Lit Allsorts presents…

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Expression

Sutures

more like censors.

Vein-discoloured haphazard thread in and out

of my gums

sewn like a purse, my gum and lip

locking my prodding tongue out

Feels like mosquito-net gauze.

Crease

when the bottom half of my face

stretches

a crippled grin

straining against the seams

Swollen it’s hard to straighten my face

when tangled with stitches

The right half winks up

the left immobile treacle.

I like wry smiles – pretty attractive. Just not

when it’s because of

sutures.

 

 

Written in July by Fara Ling. A reflection upon the larger meaning of her first oral surgery to justify the pain she experienced once the anesthesia wore off during the first post-op week.

Bazaar

Smudged tents clog streets

tissues wadded in a sink

cars park in pregnant bulges

stale sun rusting as

day hinges to night.

Tudung-covered mak ciks and

pak ciks stack yellow plastic trays

fold pink checquered tablecloths

unpin hand-printed signs

wedge tables into vans

heads bent, hands oily and caked with flour.

Maghrib’s scent weighs heavily in the air

Night stars unobscured percolate

The last lights remain.

So do the beggars sewn down the street

hem cleaving road in two

Posture as crooked as back alleys

like knobbled carved staffs.

 

 

Written in July by Fara Ling

Feeling like a banana

I wonder if it is wrong to feel some days like a banana, the slang term for someone’s who’s Westernized. Someone who’s yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Someone who’s lost touch with his heritage and roots and imagines himself to be Western and modern. Now, it seems, in the post-Modernist era (assuming we’re still this era) the prominence of histories over history and scripts over script is highlighted, even exaggerated. National pride, ethnic pride, the dizzy embracing of the cultural potpourri — some days it feels more like mashed stew — wherein lies your roots.

Nationalism seems to be on the rise again, be it in the Western Hemisphere, Middle East, or Asia. It’s a markedly different kind of nationalism from the kind that drove World War I, thankfully, but nationalism nonetheless. I deeply appreciate many aspects of it, such as the reassertion of local culture (dances, paintings, pottery, the opening of cultural museums) and the new attention given to studies on various ethnic and linguistic groups. Generally, the world has become more inclusive.

But sometimes I feel as though there’s almost an expectation for people to behave a certain way — perhaps it’s only among adolescents; I really can’t say. ometimes I see adults giving kids weird glances when they choose to eat fish-n-chips in a coffeeshop when Chinese stalls abound. Being Malaysian means speaking Manglish (mangled English or Malaysian English?), dropping “mahs” and “lahs” and “mehs” and “sias” into every other sentence — people who’d chose Penang Assam Laksa over pizza any day.

Come to think of it, I’m fairly certain this “problem” is one of language. Arrival argued the Sapir-Whorfs theory that the language you speak affects the way you think and ultimately the person you are. While I don’t believe learning an alien tongue could give us the power to see time in a non-linear fashion, there is some validity in this claim.

Being a banana has to do with a different way of thinking and a different way of communicating, a way that runs divergent from the majority of the others in your birth culture. In Malaysian context, for reference’s sake, this vague assertion means that young people are suspected of being more white than Malaysian/Chinese/Malay/Indian/whatever they are supposed to be.

Personally, I don’t see why banana tendencies need to be frowned upon. White a banana may be, but it’s still inherently Malaysian.

Spoiler Alert! a.k.a. Zine preview ;)

Sneak peaks at Lit Allsorts Spring Issue 2017!

But, I always knew how this life ends. I know where all these people will go when their time ticks dry on earth. 

~ Aileen Tan

Deaths don’t make much noise as they amble up our doorsteps, and they make even less as they walk away. There’s no dramatic build-up or Ramin Djawadi soundtrack as the end approaches: the sandcastles stood proud; meteors fell as the dinosaurs frolicked; a beautiful couple can be drowned on their honeymoon… Be a hedonist, be godly, but whatever you do, don’t take the future for granted.

~ Daniel Kam

I’m on my own now (by Danelle Tan)

The following piece is by Danelle Tan, a fourteen year old homeschooler who loves to read.

A response to Lit Allsorts Fall Issue journal prompt, themed around independence.

*******************************

Saying goodbye was the worst part…

I had always wanted to see the world out there but I couldn’t fight the urge to stay. Why?

I love my family but I’m not sure if they loved me.

As a 16 year old boy, growing up in a small cottage built for a family for 6 was tough and overcrowded with my 11 noisy brothers and sisters, my grandpa, my dad, my mum – and me. As farmers we had to traipse the distance of 4km everyday to the fields at dawn to plant, harvest and tend to the growing herbs and vegetables that we traded in at the market every Sunday morning for money. Money for the rental of the house, my sisters and brothers’ school fee, our own food that we buy from the market, and several other bills we get from the government.

I have never been to anywhere other than my cottage, the market – and the field.                

It has always been the same routine every day.

It was a family tradition that at the age of 17 we had to leave the family home and find someplace else to start a new life. We could start our own business, become an apprentice, or be left to the streets of a homeless beggar. It was the family tradition.

As I lay down on my small pallet that night with an old shirt as a pillow, among my large and boisterous siblings and family, I thought about my new life.                                            

What would I become? I hadn’t really thought about it much yet. What was waiting for me out there? Would I be prosperous in my work? Would kind of career -would I find?                 

 As these questions played over and over in my head, I finally fell asleep, exhausted from the arduous day of work to the lullaby of frogs croaking and crickets chirping rhythmically outside, wondering what was waiting for me, tomorrow…   

I couldn’t get up. There was something pulsing and furry and white on my face, which I pushed off.  My little Basenji cocked her head, looked at me with her bright black eyes, plopped down, and started rolling on the concrete floor excitedly as if she knew that we were going out. I wiped my face with my pillow and got up, flinging my towel over my shoulders and scooping Latte, my Basenji into my arms. Her pink tongue licked my face and her tail thumped against me, Latte was such a loving dog. Walking out into the dawn of the day, I put Latte down among the dewy grass and watched her chase a bird. With one high leap, she caught the bird in midair, trotted over proudly with her prize, and laid it by my feet. So much for loving.

I had to pack my things for the journey. Where I was going, I did not know. What I was packing, well, that couldn’t be any simpler. One set of clothes, my towel, a bar of soap, some hard bread and watery oats was all I needed. And of course, my Basenji, Latte.

I stood awkwardly at the doorway, and looked around the house that was to be no longer my home. My brothers clinging tightly to my legs, my sisters digging their fingernails into my skin. We said our goodbyes, and I left them.

Jogging steadily by the dirt road with Latte trotting by my side, the heat from the sun burning my feet through my thin, worn out shoes, I was in deep thought. I walked past shacks, mansions and shops, but it seemed that they were either deserted or full of busy people. There was no place for me.

Walking through the countryside, I was wondering if I had run out of serendipity when I saw, a charming and cozy looking villa sitting amongst the greenery of the countryside. I walked up to the driveway and peered through the window, I thought the house lovely and elegant, with a rustic atmosphere. I finally plucked up the courage to ring the bell, only to find that there wasn’t a bell, only a lion head brass knocker.                                                            

I knocked once, and a thin elderly woman dressed in a stylish dressing robe opened the door and scrutinized me like as if I were a prize at the county fair.

‘’Yes?’’ she finally spoke.

‘’Uhhhh…I…I’’ I stammered. I’d been thinking of what I was going to say when I found a place to enquire about a job, and all I could say now was uh?! I had to collect myself.                                                                                

‘’Are you in need of any service?’’ I finally managed to mumble.

‘’Speak up child. My hearing isn’t so good anymore.’’

‘’Are you in need of any service, ma’am?’’ I spoke more clearly. Gaining courage, I launched into a long presentation of what I could do and how I would be a great help to the household if she would only hire me and give me a place to stay, food to eat, water to drink, a mini wager and a bit of freedom to explore my new surroundings.

She nodded now and then listening intently. When I finished, the corners of her mouth raised a little. She seemed impressed, I hope.

‘’Louise Giselle, nice to meet you.’’ She extended her hand and I shook it.  ‘’I hope you will come to like me as your new employer, and I hope you will be a loyal and trustworthy employee. Come along, I will show you around the house.’’ Louise beckoned for me to step inside.

I got acclimated to my new routine. Louise was an amiable and altruistic woman, but she had her glum days.   I learned not to bother her when she was having one of those days. The poor woman, her husband had died in a severe car accident and he had gone into a coma. He had laid in the hospital bed, his life relying on medical life support for a month and had died soon after. She never had a child. She was a widow.

Sometimes I would wake up to find her dozing heavily in the hall, slumping against the couch on the floor.  I would carry her then to her bedroom and tuck her up, and she wouldn’t even notice that she had fallen asleep in the hall in the morning. Some days, she wouldn’t even eat. She would sit at the dining table, rest her head in her hands and stare blankly at the wall. I had to help her to eat sometimes.

As the years went by, her trust for me grew. She was putting her financial responsibilities into my hands. I helped her pay her bills, buy her food, maintain her house. I got her a personal maid to help her.                       

The employer I grew to love, who was almost like a mother to me, was getting further and further away from the real world every day. I missed her tinkling laugh, her eyes when they crinkled, her thoughtful words and funny poems. She had changed.

It was midnight, I was snoozing away in my soft, comfy bed one night when I heard a loud thump followed by a loud groan coming from Louise’s bedroom. I startled and shot out of my bed, my heart pounding in my ears and teared into Louise’s bedchamber. The maid had heard the noise as well and had ran in after me. Lying still on the floor with her face twisted in agony, as I felt her faint pulse, I heard my employer’s last words. 

In barely a whisper, she said ‘’There’s a will in my desk… I will join him, and one day I shall see you again.  You have given me great memories. One that I will never forget.’’

Her pulse stopped. Her body went cold. I hugged her stiff body, tears running down my face onto her shoulder. I will never see her again.

Several years later, as I visited her graveyard with my 2 children and my wife, Louise’s previous maid,    I could still see her crinkling smile and hear her familiar voice saying,                                                                                               

‘The tragedy of life is not death but what we let die inside of us while we live.’                          

I thought about all the things she had taught me and all the wonderful memories I had created with her.

By her love, she had made me the brave and humble person whom I have always wanted to be.

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