Telok Kurau : a poem


Singapore Memory
Seet, Oliver

Dr Oliver Seet (1937) who was an Associate Professor of English at the National Institute of Education before his retirement has been writing poems since his undergraduate days at the University of Malaya (1956-1960) and his poems have appeared in many anthologies, newsletters and magazines.

"Telok Kurau" (20th December 2012) as it was in the  late 1940's when I went to Telok Kurau Primary School will always be filled with nostalgic memories. It was a place with charm and a certain indefinable atmosphere and some of the happiest and most carefree times in my life were spent there - catching and rearing spiders for combat, flying kites with strings coated with glass, top-spinning,  marbles, rubber bands and other boyhood games - lost to the present generation obsessed with smart mobile phones and computer games.

Telok Kurau
by Oliver Seet

At cockcrow in Telok Kurau
in a half-remembered borough of time,
the passage of the morning
was marked by the school bell
and afternoons were timeless;
spent in leafy hedges
in quest of spiders
bred to be matchbox gladiators;
in sharpening kite strings
into incisive weapons
for battle in the skies:
in honing top-spinning skills
to knock other tops
out of gyre;
in mastering trajectories 
to become the marble king;
in teasing rubber bands
to leapfrog into victory.
There was freedom to grow
In that youthful borough of time
in Telok Kurau,
to know true leisure
and the joys of childhood;
not bound by fetters
to tutors
after school,
nor buried by an avalanche
of homework,
nor isolated by the lure of mobiles
-each child in his narrow cell phone
forever trapped.
Those kampongs
through which I walked to school,
the stall where iceballs
laced with milk and syrup,
stood outside the school gates,
the kachang puteh man
who tapped each fold of nuts twice over
to accommodate more,
are all gone.
But a gossamer of star flakes,
lying like a patina
over the landfall
in the Telok Kurau
of that half-remembered borough of time,
remains forever lodged
in the collective memory
of that generation,
that grew untrammelled
by a surfeit
of imposed learning.