Second Letter to Mama

Second Letter to Mama (c) Tan Keng Chiew

Dear Mama, you are standing by the stove
and I am standing on the chair by the stove
as the rice rises warmly in the clay pot
the soy sauce stains it a chestnut brown
shiny as enamel with oil.

And the rain outside and the trees outside
are papaya trees, and their tiny flowers,
male, female, let out a scent
honey in water, with the swift
hard breaths of rainwater darts.

The puddles on the ground are Earl Grey tea,
Mama’s tea, taken with condensed milk
in a pot in the fridge, unstuck with the
pluck of the magnet. My hair is short,
glossy like the rice and the rain.

This poem has been translated into Chinese, inspired a painting by my mother (above) and a music composition for voice and violin by Koh Chengjin (debuting at the Loke Cheng Kim Foundation Scholarship dinner 2018)

给妈妈的第二封信

妈妈:你站在火炉边
我站在火炉边的椅子上
米饭在温热的煲锅里泛起
酱油把它染成栗棕色
油油的,闪亮如珐琅

外面下着雨,窗外的
木瓜树开着细小的花,
雄的,雌的,发出微香
如水中蜜糖,雨箭那
迅疾而硬朗的气息

地上滴着伯爵灰茶水珠,
就像妈妈的茶:拔开
磁体吸上的门,从冰箱里取出奶罐
倒进炼乳。我的短发
光滑如米饭,如雨滴。

(self-translated, edited by Chen Bo)

Second Letter to Mama score by Cheng Jin Koh


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