Bukit Timah Singapore (for Dr. Lee)


Singapore Memory
Joshua Ip

Joshua Ip has published two volumes of poetry: _sonnets from the singlish_ (2012) - 44 sonnets on growing up in Singapore; and _making love with scrabble tiles_ (2013) - 44 poems on love and language. His poetry and short stories have been published in various print and online journals, and he is the first prize winner of the Golden Point Award 2013 for the short story _The Man Who Turned Into a Photocopier_. He is currently working on his first graphic novel, after the flood. He still wants to be a writer when he grows up.

Intro: I wrote this poem as a response to Dr Lee Tzu Pheng’s similarly titled poem “Bukit Timah, Singapore” which appeared in _The Calling of Kindred_ anthology which I studied for O’ levels when I was 15 or 16. This poem updates the context of Bukit Timah Road or Dunearn Road to the modern environment, where Bukit Timah Road is currently been cut up and torn into many different pieces as a result of the construction of the MRT line that runs from the city through Bukit Timah up to Bukit Panjang. This poem also deals with the social economic changes that Singapore is undergoing with the increasing income quality and the importing of foreign workers to actually do the bulk of our construction work and how this is more and more visible in Bukit Timah Road today. The rich houses are next to the poor construction workers, who are actually doing the work.

Bukit Timah, Singapore (For Dr. Lee)
by Joshua Ip

they’ve cut him open, spread him out against
the sky, open heart surgery – tubes snake
around and ladder over ribs. blood takes
a different route from heart to lung to brain

each time, a surge – diverts through plastic, metal,
surfaces for air, then dives down deep 
into the flow and ebb. he breathes, and sleeps,
and never ceases dreaming, pulsing vessels,

driving ambition, throbbing need – surround-
ed on all sides by rich deposits, hopes
hardening into fat. his arteries choke
on themselves, narrowing, a sputtering sound –

the surgeons scuttle, he’s flown in the best 
money can buy. they don their orange vests.