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
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.