Omar Khayyam & Kari Perut Ikan

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

- Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam I am not, but when
mum cooked delicious kari perut ikan,
I dashed to the village bakery to buy
a loaf of bread for jolly good makan

There were long beans, fresh pineapple,
daun limau purut, & purple aubergine,
pickled fish roe and stuff best not told;
that last part, it’s better to just imagine

Then mum added fresh shelled shrimps
to the curry for extra marvellous taste;
I dipped my crusty roti into the mélange
to scoop and eat all, there was no waste

I sat beneath the bough of a belimbing
tree, to tuck away a feast just wondrous,
but without a flask of wine or singing,
and I have no time for a book of verse

Mum chose jasmine rice, and sis bihun,
but all with helpings of kari perut ikan;
It’s Siamese style cuisine, hot and spicy
pepper-ish curry, healthily sans santan

And you may ask why I didn’t include
you, my sayang, the one called ‘Thou’;
I couldn’t 'cause Paradise’d be absent
when the curry for me was not enow

What is tom yum kai or shark fin soup,
soup kambing or even chicken wantan;
all these are but nothing when compared
to mum’s incomparable kari perut ikan

Oh, by the way, have you even guessed yet
that secret ingredient of my mother’s curry
If you still haven’t got it, hold tight to your
seat, cause it’s yummy pickled fish tummy


Memories of kampong sounds

The singing of the bullfrogs
throughout the humid night
told us it would not be long
before rain gave cool delight

The humming of the cicadas
pulsed in chirring monotone,
serenading an evening stroller,
suddenly silence, he's all alone

Long before dawn, I awoke
to a rooster's loud crowing;
once, twice, thrice, then the
sparrows started twittering

But now I hear those sounds
only vaguely in my memory,
while I am blasted daily with
noises, discordant, incessantly,

of car horns and roaring bikes,
harsh pounding and clanging
of piling hammers, & strato-
blasters of motorcars passing

Oh, of black-naped orioles,
what would I give to hear
their sweet warbling again,
‘ere they too soon disappear


No footprint in the sand

I was all alone on the beach
strolling towards the red sun
lying on the western horizon;
T’was when night had begun.

Every step I took on the wave
beaten beach, the silver sand
rose up between my wet toes,
and thus leaving on the land

my footprints of the evening,
till the murmuring waves swept
away the tracks I made, leaving
no memory of where I stepped.

Years later I went to that beach.
To hear the waves roar cheekily:
‘Ah, you’re back’, hinting again
I'd leave no footprint as memory.


Where are the dragonflies?

Eons ago, by the village pond
I saw wonderful flitting things,
& recall delightful memories of
miracles with gossamer wings

I saw one of deep turquoise blue
hovering over the leaf of a lotus,
while another of orangey colour
rested on the violet convolvulus

Darting there, then hovering here,
creating rainbows in the sunlight
wherever they flew, continuing so
till daylight gave way to the night

I wonder where are the dragonflies,
after they've turned the village pond
into a filthy junk pit, devoid of water,
blooms, blue morning glory or frond

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