Cyril Wong is the author of The Lover’s Inventory, and other works of poetry and fiction in Singapore.


On Universality

Ben Lerner writes in The Hatred of Poetry,

“Everybody can write a poem,” and asks if

“the distillation of your innermost being …


[can] make a readership, however small, a People …?”

Maybe because I’m not American


or because I was never a Universalist,

I’ve always thought, “Of course not!”

I write for you (as you watch your action-movie


beside me on a plane drifting through turbulence)

but more likely for me—or the infinity within me/us


that doesn’t toss, swell or shrink beyond

the vicissitudes of self, the words we tell ourselves.




What is the word that means

an existence of looking

both inwardly—without judgment


or desire to derive absolute sense—

towards an unfolding profundity,


and outwardly from somewhere

beneath the surface of our bodies

at every word, gesture and


reciprocity passing for time, all

without feeling divided, absent,


sorrowful or benumbed?





We think about moving to Malaysia

when we have enough money

or when we run out of excuses.

Anywhere freer than Singapore.

Not freer, but across the causeway

we could disappear in that hinterland

that isn’t an island; that is vast enough.

We talk of leaving but never go.

Night inclines us to each other.

Two homosexuals in a possibly more

conservative country—the irony.

Or maybe not at all ironic, since

being invisible is what we’re used to

and now it could be an advantage.

Yes, the irony. No hope of changing

society; instead we pick a Malaccan

condo beside a hospital, as healthcare

is important in our old age. Imagine

that: we might die together

far from here, when our home here

shades into a dream we might finally

depart, before waking up together

inside a better dream. Our merging

bodies on the bed; peninsula

withstanding the sea.