To a concerned citizen

The banging of the balls on walls gives you the Monday blues,
The laughter of glad children interrupts your midday snooze.
Ban the football! Ban the catching! Ban the hum tum bola games!
So the town committee banned them, but the noise is still the same -

It must be the immoral gambling syndicates of crime:
The Chinese chess club uncles shouting jiang jun! all the time
Ban the checkers! Ban the chessmen! Ban Monopoly and Risk!
So the town committee banned them, but the noisiness persists -

It's the void deck that's the problem - far too spacious and too airy.
Metal bars won't keep them out, more drastic works are necessary!
Fill the whole thing with a solid block of fast-drying concrete!
So the town committee did so, but the dratted noise repeats -

They hired some consultants, studied causes and effects.
The root cause is "community", the analyst reflects.
Ban community! Ban people! Ban this gotong royong spirit!
So the town committee banned them, but the noise remains explicit.

So what could be the problem? Who disturbs our peace and poise?
Who's creating all these issues? Who is making all the noise?
Sir, stick your fingers in your ears until your eardrums pop,
The town committee rests, because at last the noise has stopped.



Joshua Ip is the Singapore Literature Prize-winning author of Making Love With Scrabble Tiles (2013) and Sonnets From The Singlish (2012).

He has been placed in three different categories of the Golden Point Award.

He edits Ten Year Series, an imprint of Math Paper Press, and has edited several anthology series, including A Luxury We Cannot Afford.

He is working on a graphic novel, Ten Stories Below. He is involved in numerous literary community initiatives, including SingPoWriMo, Manuscript Bootcamp, and


  • Sonnets From The Singlish (2012)

A collection of Singapore- flavoured sonnets that will strike a familiar chord with anyone who grew up in 1990s Singapore.

  • Making Love With Scrabble Tiles (2013)

Poetry about the game of love that will simultaneously tickle and tug at your heartstrings.

  • A Luxury We Cannot Afford (2014)

An anthology of Singapore's best writers responding eloquently to the famous quote from Mr Lee Kuan Yew that "poetry is a luxury we cannot afford".



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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'To a concerned citizen'. Print Edition | Subscribe