Heng Siok Tian has published three collections: Crossing the Chopsticks and Other Poems (1993)My City, My Canvas (1999) and, Contouring, (2004). She has been published in Harvest International (2006/2007), Idea to Ideal (2004), Love Gathers All: A Philippines-Singapore Anthology of Love Poems (2002), No Other City: An Anthology of Urban Poetry (2000), More Than Half the Sky (1998), Journeys: Words, Home and Nation (1995), The Calling of the Kindred (1993), Singapore: Places, Poems, Paintings (1992), New Voices in Southeast Asia (1991) and Words for the 25th (1990). One of her short stories has been translated into Italian for a collection of Singapore short stories published by Isbn Edizioni (2005). Her short play, The Lift, staged in 1991, was selected to be read at the Third International Women Playwrights’ Conference in Adelaide in 1994. Siok Tian holds a Master of Arts in Literature from the National University of Singapore and a Master of Science in Information Studies from the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore. In 2000, she attended the Iowa  International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, USA on a National Arts Council Fellowship.



Sayang Airwell 

in the centre of a baba home
shows me
a mosaic of blue.

Like a pre-hologram,
glimpsing an early sky:

I see amahs in samfoos
in their time and space
squatted here,
washing, working within the marbled tiles,
for big master and mistress who slept above,
for little masters they would sayang and love..

Where was their half of the sky?
next to babas and nonyas twirling, whirling with a gramophone in an upstairs dance studio
which became the play den of fruit bats when owners upgraded,
layered with droppings, so decomposed they become

To first lose the turquoise of mosaic-blue, then the shapes of carved zodiac animals,
to leave them with the wings of bats,

to touch again these losses
as I linger on the airwell,
so sayang,



My noise won’t stop.
Elephants howl for no reason
I could not get
my clown-act right
and the master trainer
threatens to whip me.
I fear so much
I wish so hard
he begins to change from pumpkin to marsh-mellow

I stop believing I have a wand
to magick away
baking them into cup cakes
which I serve my audiences,
as they reach for them,
the cakes become bubbles,
they become angry at my alleged deceit.

Did I ask
to cruise into midnight
to meander into side-alleys,
to be led
into labyrinths
where cobwebs become
fishing hooks
that sink into dry flesh,
shooting stars
cannon balls
running through my head
lines of a chair
become dancing skeletons
that slip near to me?

I lost my posture as a chimpanzee,
broke my brittle back with stilettos,
rectify with surgery, pilates, yoga…
only to find myself
fetal-like in bed,
licking words off the edges
cursing Caliban-fashion
the knowledge of names.