Tag Archives: Sia Tiong Hua


by Sia Tiong Hua

after I maul your body,
I will circle my fingers around every bruise,
kiss them, hard, hard, soft.
(I sunk my teeth into a good dream
but it tore, it tore.)
I may make new bruises kissing you,
delirious with vodka moon, with your scent,
angry you leave no marks,
not one bruise on me.
I will circle my arms around you,
feel you, feel you, every hair standing,
every abrasion, the residues of a dream
beneath your skin:
I will crush the rest of your bones
in my grip, grind your bones to powder,
fling them all into the air,
so they come snowing back down.
Then I will open my mouth,
for I am your urn and you are my ashes.

after I maul your body,
I will give you a bit of my soul,
even though I do not have much to spare.
My eyes will implore, kiss it, kiss my soul,
but you will just turn it over and over
again in your hands.
Afterwards, you will stand,
perhaps saying you need a glass of water
or you need to use the toilet.
And I shall close my eyes,
waiting for the weight on the bed
that will never come,
pinching myself, telling myself
these are bruises you have left me with.


Dicing Tofu with my Mother

by Sia Tiong Hua

Dicing tofu with my mother
is difficult:
she is too quick, so fearless,
and I am
too scared of the glinting knife,
the grim TOK-TOK-TOK on the chopping board.

I am Chinese around my mother,
my mouth warm with words I cannot say
and chilly with bare English substitutes.
Even the way I hold the knife,
how I stand and how
I breathe.

How to tell her
I am thinking of all the pretty boys in USA,
how to move my heavy body
to a slow, easy dance with theirs.
How to tell her
I am afraid to drink cha in a foreign land,
wanting to down booze instead
like her wantan tang.

Is silence Chinese too
or simply human?
I look at my mother, all her lines,
and her eyes, their brightness
replaced by worry over the years.
She sets down
her knife with her tired hands,
asking me, “Are you okay?”

And I think,
“Another day.”

He Cannot Remember When He Mastered the Art of Blowing Spit Bubbles

by Sia Tiong Hua

He cannot remember when he mastered
the art of blowing spit bubbles. Or, when
he started sculpting saliva exactly, for that
matter. His mother tells him that he began
his art when he was just a baby, but he
suspects that she takes frothing into
consideration, which does not count. Five
years old is a likelier approximation, he
thinks. Must have seen his friend drawing
a fish with bubbles coming out of its mouth,
or something like that. He loves animals,
so he imitated them as a child. Anyway,
what he does remember is that the children
loved his spit bubbles. They would demand,
How do you do that, Could you do that again,
and when he did that again, they would
scream in excitement and call their friends
over to witness this awesome, crazy talent
until he became absolutely giddy from fame.

Age diminishes the worth of spit bubbles,
he soon found out, so by the time he was in
high school, he stopped showing his peers
what he used to show everyone. Instead, he
sometimes went up to the third (and last)
floor of the science block during recess. He
would lean on the rails on the side of the
building that faced the courtyard. Avenues
of students flooded the yard during recess
and he would bring forth a bubble, then watch
the watery balloon parachute down into
the sea of tudong and songkok and sweaty
heads without bursting until the very end.
He would feel an odd sense of pride and
just a little bit of vengeful satisfaction.


by Sia Tiong Hua

My father taught me to love the durian
when I was still ripping flesh and face
trying to part my lips. He smashed
the butcher knife into the thorny husk,
and tore the king apart with his hands
through the cleft the knife had made.
Those hands, now sticky with sweat
and sweetness, reached for the fruit’s
guts. He held the kingly, gold chunks
with nervous fingers. And I, desperate
for meat, groaned in my mother’s womb,
crushing the placenta. Shh, quiet now.
Quiet now. He whispered, his hands
shaking. He said an atheistic prayer
as he fed my mother. May I always be
who I am. May I never forget myself.

This is why I dislike the durian now.
But not in the same manner foreigners
dislike the fruit. They say the king
of fruits tastes like sewage, feels like
a knife going down their throats
and up their nostrils, after retching
various guts. No, it is neither what they
say, exactly, nor the sweet, rich custard
the fruit once was. I can only taste
the bittersweets of a bowl of almonds
these days. These days, the fetal memory
of durian on my tongue only burns,
like hell. But I, holding on to the ounce
of sweetness left in the durian, tolerate
the seed my father’s shaking hands
have dropped into my throat, the butcher
knife I hold my mouth wide open for.