Category Archives: Poetry

“Une Nouvelle Vie” by Christina Sng

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LONTAR #7“Une Nouvelle Vie” by Christina Sng, which appeared in LONTAR issue #7, is eligible for a 2017 Rhysling Award in the Short Poem category. To support one of our most regular contributors, we are posting the poem in its entirety for Rhysling voters. Enjoy.

 
Une Nouvelle Vie
Christina Sng

Through the viewing window
I watch as they prepare
My body for recycling.

Father tries to comfort me.
“I know you got used
To that body.

But it has now worn out
After a million cycles
In this Universe.”

He leads me
Through the stars
And the pulsars,

Past the event horizon
And into the
Wormhole.

“Come, my child,”
He beckons,
“Let us choose

Another Universe,
Another body.
I promise you this,

We will find your mother.
There are countless
Universes to search,

But we have forever.”

“Une Nouvelle Vie” is copyright © 2016 by Christina Sng.

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“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.

Bryan Thao Worra’s Exploration of the Nak

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This isn’t a direct behind-the-scenes entry, but it’s pretty close. In Bryan Thao Worra’s poem “Stainless Steel Nak” in issue #1, he explores the Lao supernatural entity through a number of fascinating comparisons. In this blog entry from a year ago, he also does so through the Lovecraftian figure of Nyarlathotep:

In the glossary of On The Other Side Of The Eye in 2007, I explained that a nak is “Sometimes synonymous with Naga. Typically depicted as a many-headed giant serpent, as a river creature, and sometimes as a subterranean being. Nak are believed to help the Lao during wars, floods and are associated with fertility. Some say the Lao are descendants of a giant Nak living in the Mekong. To some, Nak are snake deities who converted to Buddhism and now protect the Buddhist Dharma. In art, they appear on the balustrades of temple causeways and platforms (“naga bridges”), personifying the rainbow, bridging the earthly and celestial worlds.” The Tibetan parallel is Klu, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Nyarlathotep is an “Outer God” known by many names and forms, including the Crawling Chaos. It first appearing in Lovecraft’s 1920 prose poem of the same name, he was later mentioned in other works by Lovecraft and by other writers of the 20th and 21st century. The form above is often referred to as the Howler In The Dark.

[…]

The Nak are not entities a Lao writer would present as villainous, because they are historically protectors of the Lao. (Of course, nearby mythologies take a different view of the Nak/Naga due to politics, etc. but that’s not necessarily germane to this discussion.) However, if we were to postulate how Nyarlathotep appears, it might come as Nak Dam, the Black Nak, which would be a parody of the traditional form of the Nak.

If we were keeping consistent with prior appearances, Nak Dam would most likely appear with a tri-lobed eye, black scales, and numerous tentacles protruding from a number of obscene, terrifying heads. Based on Lovecraft’s poem, we can speculate Nyarlathotep’s aspect of Nak Dam would do similar things it does in Europe and America, wandering the earth, gathering devotees by demonstrating strange, almost magical technology that eventually causes them to lose awareness of the world, of the passage of time, eventually leading to insanity and plunging the world into madness. A protagonist in Laos or a Lao expatriate community might possibly be trying to fight Nak Dam by turning to the dham, the truths and lessons of the Buddha and Lao customs to retain their sense of sanity. But would they succeed?

Behind the Scenes of Ang Si Min’s “The Immortal Pharmacist”

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From issue #1, Ang Si Min provides a behind-the-scenes look of her poem “The Immortal Pharmacist”:

My friend, Hemma, and I were in Penang for a holiday. One night, she asked me to tell her a story. So in the dark, I spun a yarn about the rabbit on the moon wanting a mate. The yarn got terribly tangled and bizarre, but it stayed wrapped around my brain. When I came back, this little poem unravelled from that yarn. I’m going to keep the rest of it to myself – it was really a story for the nighttime, not for print. 😉