At the pubic library, I came across a book of poems entirely about the Merlion, the lion-headed, fish-tailed icon of Singapore. The book is called Reflecting on the Merlion: An Anthology of Poems. It’s edited by Edwin Thumboo and Yeow Kai Chai, and co-edited by Enoch Ng, Isa Kamari, and Seetha Lakshmi. It was published by Singapore’s National Arts Council this year.
The poem I liked best was Merlign, by Alvin Pang. I have no idea why it’s called Merlign nor did I understand all the references. But I loved the first two verses and the last five or six. The whole poem can be read here. I will just take the liberty to quote the opening and the ending.
Here’s the opening carrying on into the second verse:
Even though there are more
websites on you than verses
even though you evoke
cameras more than pride,
postcards more than praise;
even though your titan child
is now terrorising history and
small children on Sentosa;
Still you seem to have a face poets love
to woo. …
And here’s the last verse:
Rough beast, you are neither idol nor ideal.
Your heart is hollow, cold, and open
for admission, but we have nowhere else
to hide our dreams. Take what names
we have to give, and hold our secrets well.
Keep what matters and what counts.
The rest you can spit as spray.