Verses from TRIAL
NIGHT ON BENJAMIN SHEARES BRIDGE
Ximeng: So, obedient to the engineer’s art,
pronouncing the austere truth of their calculations,
concrete and iron took form:
the bridge vaulted the harbour,
high on its multiple arches.
The viaduct soared; a new road sprang,
over distance shrunken, to our furthest east.
So it stands; for us, no mean achievement.
Rosa: A view to lift up and hush one’s heart.
Ximeng: Now on a night like this, looking outward,
moonlight and mist lie milky on Kallang River.
Water and air both gleam luminous.
Shadows of land loom low amidst silver.
We seem to hang in a sphere of light,
at the heart of a universe pure and serene,
like the realm of reason itself, untouched by passion.
Rosa: Look at the eyes of the night!
Beecell windows in the glowing towers
guard the sleep of a thousand families.
Slow on midnight roads, headlights spin homeward at last
While in the city neon still blazes.
On the sea’s dark bosom, like a jewelled chain,
ship on ship watches night’s passing.
Look now, a plane bends wide over the harbour,
a bright flammifer sliding across flickering stars --
one day I’ll follow that far-bound traveller,
to go see the lights of other cities;
I’ll ride that moving spark as it climbs the steep sky,
to clear our airspace and turn to the north.
What we are -- grows out of what we have been.
Our hope for the future -- rests on experience past.
Today’s decisions, that will shape tomorrow,
must be made in the light which history casts.
Our nation was born in times of trouble
when political passions ran to and fro.
British Empire went down in rubble.
Colonialist masters had to go.
Chorus (on a low ominous note):
go go go go go go go go
Ximeng: We struggled to grasp our freedom and hold it.
Labour unions made hostage the town.
It seemed self-government soon would have folded.
Enemies waited to tear us down.
down down down down down down down down
Ximeng: Out of those years we forged stability.
We learned how the balancing act is done --
one group’s interests against another’s,
so all can pull together as one.
Chorus (murmuring reflectively, legato):
Survival --stability -- and prosperity --
didn’t come easy, they had to be learned.
Co-operate, tolerate, act as citizens --
through precepts like these was stability earned.
Ximeng: Our new young nation had hardly started
when its main economic props were withdrawn.
A main employer overnight departed.
A commercial hinterland was suddenly gone.
Chorus (sounding worried)
gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone
Ximeng: Dark forbodings of doom were spoken --
unemployment would rise and imports would drop.
We could not survive with our rice-bowl broken!
They said our economy soon would stop.
Chorus (starting to panic)
stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop
Ximeng: Out of that crisis we salvaged survival --
found alternative ways for jobs to be made.
Skill and persistence must be our resources.
We built industries and pushed up trade.
Chorus (gravely, legato)
Suvival -- stability -- and prosperity
seemed impossible, newly begun.
Diligence, discipline, bold initiative --
only through these our survival was won.
Ximeng: Survival, stability and prosperity -- these we won and you know the cost.
Should our determination falter, all we have won could well be lost.
All our gains could well be lost.
Cost well be lost -- well lost the cost.
Ximeng: This is the time, when you are asked to renew your committment --]
to confirm the mandate of those who have led you.
consider your own best interest, consider your past and your future.
I lack no confidence, you will rightly judge what to do.
THE HELMSMAN’S TASK
Ximeng: This is the burden of leadership, not to be easily shed,
the job that I undertook, that has to be done.
This is the helmsman’s task, to stay in control,
to direct the ship, though the night drags on
and flesh grows weary ...
Yet steady the engines beat on the track he has set,
heading for distant haven, clear of hazard and shoal.
The bright constellations blaze overhead,
assuring his course. Uncertainties flee.
The ship drives on, though the crew are sleeping.
Tomorrow the flag-decked entry to harbour
ends proudly the vigil the helmsman is keeping.
This the reward for his long night’s labour,
alone with the stars and the sea.
It’s a lion it’s a whale
got a mane got a tail
it can run and roar and swim by the shore
got the scale on the tail and the mop on top
gonna hop and flop and never ever stop
and they call it --
It can gallop and lash it can wiggle and splash
it can prance and dance and run like a flash
with red on the head and fin on the skin
gonna swim with vim just to keep in trim
and they call it --
(change to a slow swinging rhythm)
Sea creature! new feature!
Where did you come from? where were you born?
fish animal, half mammal,
out of what fantasy, far and forlorn?
Well look at it go --
Full of glee in the sea and fun in the sun
gonna flash and splash and rollick and run
By the skill of the gill and the law of the paw
gonna roar on the shore all for Singapore!
MRS TEO AT THE FOOD CENTRE.
Mrs Teo: This is the kind of place I like to go to. Don't you think so also?
Anytime when you need a square meal
Or when you just happen to feel a bit peckish
Always there’s something to suit how you feel
When you go to the roadside and eat some rubbish.
Actually if you are living in Singapore
You are bound to end up at the hawker centre
Not only the food that you’re going there for,
But you feel more cheerful as soon as you enter ...
You walk in at night and you see so bright
And all very crowded, you look for a table
You get pepper in your nose and you hear so much noise
Then you take a walk to see what is available.
Some people like to eat very very hot,
They go for pedas and Indian curry,
Some people must have their rice and soup,
Some people just want to get their char-siew-fan in a hurry
And quickly swallow and get back to office.
I honestly cannot see the point of this.
They have all white tiles, and daily they take a big hose and wash
The whole floor and keep it all clean.
They have little cement tables and and stools, nothing so posh;
It is all very simple. All very genuine.
Nobody has to be shy here.
There is Lim eating curry on banana leaf with fingers,
Mahmat using chopsticks, that girl selling Anchor beer
Is cracking Cantonese jokes with the Indian drinkers.
You coould run into your “ex” or the tuition teacher,
Or your doctor or the office peon;
You can come in your slippers and shorts and a smelly old tee-shir’,
Or wearing your evening dress and eau-de-cologne.
But where to go is what you must know.
Not everywhere is just the same.
On this subject everyone expert.
Everybody is playing this game.
“This is my special place you must try.”
“That fellow’s kwai tiow just a bit dry.”
“This stall, original, always got crowd.
Over there now become very proud.”
Chinese or Malay or Indian or Peranakan,
One thing we all really know how to makan.
What is life for, if you can’t enjoy a bit?
What is money for, if you cannot eat?
So what I say, like this everyone should --
I am going to enjoy my food.