Category Archives: Issue #5

“The Woman in the Coffee Shop” by Christina Sng

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LONTAR #5“The Woman in the Coffee Shop” by Christina Sng, which appeared in LONTAR issue #5, has been nominated for a 2016 Rhysling Award in the Long Poem category! We’re all very proud of Christina, and to celebrate the nomination, here is the poem in its entirety. Enjoy.

 
The Woman in the Coffee Shop
Christina Sng

 
She was elegant, more
Graceful than a swan,
Neck like the pale white
Inner bark of a young tree.

Her hair was onyx, woven
Like black dragon beard candy
Onto her head, held only
By a single wooden chopstick.

Oak, I recognised. Not
From around here. Just like her,
An old-world hardened weariness
That came only with age. Great age.

Yet she looked only 35,
Face pale and unlined, her ears
Distractingly almost elven. And
Her ebony eyes—

Abyssal,
Deeper than death;
Maelstroms opening gateways
To unknown alternate universes.

She turned those eyes on me now,
Staring piercingly into mine.
I must have frowned, for her lips
Parted into a smile.

“Which one is he?”
She asked, in a soft whisper.
I turned my eyes to him,
Sitting nonchalantly

Four tables away,
Counting his 4D tickets
And drinking teh tarik.
She looked back at me

With those peerless eyes
And nodded.
Time froze
In that instant.

And everyone in the coffee shop
Along with it: patrons with coffee
Cups in hand; a man labouring
A heavy tray, pausing mid-step

As if to collect his thoughts;
A prata suspended in the air,
Swirled like a faraway
Infinite galaxy;

Saffron droplets
Freeze-framed above
A child’s plate beside me,
Her face full of glee.

It would be her first taste of curry:
Her mother capturing the moment
While grandma beamed proudly
And big sister sipped her tea.

I did not see the chopstick
Pierce his throat till
The world unfroze
And the first screams began.

When I turned, she was gone.
Later, by Papa’s bedside,
I held his still hand, stroked
His unruly hair from his face.

“Mama is avenged,” I told him.
“Please wake up now. Please.”
His breath quickened. I knew
He heard me. I thought of

The woman in the shop
And how she appeared
Out of nowhere to help me.
What did she want?

And why did she wear
My dead mother’s face?

 
“The Woman in the Coffee Shop” is copyright © 2015 by Christina Sng.

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Notes on “The Spurned Bride’s Tears”

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Issue #5Gord Sellar’s striking novelette, “The Spurned Bride’s Tears, Centuries Old, in the Rain”, was just published as the anchor story in LONTAR issue #5, and he’s assembled some notes on what inspired him to write it:

During the winter of 2010, I spent approximately two months in Indonesia (with much of that time spent in Depok, an exurb of Jakarta), where my then-girlfriend—now my wife—was studying Bahasa Indonesia, the official national language of the country. Indonesia’s not an easy place to be, at times: Jakarta’s traffic is pure insanity, and I got the worst food poisoning of my life there. But the place had a powerful effect on me: rereading the story at some remove, I find Depok rushing back into my mind with vivid, overwhelming immediacy.

One interesting thing about Jakarta is that, despite the nation’s official semi-secularity, and the overwhelming popularity of Islam there, the’re a certain amount of Hindu cultural material that still is very visible in Jakarta (let alone over in Bali, where Hinduism is still commonly practiced). Hinduism in Indonesia (as in much of Southeast Asia) predates the arrival of the now-dominant religions of Islam (in Indonesia) and Buddhism (in much of the rest of Southeast Asia) by a significant margin. Angkor Wat depicts scenes from Hindu, not Buddhist, religious narrative. The Ramakian of Thailand is a localized remix of the Ramayana. It got me thinking about Hindu cosmology underlying modern Indonesian religious practices and identities: what if the Indian model of the afterlife—reincarnation for as long as people need to work out their karmic and dharmic balance—were correct, despite the majority of Indonesians adhering to a different model of the afterlife today?

Read the rest of Sellar’s entry at his website. And read “The Spurned Bride’s Tears, Centuries Old, in the Rain” in LONTAR issue #5.

Cover and Contents for LONTAR #5!

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LONTAR #5

Presenting the cover and contents for LONTAR issue #5!

This issue of LONTAR presents speculative writing from and about Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Inside these pages, you’ll find:

  • an ancient and fatal karmic reunion in Jakarta by award-winner Gord Sellar;
  • the true origin of the Merlion by Singapore Literature Prize winner Amanda Lee Koe;
  • a young man’s literal transformation into an island by award-winner Ng Yi-Sheng;
  • a far-future Malaysian fairy tale by Kawika Guillermo;
  • a gentle aquatic apocalypse from novelist Erica Verrillo;
  • an enlightening visit with a forest monk in northern Thailand by Italian journalist Massimo Morello;
  • a comic on the price of technological hubris by Benjamin Chee;
  • and speculative poetry by Tania De Rozario, Joel Donato Jacob, Lee Jing-Jing, Daryl WJ Lim, Christina Sng and Sokunthary Svay.

We’re sending the issue to the printer in a couple of weeks, so it should be available in mid-October in bookstores all over Singapore, on the Epigram Books website, and as an ebook through Weightless Books. We’ll be launching L5 along with L4 at the 2015 Singapore Writers Festival in November, and many contributors from both issues will be on hand to discuss their writing and sign copies.