Locality: When you're here.
For the last six months, I have been living in Singapore, a City-State affectionately called The Little Red Dot.
I could tell you that I am 85 miles north of the equator on a diamond shaped land mass, much of which has been reclaimed palm by muddy palm from the sea, studded by sixty islets like tiny emeralds emerging from the blue-gray straits.
I could tell you how I came here to join those who came here before me— those who came here to join those before them. I could tell you of the people who were here before all of them came. I could tell you of the shards of clay or carvings from the 4th century, or the boats that arrived carrying slaves and the boats that left carrying rubber in the 19th, or the bombs that came from East and West in the 20th.
I could tell you about the trysts of languages and dialects— the orchestral threnodies of Cantonese, Hokkien, Mandarin, Bahasa Melayu, and Tamil, or the way they all lean in to the buoyant and witty creole of Singlish.
I could tell you about the futurist technological utopias— electric trees, infinity pools, improbable towers of ribbed steel and concrete woven into this earth like the spines of the three hundred thousand imported foreign laborers earning less than $20 a day. I could tell you that one in twenty Singaporeans will be a millionaire in three years time.
I could tell you about the monitor lizards and pythons in my back yard, and the day the Singapore Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal branch detonated a 200-pound aerial bomb dropped during WW2 by the Japanese air force, just 200 feet from our home. I could tell you about the red papers and plush tangerine palettes of Chinese New Year, the ribbons of vert and fern green that weave through during Ramadan, or the turmeric and vermillion anointing Thaipusam.
I could tell you about the things we don’t say when we speak of Singapore and the things we mean when we do. But, I won’t.
Instead, for the next three months, every two weeks, I will ask a poet from Singapore to do the telling. This will be the site for listening— I will ask them and they will answer. I will listen, and you with me.
Welcome to Discourses on Locality: When you’re here, you hear.
DISCOURSES ON LOCALITY: Singapore