Gwee Li Sui teaches literature at the National University of Singapore. His graphic novel Myth of the Stone (1993) was published to critical silence; it is out of print today and its publisher has since wound up.Who Wants to Buy a Book of Poems? (1998), his volume of humorous poems, was not meant to be published; it was privately circulated before a selection was bravely issued under the same name.


Last Death in Iraq
9 April 2003

Of course, collectively,
It made perfect sense.
The day is glowing,
People cheering,
The old is no more.

So the last man to die
In Saddam’s Iraq
Finds himself thinking
One day like
The men in the
White House
Like the Christians
Like I do
The morning I pick up
My pen to write
Against a war that is
Already over.



Confucius! Thou shouldst be living at this hour:
Thy folks have need of thee! They have become
All bureaucrats: pens, forms, letters, tiresome
Ping-pong matters
O how our old men cower
To one corner and wet their Eisenhower
Trousers! Are we no more than this feared sum?
Then raise again thy cane and beat us mum;
Teach us good sense, manners not to overpower!
For thou alone art most qualified and smart:
Thou art the poster boy of this strange age
That sees in paperwork a privilege.
So mock us: in the name of Ancient China,
Save us from more red tape and its counterpart—
Even more circulars blowing its tuba!


The Blinding Truth
Christmas 2004

What I cannot see I cannot see—
Cannot see intelligence in nature, the tree in the bird,
The pattern in the yellow an angsana forms,
The fact that something else thinks in this moment I scruple,
How the world thinks and how I think I think as I watch you think,
The colour of my own brown pupil in yours,
The practice of our faith, a fixing in words,
The shape of each day to be speared through the dark.
When you beam and talk of rooms besieged by many corners,
I cannot find the verbal house in the labyrinth you call home;
And entrepreneurs are not my heroes, nor progress progressive.
When you deem global evil a poor shadow, the trick of subtle good,
I imagine how, on an old bed ten minutes away, the night
Is not the ticking of a grand clock which tallies for dawn.
Your hung Christ brings Sunday peace, mine hysteric living;
Yours knows property prices and backs instinctive wars,
Mine flies into the corridors of discussion where nothing is owned,
Where all weapons shall be beaten into the humanities.
The moving sun, your happy miracle of the same, is still your star:
I cannot see how such occurrences should describe religion at all,
Why I cannot see black, brown, yellow, a tree, a bird, stupid nature—
All else a perilous rupture that connects.


Oedipus Simplex

Who’s the idiot who says
if you meet Buddha on the road
kill him?

If you meet Buddha on the road
leave him alone,
don’t kill anyone,
and don’t listen to stupid advice.