Bird Watching

For years when it rained like today,
I ran from desk to corridor.
Elbows on railings.
Curtains from clouds to grass.
Frogs in my school field in a

concerto for double-bass in E minor.

And always after rain,
at high noon, the kingfisher rested 
on the netball pole. Sniper
in ceasefire. Head cocked,
he held court. Maestro

with beak for baton,
he swooped and turned
musician into meal
while on other days,
Mum warned me to

speak softer!

when the kingfisher arrived
at our window. She loved
his shimmer in the sun,
flash of blue-green as he
swivelled and shook

water off his raincoat. 
Mr Kingfisher studied me
with his binocular eyes
as Mum with hers. Till today,
we fight in different tongues. Mine:

convent-schooled 
with bad Mandarin 
thrown in. Hers:
get-the-job-done English 
with the melody of our own people. 

Ga ki nang, ga ki nang.

When it rained years ago,
we stood side by side
in whispers to watch 
the kingfisher hunt 
and prayed 

in our own tongues
when he flew away;
glints in our eyes 
and his, like sunlight 
after monsoon rains.


*ga ki nang -- our own people. Teochews use the phrase ‘ga ki nang’ to refer to each other.


Lungs Project