Author photo by Charlene Winfred Photography

Eileen Chong was born in Singapore and lives and works in Sydney, Australia. Her poetry has been shortlisted for numerous prizes, including the Anne Elder Award 2012, the Prime Minister's Literary Awards 2013, and the Victorian Premier's Literary Award 2017. Her latest book is Another Language, published in the Braziller Series of Australian Poets by George Braziller, New York, USA. Her third book, Painting Red Orchids, has been shortlisted for the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Award 2017.

Eileen Chong

Pulau Ujong

Hard on the land wears the strong sea and empty grows every bed. "Dream Song 1", John Berryman The island at the end of the peninsula. Fringed by ocean. All day, the water recedes. At night, invades. The people on this island go about their business. Not caring. Hands move to mouths. Counting. The moon pulls the tide like a magnet. Women turn in their sheets. Buried on the hill, ancient daggers. Steel like waves. Rippled rainbows. Broken bowls. Wood rots, cloth rots. All we have now are words.

Although I have lived in Australia for over ten years now, I often return to Singapore in my poetry. I try to make sense of where I am now by looking back at where I've come from. I am interested in exploring the pre-colonial history of Singapore and juxtaposing it with observations of modern Singapore. Pulau Ujong is the earliest known reference to the island of Singapore, dating back to a third century Chinese map. The "hill" I refer to in the poem is Bukit Larangan, or what is now known as Fort Canning, the site of an ancient royal Malay burial ground. Along with other artifacts, traditional Malay daggers known as keris have been uncovered there, with their distinctive wavy blades.

Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published monthly by Glass Poetry Press.
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