The palace doors open. A young boy slips out, and the doors shut behind him. A loud bellow rings throughout the building and echoes right into the dead air, booming into the centre of the quadrangle. The boy knows that time is not on his side, so he leaps down each stone step as fast as he can.
No-one will catch him. He does not want to go back into the shadows but be laden down with the title Crown Prince of the Light; he does not want the Queen Mother’s wispy, graying braid to stroke his face, he wants the fingers of sunlight to extend and tickle his young body.
No voice will catch him, either. As he stumbles down the last few steps, he thinks freedom is the wind that blows at this instant. He falls on the last step but manages to get up again, bouncing back with not the flexibility of his youth his body holds but with this thought in mind, freedom is the feeling that makes me weak in my knees.
The voice rings out again. He is on his feet and running, running to the centre of the quadrangle, arms outstretched and the sun beaming high above him. He replies to this sunshine, words crumbling out of him like a cookie shattered into pieces, “Take me”. The wind whips around him and takes care of the voice calling out to him. “Come home”, the voice demands. The wind is like a sword dancer…it is deft and spirals through the air, blowing away the voice of –
The voice bleeds through his twirling, and the boy feels pain splice his blissful period of freedom apart. He is forced to kneel as another blow is dealt to his back, then made to stand so two more blows can be dealt to his buttocks and thighs. “Hang your head!” The voice barks at him. The young boy’s head is already bowed, not in shame but in disappointment. How the wind has failed me.
He is dealt no more blows. Cold seeps through his garments as he is brought away, a solid hand ‘guiding’ his chest and shoulders away from the Palace Gates, steering him back to where he had come from and where he belongs: The Palace itself, back in the Chamber of Light, with servants in rustling silk aim to serve him, the Crown Prince, who refuses to play his role as a child of Heaven, a being of light – I want to be elsewhere. I want to be a peasant, in one of the fallen countries that His Majesty so often gets exasperated about. I want to have dirt on my cheeks and fear for my life.
The hand drops from his chest. The young boy is quick to breathe, his own hands flying up to massage his upper body. He wants to relish the returning of warmth but gets more than he bargains for; hot breath sears half of his face as the owner of the voice leans down. Stubble grazes his cheek. Before he can cry out or fight away, his older brother locks him in a sudden embrace.
“Little One, the only disappointment you may allow to cross your mind…is yourself. Had you run a bit farther, in the amount of time I took to get here, you would have made it out of this place.”
His older brother’s eyes rake his body, teary amber flints of stone set in a stonier face. The two of them, one petrified and tender, and one with more scars on his back than the other has scars on his entire body, standing on the stone steps.
The young boy holds his breath until his brother lets go of him. He lets himself be brought to the doors; he sees the insigna of a dragon and hunches his shoulders. He hears the voice again.
“Come. You need to see the Queen Mother. She’ll have something to say about your disobedience.”
He keeps his head down, shrunken in on himself. He manages to slide his hand out of the other’s loose grip, and wipes the sweat away on his own garment. He takes a step back. His older brother continues to walk. Older Brother walks nicely. His legs allow for a long stride, and his hips move evenly from side to side. When his brother stops moving, he allows his eyes to trail from his polished boots and up his body.
His older brother’s head turns and in that moment, he has never felt so dirty in his entire life. Whispers cascade up the walls and pour into him, tearing apart his soul like beasts ravaging a corpse. Crown Prince, why aren’t you in your seat? Crown Prince, ignore that person – he’s not anyone important. Crown Prince, your older brother is not suitable to be you. But you are suitable to be you, Crown Prince. He is unsuitable because of…because of his scar…look at your unblemished skin and youthful, plump figure. You will grow great and sinewy.
Thank you, Your Majesty.
In that moment, the Crown Prince realises the filth that the Palace is made of. He sees the people beneath their rustling silk and finds that only black exists beneath the colourful garments. He does not see gold glide the throne’s arms but sees the facade of something terrible.
He falls to his knees, clutching his gut. Older brother…help me…we shall taste freedom together…please let us go!
Before the Court Ladies of Light can gather around him, his older brother takes three long strides back. He tilts his sibling’s head back. The Crown Prince sees a flash of something silver, and tastes something incredibly sweet. This…this is what freedom tastes like. The Court Ladies of Light rush over, skirts whirling, already using their sashes to dab at their eyes, the Crown Prince is pale! He is pale! And ghastly! Call for the King, call for the King!
As chaos and commotion unfold behind the Palace doors in a mess of colur and the sickening sound of silk sweepingthe floor, the Crown Prince sees one final thing. A most crucial action, that happens in a split-second.
He sees his older brother slide a silver vial into his own sleeve. It causes the silk to rumple a little, but his older brother smoothens it out, holding his gaze. His lips tilt upwards, skywards. He lets his younger brother fall from his arms and onto the stone of the Palace.
Makeup covers the scar on his face, but the guilt that he has lived with for years takes him to his grave, unable to cover the darkness. The Crown Prince of Light swears that the dragon’s scowl becomes more ferocious whenever he climbs down the stone steps, and into the quadrangle, where the wind and the sun circle around him.
I didn’t want to write the first thing that popped into my head when the word ‘filthy’ comes to mind. However, I’ve just recently finished a drama, Scarlet Heart (which is the Korean adaptation of a Chinese Drama based on a novel by Tong Hua).
no words because…writing something as bombastic and as angsty and heartbreaking as
Scarlet Heart is a feat. A real feat.
YOU full of the
love and the light, lucky
creature, having swallowed
the SEA – mother of pearl,
the world is definitely
YOURS to conquer,
dart into the oyster! before it
slams SHUT and seaweed
sneaks all over your EYELIDS.
Hello there! After attending the Singapore Writers’ Festival, I bought two books [LONTAR] and also Equatorial Calm, a lovely anthology.
Haikus penned by the coolest poets ever (But Why Is David Wong Hsien Ming’s Accent Great AF?), poetry transcending languages (three tongues, guys! English, Japanese and Mandarin). What/A/Steal . Really glad I got the title page signed, too 😉
My inspiration was of course the Daily Post, but also Equatorial Calm and the very exciting concept of a Haiku – that encouraged me to try my hand(re:INTENSELY EXPERIMENT) at breaking out of my usual…er, style (can it be called that?) of weaving words and
a thought or two, into a poem.
Please enjoy ❤ and biggie thanksie to Lynette Tan because of this :’) Oh, tears of joy.
I can’t write any articles on loss and grief because I am not old enough yet. There are teenagers who post on their Facebook walls sadness in a status and teenagers who decorate their Instagram feeds with black and white, vignette, varying hues of gray and darkness and teenagers who slit their throats in 140 characters; the short sentences are extremely sharp and hurt their readers as well, prompting a Retweet. I can’t complain that I am sad and tired and that I feel, wondrously, miraculously, that I have given up, because what right do I have, I am only a teen and I am not an adult who has lost her sheen which the harsh adult world took from her like a blanket stolen off a baby in a cradle. I watch as my friends meet half an hour earlier in front of the school gates, to talk about things that they’ll be told off for talking about at home. I watch as my friends get asked why their pocket money is depleting so quickly, why there’s messages telling them not to die in a ditch, things’ll be better soon dear fifteen year old pal, it’ll be alright – the money was spent on tissues; a tissue transaction to soak up the many tears cascading down a soft cheek, skin that’s pimpled and pigmented and undergoing puberty; so young. The cheek of youth stained by tears. I can’t talk about my sorrows because it just shows how much of a teenager I am, someone who likes to complain and shriek and sob at the dinner table, cigarette hanging from my lips, tobacco nicking the piercing glistening on the skin of my lips, sins spilling from my lips. I can’t talk about the fact that I am also a vessel of regret, of sadness, of depressing things to talk about, like my mother, her mother, her husband, his wife, the grown-up cousin at a wedding, my distant relative whose son is the CEO of a tissue paper company that may or may not make money from sad kids who soak misery into the three-ply, four-ply, five-ply tissue paper like how teenagers – the girls, that is – use pads on their periods. I can’t pass discourse over the women who buy pads in excess and the fact that teenagers need them more than they do, nowadays, because I am too young and I should not have gotten my period, and I ought to keep my mouth shut. I can’t let the words tired, sad, really frustrated, want to fling myself off the building you work at slip out of my mouth, because the world has given me the privilege of owning thread and a needle to sew my young, ripe mouth up.
I poke at mother’s steaming dumplings (laid on one of those fancy china plates)
with a pair of chopsticks. She then scolds me for my improper use of the chopsticks;
my cloddish grip,
the way my dumpling-prodding is unsightly. Apparently, I am
never to use chopsticks like this again.
Mother iterates this like the chiding I have earnt is parable;
Unwittingly, I cut into her hemming and hawing,
brutishly, unanchored – like how I held the chopsticks.
Then why don’t I just eat the dumplings with a fork?
Her response is short and punchy, like what poetry websites want
in contributors’ submissions’;
How dare you
say that? Then don’t eat dumplings, don’t eat dinner – eat air with a fork!
My face crumples,
but I go on to tell my children How dare you when I realize that my
my cloddish grip
has been passed onto them. Sigh.
I am fourteen years old, easing into the Asian-way of things – fumbling throubh various steamboats and lo heis on Chinese New Year.
This clumsiness is an annual affair.
IT’S EMPTY TODAY.
The stage is empty, the lights are all on and streaming white fluorescent, and the floor is polished.
It was the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last time that I fell in love with freedom.
I like freedom. I like the taste of freedom as it sits in a cold ball, frozen and perched on an ice-cream cone. It teeters off the edge of the wafer, but I manage to get in five surreptitious licks before mom catches me for buying ice-cream in the first place, and worst off, dripping it all over the floor.
Sometimes I feel freedom whip through my hair like sea-salt. It musses up strands with nimble fingers and teases out tangles after. My hair is usually flat, but when freedom cards through it, my hair expands, puffing up to its true volume. I wish it could stay like that forever, even though it’s not very neat and I don’t look presentable after freedom leaves its mark on my head, in the form of a tornado-ing, flapping curtain of hair streaming behind me.
Freedom is a creature that slips as stealthily as a shadow in the night; it cannot be seen against black satin sky and creeps into my bedroom when it wants to, without my knowledge. The next morning, freedom is always there, tickling my shoulders with mocking laughter and informing me of the latest secrets I’d spilt while sleep-talking – I meant to tell freedom to fuck off, but what came out was a Freudian slip: I said fuck me, all the while staring at freedom’s happy face and grinning eyes and loving the way it slid into my room in the deepest corners of the night, watching over me as I slept.
I love freedom. I love freedom as it sings me to me Siren songs of mermaids at sea, of little black boys swinging lunch-pails to school, of girls like me who are blessed, blessed with money and boobs that fill a bra and blonde hair that freedom likes to play with.
I love freedom and that is why my hair isn’t the only thing I let freedom play with; I let freedom play with myself. My being. Every fiber of my body. Me. I become freedom’s plaything, and as I run to the park – without screams of ‘watch out, don’t come back too late’ like the other kids’ moms warn – and hoist myself up on the swings and shriek a happy tune like freedom taught me and bare myself to the world, like freedom taught me, with my skirt hiked up and blouse undone and hair untied, I feel like the happiest girl in the world.
Don’t they say to live life with the person who makes you happiest? This is my attempt at personifying an exhilarating, wondrous thing called freedom.
I wrote this on a whim (definitely, as seen from the quality of this…), and it’s unedited (who am I kidding, most of the content on this blog is raw as hell), but I’m not going to be self-conscious about it. 🙂