Loh Guan Liang (b. 1984) is the author of the poetry collection _Transparent Strangers_ (Math Paper Press, 2012), as well as the co-translator of Art Studio, a Chinese novel by Singapore Cultural Medallion recipient Yeng Pway Ngon. His poems have appeared in various local and overseas journals, including Eunoia Review, Kin Poetry Journal, Mascara Literary Review and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. He is also the winner of the 2011 Moving Words poetry competition organised by SMRT and The Literary Centre.
“Bukit Batok Central”, written in 2011, traces the poet’s thoughts as he navigates a neighbourhood where much of his childhood was spent in. The poem, then, becomes as much a (re)exploration of space as it is a remnant of loss.
Bukit Batok Central
by Loh Guan Liang
the casual friction of returning
makes me almost a spectre
in the old neighbourhood, familiar haunts
made foreign by bubble tea and bread.
i generate so much heat they toss their stale
cigarettes into the drain and run.
at least the clinic with a missing letter
on its sign still flashes me a well-meaning
gap-toothed grin, though the shutters
are down for the holiday. and what
about the tuition centre upstairs,
hunched under all that questioning?
i walk across the road to the kopitiam :
the stall that used to sell two-dollar chicken rice
now directs me to another stall to let.
like me the twentysomethings
have outgrown the old spaces and fashioned
new lives in new ones, the five-foot ways of yore
awkward in pockets full of change.