Vikram Teva Raj

Vikram Teva Raj is a 24-year-old Singaporean in his second year of a Bachelor of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong. These two poems are his first published pieces. “An Old Vintage” was inspired by a Chinese rentmate, while “My Turkish Rentmate at 37” was about a Turkish rentmate, now 38. He lives comfortably, on account of never having shown them the things.




An Old Vintage

For Tony


A bird is long dead by my pathway home,

frosted over in the humidity of spring and stiff,

a crumbling baseball glove sloughed down to just the dark palm

and a taut white finger pointing down the road.


Here is our garden with the pruned tree

that in its day never failed to raid our laundry,

its green scissor-fingers now excised,

ghost limbs capped by beige fingernails

tight around a new feathering

like the shattered telltales of a more meaty diet.


The clouds are crossing like crazed yarn on a dark loom

that promises cold fire tailing up the breath of the road

right through my balcony door: a sliding grille under strong fabric

that you might expect to keep the rain inside down to a vague dust

but which is more like a fan leaning water in out of the wet.


Now I see a hand forming in the sky,

a long, ornate jester’s cap twisting slowly

like a compound whale, wrung by an invisible fist

to spout from each teat a slow, heavy liquid,

decanting the length of each belly

to filter down muslin miles to land.


As the rain’s curtains snap in the wind and the ground outside

trembles like a tight sail, I see again through unformed crystal

my Chinese father, pouring warm wine out for my new family,


pledging a dowry of close-smelling currency

sealed by the ancient unlit tallow

that melts between changing hands.




My Turkish Rentmate at 37


Reminiscent of NatGeo pics

of that sea eyed Afghan girl

before and after ten adult years,

her face clearly once magnificent

ravaged by her Turkish life spent

designing Renault dashboards

and famous brands of fridge.


She stutters around in English

asking our rentmate the unhappy professor

horrible, tactless things he patiently answers

like she was his wayward first son

paying attention again.


Coming in, she didn’t hide her disgust

at how moth-eaten the place was.

She gave up and then a week later

everything was new and she’d got herself a TV,

silently mouthing along with old Hollywood.


She was going to learn accounting

but her own balance meant a bad job now

but she thinks a hairdressing course

would be hard money in the long run.


The other day her door was open.


Table, toiletry bag, carpet, window,

it was all grey save her white down jacket

and black TV: dust-free,


her own Gone With The Dead

of windrows of ash neat enough

for answering machines.