It is fall break now, and monsoon season has arrived at last. Though Singapore has no proper seasons, this is my favourite part of the year: waking up to rain every morning, 7:30 AM sharp. And every afternoon, another storm outside the window, 2:30 PM, teh tarik and sweet oranges and watching the rain sing its way to sleep. You can set your watch by it. The sky is the most punctual lover I know of. I have spoken much with my therapist lately about the word should. And how often I tend to use it when I am sad ("I should not be feeling this way"). And how I must learn to exist with sadness, sit with it and linger in it, for this is the only way it will eventually dissipate. I must breathe. I must let myself be enough.
It is a work-in-progress, as are all right things. But this fall break has been one of wandering the sidewalks, of reading books that make my soul feel whole, of writing poems full of bitter, ethereal honesty and sharing them with my Patreon fireflies. And all of this is making sadness easier to swallow. I am trying to see it as something tender. Not something to flee from, but to understand. To honour.
Related, one of my favourite comics for you: "I am not a happy person."
Do you know Rachel Poli? She was one of the first writers I met online and I could not be more honoured to have guest posted on her blog about the inspiration behind my writing. I love Rachel as I love stories: infinitely, endlessly, limitlessly. Something like this -
Say stories like you say compass, like you say little black dress, the deliciousness of night driving, slow-drip honey Sunday mornings, like lucky penny & the boy next door’s cat who is ugly but beautiful if you ask him, say it like you’ll never fall out of love with the person you first kiss, like hopscotch & carousel rides & your grandfather’s homemade milkshakes & the exquisite pleasure of the song on the radio that never seems to be overplayed: that’s what stories are. The inevitability, the permanence of them. Something that never changes in a world that never stops changing.
(Something that never changes in a world that never stops changing. Stories. Stories. Stories. Where would we be without these light-filled things in a universe of such darkness?)
Speaking of light...
I have been noticing, lately, how late afternoon autumn-time light permeates through the souls that let it in. And I have been going on many walks with Hachii. Chasing that light until dusk steals it away. Though I will never catch it, there is something so good in the searching anyway. I am beginning to realise that one must always go towards that light.
Assorted things that have been making me cry: the last letter from Luz Long to Jesse Owens ("tell him about his father"). How to tell a mother her child is dead ("do not ever say he was lucky that he did not feel pain"). A letter to the doctors and nurses who cared for my wife ("how would I have found the strength to have made it through that week without you?").
I wrote a small poem about love and burning, and it was published in the inaugural issue of the utterly gorgeous TRACK // FOUR magazine. As well: don't forget to browse through the other pieces in the issue, if you are so inclined. They are all overflowing with strength, delicacy, visceral knowing.
As someone once said:
"You are the finest, loveliest, tenderest, and most beautiful person I have ever known... ... and even that is an understatement."
(Someone, being: F. Scott Fitzgerald, my love.)
This is how I feel about you. What a bright, shining star you are! We are so lucky to have you here, dear friend. I am trying not to forget this about myself, and I hope that you try to remember it as well. Hold it to your chest and do not let it go.
I must confess, I have not been closely following the American election. Mostly this is due to the fact that all of the hateful rhetoric constantly being spewed makes me sick to my stomach. I would rather turn off the television and instead preserve my mental health, eat peaches, and read wonderful letters from eight year olds to the White House ("this country needs more spunk"). I think these are much better pursuits to focus on perfecting.
A book I recently finished and adored: Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje. It is ringing, lyrical, and so real. I found that Ondaatje's explorations of family and the self against the lush backdrop of Sri Lanka rang so true to my own experiences of growing up in tropical Singapore, a country clutching to tradition yet surging into modernity, caught between humid and a hard place. I could not recommend it more. Next on the list: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.
What books have you been reading lately, dove? I would so appreciate any recommendations you might have. And: if you are interested, I am documenting my 2016 year in media on Tumblr.
Related: Austin Kleon's 33 thoughts on reading (my favourites: "I will read whatever the hell I feel like. No guilty pleasures" and "I will not harbour the delusion that being a reader makes me a superior person").
I have been taking many photographs lately of things I find beautiful. Hachii. Sunsets. My friends. A single flower by the side of the road. An older couple, arms around each other, ambling down the street, alone and together. On better days, myself. It is a healing thing.
A few weeks ago one of my favourite bloggers, Heather Hufford, did an incredibly fascinating literary annotation & analysis of my lil poem, "Pandora". Poetry can seem such an inaccessible thing, which makes me rather sad. But Heather's thoughts are straightforward and easy to understand, and I have hope that they will open up windows to the wondrous realm of poetry for those longing to break in.
Navaratri, one of my favourite Hindu festivals, is here. Our family has been eating far too many sweets and going to the temple and celebrating this lovely universe on the nine nights relegated for this very purpose. Soon will be Diwali, which is by far my favourite festival. I love this time of the year.
"Drag an armchair to the curb and submit to strangers." Yes & yes & yes.
Half Mystic is, as always, a dream within a dream. There is nothing more magnificent than this small journal that I feel so privileged to be part of. Latest updates: we are running a giveaway for our inaugural issue, allegro (signed by myself!), and preorders for our second issue, saudade, are open now. I hope you choose to preorder your copy. Not only is it filled with artists, writers, & musicians that have talent beyond reckoning, but I have poured so much of my own heart-stuff into it. If you let it, it will bring warmth to some deep soft part of your soul.
It feels so odd that in 18 months I leave Singapore for the unknown that university brings. I am trying to breathe in the scent of it for the short time I have left here. Trying to fall in love with this flawed-yet-exquisite place, this something-like-home where I have spent the last decade putting together the pieces of myself.
In case you missed it: I am so, so delighted to say that I am now part of the team behind The Murmur House, a print & online literary journal focused on publishing work by up-and-coming voices in the Southeast Asian literary scene. I truly admire this gorgeous journal's mission, and it is the greatest honour to serve as their digital intern.
(If this sounds familiar: a few weeks ago I shared the news exclusively with my love letter list, and the brightness & support in all of your responses was astounding. If you would like to be the first to receive such updates, do add your name to the list.)
Sometimes I think that "making it big" is overrated. I would rather exist for myself, and create because it keeps me alive rather than for any particularly monetary notion. I would rather sleep early and wake early and let dawn stretch across my body and feel no stress. I am glad there is someone who agrees.
Related, something shimmering and heavy and powerful: calling all applicants.
In these past days I have been listening to much music, and writing many poems, and learning of who I am in the absence of should. I have been hanging out with my baby sister and letting myself be exhilarated at the small, real human she is becoming, at how much of myself is in her and how much of her is unique, all hers to hold. I have been laughing at my dog, who is ridiculous & arrogant & wonderful. I have been grappling with uncertainty, as always. But also: I have been hoping.
This is what I am learning: in the sadness there is hope. Everywhere there is hope, even if only in the distance with that glorious light, lingering, waiting for us to find it. And hope is always the right direction to reach in. Always.
So: this is how I am.