately not what it actually is. you are fleeting, i’m fleeting; if only we could be fleeting in the same way, in the same direction that could stand us still. if only you knew i’m looking at you


Tuesday, January 16, 2018
this is a story about a candy store in winter

it stands lonely amongst popular, inhibitory acquaintances, trembling for any attention at all; its windows subtle mirrors to the scarves that float by, door softened by the touch of shivering palms, and desserts staining the bitter tongues of jilted lovers. a beige sweater sits on a high wooden stool behind the counter, jadedly, haphazardly, looking up from a rectangle of light to squint only at wisps of ice from the outside. little and big coats alike peer in eagerly to the picture of shelves lined with bags of brown, white, dust... friendship, gluttony, regret

today, you and your accompanying jacket defy the still air to step into the store. it is winter in a town built with unfamiliar corners and made jagged by cobblestones. you pull its stiff sleeves around the crooks and crannies of this place you do not know. look, you say, look at all the candy i’m going to buy. there is nary another in sight, and so in the anonymity the moment provides, it reciprocates to your genuine devotion, lays its calloused hand around your waist, pulls you within the space that exists between its heart and yours. its touch is chilly against your insulated skin, but you do not care. instead you relish in its fleeting affection, amble around like it is normal. you think, you are normal, we are normal, and then it exclaims, look at the candy i’m holding

laughter seeps from the knitting of the beige sweater, and amidst all the sweets, you think you are the one filled with the most amount of sugar

moments later, you place the bags of brown, white, dust on the counter; on its tongue, a crystallised candy from the basket. deft fingers turn your gifts into tan pouches and similar ribbons, its red lips asking in return, where is the factory from which your sweetness was made? at the question, the jacket’s touch freezes in the heat, leaves the small of your back and reinstates the space between, leaves the premises entirely to your own conviction. you then remember the memory of the army green garment walking on as you passed this candy store. perhaps it was yesterday, or perhaps it was years ago in your dreams. it is lonely, yet unlike you, it does not drown in the hope of something warmer than the pieces that visit

you remember that same image twice, thrice, many times. your surroundings have turned into an empty street—the smell of cocoa, and dim, yellow lights absent. you are standing alone in the middle of winter with sweets in hand, and the thrift shop jacket peppering the concrete in front of you with its indifferent threads of snow. chocolate is soft and melts easily despite the cold, but all you feel now is the bitterness of the bar that lies abandoned on the shelf, kept away from others like a dirty secret, paper cuts from the brown paper bag of the candy store


Monday, January 01, 2018
2018. i will leave you behind in the past year. i will leave my bitterness behind, or i will try

i hope life treats you well

Sunday, December 03, 2017

no one knows, and maybe they shouldn't. i just wish that this could be filed into the same crate i had created for you and cached away nine years ago—the one with all the words and all the tears i could ever possibly afford anyone. twenty-four-year-old me has simply no more lustre left to withstand another back view of you, so this time round... why don't you look at mine instead?

after all, it is my little misunderstanding, but apparently, your very sizeable shame

Thursday, October 26, 2017
muddy fields and charcoaled skin, corporate walls and glasses of gin. i once knew a man with whom i shared many firsts—spheres aligned, hours mundane, endeavours delicate—and now he is merely a passer-by whose face i've nursed in private over the years. inaccurately. slowly. expiring

there is a certain irony to terrains less explored. i hear the light voices, speaking of plainness, quiet, escape. yet amidst all these noise, we are the lonely ones. we are lonely in caution, in responsibility, in abandonment, in incapacity to do just the same

when you've been there and i've always been here, our hearts are no longer made of the same stone. our bodies might intertwine under the sheets, but our avenues beyond your doors will never be bridged. how utterly melancholic that is


Tuesday, August 08, 2017
many lunches spent sitting on this concrete slab, ruminating alone or across another like-minded individual, engulfed within the fumes of our past, present, future—all bleak, but perhaps all still bearable

operative word being 'perhaps'

Saturday, June 03, 2017

have had these guys close by my side since i was twelve. it's been almost half our lives. they have taught me unconditionality and allowed me to experience growing up the only acceptable kind of love i've ever known from water—so much so that now, we are one blood. amidst the fleetingness of the average person, there rests the best comfort in the permanence of our connection that spoils me rotten, and whenever greed starts to stain our bones, i pray for us to always remember each other's hearts, where we are kings and others, merely commoners (even though our demeanours paint us as quite the contrary)

twelve years, three schools, thousands of hours spent reading and writing, and words are still not enough


Monday, April 24, 2017

what the FUCK


Wednesday, April 12, 2017
tonight i was looking out of my window when a guy—well-built, well-dressed, and well-groomed—walked precisely on the road ahead of my room to his destination. as he turned into the street adjacent to mine, it occurred to me that at any given time, someone might be watching you with an affect less ordinary than you would otherwise think the moment deserves. in that two minutes i had formulated a life for him that he'd probably never led, a personality he probably does not naturally manifest, and a whole house of countenances blurry and likely inaccurate from the distance. perhaps it's the idealist or the whimsical storyteller in me, but i find that inclination oddly consoling—like i could be one person right now that i neither fancy nor reject, yet in that fleeting juncture of extrinsic observation, i am anything and everything all at the same time

what a wonderful notion to carry


Monday, April 10, 2017
'written on the body' by jeanette winterson

i finished 'written on the body' quite a while back (about a year ago, i think) but haven't gotten down to writing about it because, well, truth be told, i've been lackadaisical and uninspired, which is the an apt description of my recent days outside of novels anyway. when reading this book i felt an immense disconnect from it, thought, wow how different i am from the protagonist of this story, 'how can i ever relate to this maniac?' meditating on it over the last few weeks, i realise now that the detachment was probably conceived out of coercion and fabrication for the sake of my own delicacy. in fact, i suppose i might be the almost, if not entire, likeness of his image. the character, in love, is despondent, whimpering, contradictory at best, and across the duration of his various sentiments, he broods over unsavoury positions pages on end, yet engulfs himself in dissatisfaction in the attendance of cooperative affairs. it was then when i realised that i was merely reading to myself about myself, and that it is the cornerstone of the every little bit of riot i host within

the subject i remember most from this novel is the idea of the circadian clock functioning as a metaphor of which the connection of love and interest can be articulated. i have always believed this to be true to some extent—that each romantic dalliance is like a game to be completed, its specific rites of passage as levels to pass before the players arrive at the conclusion, satisfactory or not. there is the charming bouquet of desire and/or allure, the insistence of attributing attachment to the tiniest signs of semblance, then the first kiss, the first fuck, the first fart under covers... up until your feet touches the monumental space of graduation and there is nothing new left to achieve. surely this is why people often tell others in good (or jaded) faith to 'take it slow', for the circadian clock of any relationship is individually erratic, ticking slower or faster towards midnight according to the spans of time between each rousing step made. and it is when it reaches the finale we start to flicker in any previously static reliability, when we unfasten the gates to perhaps yet another round of frolic with the same person, or to a new game entirely. i find this line of thought neither wrong nor right, just as inherent epicureans, intuitive to some, but restrained by others. as winterson said, 'she was so little there that while she occupied a fair stretch of time, she filled my days hardly at all. that may have been her secret. if she had lain with me and eaten with me and washed scrubbed and bathed with me, maybe i'd have been off in six months, or at least itching. i think she knew that'


other quotes i like—
i) 'even here in this private place my syntax has fallen prey to the deceit. it was not i who did those things; cut the knot, jemmied the lock, made off with goods not mine to take. the door was open. true, she didn't exactly open it herself. her butler opened it for her. his name was 'boredom'. she said, 'boredom, fetch me a plaything.' he said, 'very good ma'am,' and putting on his white gloves so that the fingerprints would not show he tapped at my heart and i thought he said his name was 'love''

ii) ''so you try and regain control by telling me you love me. that's a territory you know, isn't it? that's romance and courtship and whirlwind''

iii) 'contentment is a feeling you say? are you sure it's not an absence of feeling? i liken it to that particular numbness one gets after a visit to the dentist. not in pain nor out of it, slightly drugged. contentment is the positive side of resignation. it has its appeals but it's no good wearing an overcoat and furry slippers and heavy gloves when what the body really wants is to be naked'

iv) 'i am prepared to accept the many-sidedness of god but i am sure that if god exists he is not a building society'

i enjoyed this book 70% of the time


Saturday, April 08, 2017

Wednesday, March 08, 2017


Wednesday, February 22, 2017
i imagine humans to be puppets stitched together by threads of the words uttered by someone else, yet ventriloquists of each other's lives. we are fat or thin, clever or stupid, astonishing or vapid, worthy or not—all by the anatomy of the foreign yarn that seems to hold our bodies whole. we walk around with the frayed ends of negative strings dangling around our calves, allow them the liberty to create legs of petechiae we have grown insensible, but not impervious to

the problem with this image is that these words grip onto definitions formulated by similar others, puppets shelved on the lines of the same dictionary. we claw at our rashes to procure only more, enjoy or suffer the grandiosity of these meanings because we simply do not understand the fundamental basis of vocabulary. the book is written by us, and thus, as authors, we should not assume that any adjective is the same across two, three, a hundred people. this is the gripe i have with the english language, or just languages in general—that its stability is used to pigeonhole the idiosyncrasies of every figure, making each of us vulnerable, eager for a 'better us', a 'better me'. it is made as such that every single word embodies an incisive comprehension, when it is, in its actuality, fluid, swirling around in a container of subjectivity. 'good' is not the good as we know it, neither is 'evil', 'debauchery', etc., inherently bad

many a time, we label people with the nuances we carry significantly in our pouches (i, too, am a culprit of this habit)—as nice, interesting, dull, or shady. we think them true and judge each entity before intimate discernment, and this decree dribbles through convenience to the docile opening of our veins, affecting us almost immeasurably in our years to come. i realise now that that verdict is not the absolute conclusion, that any judgment is omnipresent yet flawed, and we cannot be designated any term genuinely befitting us at all. what we essentially are, are merely living organisms smothered within a class of unjustifiable interpretations. i can describe someone as cute, as mesmerising, or 'special'... any way i like it, but is this person, really? is he/she actually good-looking? is he/she actually the embodiment of what all of society, i.e. the lexicon, thinks is amazing? what is beautiful, what is intelligent, and what is extraordinary? in the spirit of irrationality, why do we, subconsciously or not, let someone else decide who or what we are, to sew away at the appreciation of our unequalled identities, without our executive endorsement? no one is superior beyond another in cognition, no one can definitively say that you are depictive of any name, and in some way, i believe that once we release the obstinate illustrations of these words we use on others, and ourselves, that we carry so close to our hearts, and embrace the ambiguous qualities of each individual, it is when we settle—settle for the undivinable dispositions of those around us, but settle only for the current best

after all, the ventriloquists breathe and the threads of the puppets unravel into oblivion over time


Thursday, February 02, 2017
your skeleton is an entity separate from any nerve, any muscle, any line of life, separate from any sensation. your body is still and you feel nothing. but with his touch, your skin rises as the only platform in function. it siphons at the scent, that which drifts from his whispers, careless as they are, yet rousing all the same, your easy nonchalance in return, and in that moment, you forget the bones, the meat, the blood. the tenderness morphs into cobblestones in the cold, leaving prickly fur in its wake. you whimper into the crevice of his neck—it is the only organ that signed up for this rendezvous after all


Friday, November 25, 2016
i have failed to mingle faithfully with solace in my writing these few years, determined to expunge every little, natural affliction of life through the gaps of dreary sentences. but tonight jingzhi, russ and i had dinner together at marina square, and as with any rally she and i seem to categorise our meetings as, we remained completely sentient throughout the evening, the stage was humble, and i felt that familiar tranquility in the motley and candour of our conversations (albeit the newcomer to the table of shared meals and chinese tea). i am grateful, and when the going gets tough i know i will always be


Friday, September 30, 2016
bye jasmine

today is my last day at a place i've left and returned to for more than four years now. in a way, i guess i can say in hindsight that my time here is like an unsettled relationship i've finally rallied enough bravery to put to an end

someone once used the term 'modus operandi' when expressing his hurt to me. the event was quite a while back, i've forgotten most of how it felt like to sit fidgeting, seemingly irreparable in my self-reproach, yet i found that the phrase on its own had continued its tempest amongst all other texts i've accumulated over the years. perhaps that is the doing/undoing of language as one of my dominant priorities. i think about it frequently, allocating it to things—and by virtue of the circumstance from which i discovered these words—unfavourable things that i'm used to discharging with little to no contemplation, gesticulations that sprout out like natural claws from my flesh

for the past few weeks, i've been internally ruminating about its connection with my stint at this desk, with my snoozing of the alarm more occurring than desired, with my depictions of rigour and amusement alike pinned before eyes, with all the tasks in their initial variety and novelty, and beyond everything, with intimacies sowed within the second floor, then third, then independent of any location at all. many times before, i had presumed this to be my personal, endearing tendency to carry the shallow baskets of my life around forgivingly, clumsily, to enable the artefacts to mingle, familiarise, and marry, and to constantly dust the crumbs off those that had fallen and put them back into my embrace. i sauntered about my loved ones, blessed in the impression that i had, above everyone else, managed to unify a robust, private pool of affinities, to the dalliance i'd shaped indoors. we had known and looked after each other for quite a while, after all. but now, during my final days, this supposedly innocuous wont had launched its cruel brand. its facade had dissolved under grainy circumstances to reveal graceless, heavy cartons of silence, ills and irrevocable ruin, and i cannot help but think, were the boxes always there? had i been obtuse and ignorant in an subconscious attempt to clasp onto a splintering shelf? had i always been so relentlessly naive, or even foolishly determined to cradle shattering entities?

... has my habit become my modus operandi?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
i haven't written in a while, didn't feel like doing so because i am content, also mostly tired. i tell russ about this and he asks, it's a good thing right, i say, yes, but i don't really know if not writing is making me forlorn, too, like i have been for a while now

we were lying in bed after dinner with my family when i asked him if he would like to listen to some jazz. he replied 'yes'—'yes', not 'okay', which made me feel like he really wanted to and not because i insinuated a positive answer. i played ella and louis on vinyl. before dinner we were listening to nirvana and i remember him mentioning how he was conflicted by the song 'rape me', and i remember being taken by him saying that. i mused, don't you think that jazz on vinyl sounds so romantic, and he agreed, 'yes, very' in an almost whisper. i was stroking his eyebrow, we were both smiling and at that moment i really felt like i was enjoying what was transpiring before me 100%

that rarely happens


Monday, August 01, 2016
something i wrote for consciousness class
there are many things in life that hold great precedence over us. we are increasingly and unceasingly altered in our physicality and mentality by bodies of television, radio, arts, culture, intimate social circles and those that are not quite so, etc., and over the years, these have become the mediums which we allocate gargantuan credit to for formulating our dispositions. to me, beyond everything, the novel is and should be appraised as the most prominent entity of them all. in a modern world of many conflicting concepts and ethical conundrums, there are valuable lessons to be taken away from this that we could also consider as narrative fiction. a well-written novel is alluring in plot and voice at its very least, yet it also imparts upon its readers a sense of introspection that can be applied not only in the daily execution of life, but above all, in the reflection of the self. it is the beacon of promise that bridges somatic actions and peripheral thoughts of humans, often ignorant and frivolous, with the intrinsic significance of self-cognition and self-rumination. while there is limited literature of which that deliberates this line of thought, studies conducted by both sabine and sabine (1983), and ross (1999), appear to support it almost wholly. both investigations, accomplished by interviewing a thousand over readers across the united states, found many people who believe that books they have read had precisely brought about a change in their constitution, with some participants even going as far to say that the books “had literally changed them” (djikic, oatley, zoeterman, & peterson, 2009). like these researchers and avid readers, i, too, trust that it is through unraveling the metaphorical yet literal nature of the fictionalised characters, notable or not, that one discovers and builds upon the layers to form a more sturdy version of the self. this is the importance of the novel in metacognition as i see it

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
i haven't written in a while. they say the best writers are born out of tragedies or melancholia, and without those a writer is rendered uninspired or insipid. that is a statement i find fault with, because it merely gleams at the ability of the written word, but not the inability itself. certainly, those two, anonymns in contrast, should provide some explanation for the many whose voices we do not hear? we are rendered unable by happiness, of course, or anything settling nicely on the other end of spectrum, yes, but we are also unable by conflict—a conflict within one's self of whether or not we are indeed glad or sad

this is the conflict i've been dealt with in recent days, and so i do not write

how does one begin to describe confusion to her best capability? surely, she cannot, and therefore, she does not

Monday, May 30, 2016
i've spoken about my silly superstition to bodies of charity who would give heed. often, they find the belief strange yet reply unfailingly in kind, stating their own little neuroses to abate the malaise i suffer through mine. when i told my dad, he said, oh no that's not good, and i laughed a little both inside and out, as if to denote my understanding and flagrancy of his remark. of course it is absurd, i acknowledge that all too clearly, it is perhaps even idiotic and indicative of my small mind, but this is a conflict i feel like i will always grapple with. tonight i attempted to compartmentalise my irrationality by wearing a pair of earrings given to me by a ghost of my past, i was reading a book in bed when ultramarine began to trickle its heat across my bruises, so i proceeded as an instinctive measure to remove the accessory and almost immediately felt unladen. i am reminded of the times i assumed restriction in my demeanour just because i lack the tangible item that brings me an intangible sense of courage, which i now realise could be related to my fixation with perfection. in my dreams the people i've abandoned morph into new souls who, in turn, desert me, and i think about the articles they had laid in my hands with their sincerest resolve, how much i have betrayed my need for consistency of self to leave behind violent sentiments i fear. everything seems to me to be contigent upon a material object, as i am happy i am worried it would be altered from pearl to jade, just like how it did reality to dream. i want that fixation to go away