Rhyme And Reason - A LiterarySeries

Drawing the heartland


i. Labourer at Void Deck


don't disturb my sleep
I am shutting out
this strange city
and its people

is this how
your country thinks -
that I don't need anything
because I have everything:

anywhere is my bed
anything is my food

is this the world
those like me inherit

you should sleep on it
as I am doing now

ii. Vagrant


Over the years
I have been forced to think
of the meaning of home.

I have no home like yours;
all I have is here
parked beside the road.


    A multiple-award winner for her poetry, including the Singapore Cultural Medallion, Lee is known for her long involvement with promoting creative writing among the young. She has mentored many of Singapore's leading young poets. Though self-admittedly unprolific, her work is internationally recognised, and widely admired for its "exquisite" craftsmanship, deceptive simplicity and understated humour. The spiritual yet universal appeal of her poems makes her one of the most accessible and thought-inspiring among the Singapore writers.

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


    Soul's Festival, collected poems 1980-1997 (Landmark Books 2014)

    A re-issue in one volume of the author's first four volumes of poems which have been long out of print.

    Catching Connections (Landmark Books 2012)

    A collection of poems, "prosexcursions" and "crucifictions", showing new directions and creative explorations.

    Short Circuits

    (Landmark Books 2012)

    A collection of short prose reflections on writing and faith, and the relationship of the two in the author's life.

    •A videotaped interview with the author is available on the Singapore Research Nexus, Faculty of Research & Graduate Studies, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, National University of Singapore: www.fas.nus.edu.sg/srn


I have managed
with less and less.

But home is in my head;
table, chair or bed
goes anywhere I go;
there's nothing
to tie me down.

And now I know
being homeless
is being free:

are you ashamed of me?

iii. Er Hu Player


This is my soul friend
who cries for me.

I have no words to tell
my regrets and failures,
my worries about money,
my children leaving home;

my neighbours too have
many troubles of their own.

So let me coax my friend
to give my feelings voice;
and perhaps, like me, they too
can let their choked up hearts
be emptied to find rest.

iv. Queue at Kopi-Tiam


have you eaten today
my friend

if you live here
come join us

every day we are
dealing with hunger
waiting in line
for the end

empty pocket or full
today or tomorrow
first or last
does not matter

it will be your turn
sooner or later

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2016, with the headline 'DRAWING THE HEARTLAND'. Subscribe