parity

easter sunday at the national art gallery
we're there, i'll be frank, for food (before art)
around entrees, it's the turn of number 2 son
to be asked his favourite asian artist
(by sweaty teen-boy standards
with several world scholar scalps
under-belt I had hoped
almost the renaissance man)

later we walk through the chua ek kay
"these look just like the ones at home"
he offers (not fully accurately) as propitiation
for having "who?d" the first lunch question (asian)
as comprehensively as the second (european)

i'm grateful for small mercies
knowing we haven't raised
an art discriminator

two weeks later we're back for brunch
the latest much-vaunted collaborative exhibition
a supposed discourse
between voices south-east asian and european
is disappointingly devoid of
significant contribution
from significant european artists
and generally
of significant european artists
i chat awhile with
a gorgeous Affandi
lonely for the company of peers

and suddenly miss the son
who did not come this round
the mercies not so small after all

  • ELEANOR WONG

    Eleanor Wong is a trained lawyer and untrained playwright.

    Her plays have been produced in Singapore and the Asean region. Her works span from the prize-winning Peter's Passionate Pursuit (1985) to the groundbreaking Invitation To Treat trilogy of plays.

    Arguably before political theatre was cool, she wrote The Campaign To Confer The Public Service Star On JBJ for the inaugural Singapore Theatre Festival in 2006. Most recently, Eleanor spent three months as writer-in-residence at the Centre for Quantum Technologies, National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2014.

    Following stints as a prosecutor and an international finance lawyer, Eleanor is an associate professor at the Law Faculty at NUS, where she directs the Legal Skills Programme and is the vice-dean for Student Affairs.

  • NOTABLE WORKS

  • 1. Invitation To Treat Trilogy

    A trilogy of plays consisting of Mergers And Accusations, Wills And Secession and Jointly And Severably.

    2. The Campaign To Confer The Public Service Star On JBJ (2006)

    A political play that pokes fun at Singapore and its institutions.

    3. Life-Science (2010)

    Poetry in two languages - in English, with Chinese translations by Enoch Ng and Caleb Kiu.

  • MORE STORIES ONLINE
    For more, see: http://str.sg/rhyme-and-reason

    • The poem in the Rhyme And Reason series is brought to you in partnership with the National Arts Council.

    • This is the final instalment of the 15-week Rhyme And Reason series.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'parity'. Print Edition | Subscribe