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Monsoon History

Monsoon History

Monsoon History

The air is wet, soaks
Into mattresses, and curls
In apparitions of smoke.
Like fat white slugs furled
Among the timber,
Or sliver fish tunneling
The damp linen covers
Of schoolbooks, or walking
Quietly like centipedes,
The air walking everywhere
On its hundred feet
Is filled with the glare
Of tropical water

Again we are taken over
By clouds and rolling darkness.
Small snails appear
Clashing their timid horns
Among the morning glory

Drinking milo,
Nyonya and baba sit at home.
This was forty years ago.
Sarong-wrapped they counted
Silver paper for the dead,
Portraits of grandfathers
Hung always in the parlour.
Reading Tennyson, at six
p.m. in pajamas,
Listening to down-pouring
rain; the air ticks
With gnats, black spiders fly,
Moths sweep out of our rooms
Where termites built
Their hills of eggs and queens zoom
In heat.
We wash our feet
For bed, watch mother uncoil
Her snake hair, unbuckle
The silver mesh around her waist,
Waiting for father pacing
The sands as fishers pull
From the Straits after monsoon.

The air is still, silent
Like sleepers rocked in the pantun,
Sheltered by Malacca
This was forty years ago,
When nyonya married baba.

                                                 Shirley Geok-lin Lim

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