Shirakawa in Gion & Other Poems

by Faridah Manaf

Shirakawa in Gion

Your face sparkles along ochayas
and well-lit restaurants in Gion

Two friends stroll along your banks
Reminiscing the good old days
Where she was a geisha and
a geiko at the same time

“You were always funny,” he said
“You were always hungry,” she laughed

30 years on, there were signs of old age
on both of these two friends
of a race, of a faith

Along Shirakawa River in Gion
they could have been brother and sister
who shared the same umbilical cord
of a mother never born.

(written in Gion, Kyoto, 2014)


Seeing You in Singapore

The only thing that
I remember of
Is its kind taxi drivers
Never have I seen a consistent show of
good hospitality
and intelligence

They cannot all be Singapore’s SBs
I see you in their Singapore stories
Working double income
is now a must for a family
squeezed in between great wealth
and poverty
Your high-rise buildings tell you a different story
of a pauper who became king

A little away from the city
McPherson cries stories of the forgotten
the sick and elderly, the weak and poor
the unemployed and abandoned
But the merlion in you
Sees power
In your climbing tower


This Country of Mine

In a country full of lies
and deceits
where we fake spring, winter
and place our rustic rural villages
at the centre of our malls
and burn fake lemangs and
hang ketupat made of colourful ribbons

we serve pricey, tasteless nasi lemak
on fake banana leaves

the cityfolks breathe in this air of make believe
the kampong folks suffocate in this pollution
a day spent is a day lost

” we rather live in reality
¬† ¬†even if, in poverty.”


Death Has an Expiry Date

I am not afraid of death
You throw in ebola in Africa
a convenient excuse to hide the genocide
Africa is dirty, Africa is backwards, Africa has no doctors
Africa is dry of clean water and green trees
People will die..naturally

Another virus in need of vaccine in India, Latin America
another convenient excuse for your pharmaceutical companies
to dump trillion dollars of drugs and vaccines
and get easy approval for tonnes of money as humanity aid to Africa,
India, Latin America
from tough congressmen and women

You throw in a few war starts at the borders of already hostile people
Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, South
Phillipines,China, Japan,
North Korea, South Korea, your own borders up there somewhere
More money approved for military weapons
to stop war, you say
to ensure security on your own homeland, you tell your media ready to
receive lies and continue
on your behalf

Whoever you are driving us all for this new world order
stop your madness
for you too will perish
your mortality is programmed only for so long

It has an expiry date!
Death will surely come.
Do not be afraid of it.

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