‘I scream as your soul gets bartered piece by piece’  by Esther Vincent

On Singapore’s urban redevelopment policy

In London, they keep six ravens
captive to the superstitions of the Crown.
Imagine being born with wings only to find them
clipped and useless for flight, only intermittent
perching, handicapped on a well-manicured lawn,
well-fed more than the beggars on the streets,
but forever in debt to serve out a sentence
never tried in court in the name of Tradition.

Yesterday, when I looked out the window I
counted eleven white egrets on the far end of
the field, a flock of migratory birds that dared to
defy the concrete and metal of a city who had long
turned her back on her primeval roots.
Eleven white egrets, like the eleven wild swans on the
pages of a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale book who were
actually eleven princes cursed under an evil spell; but
they had a sister to save them.

Before they cut your belly open to mark it with a Y-pavement
the field was visited by wild dogs, one black and
the other brown, both comfortable and
content enough to lie in each other’s solitude;
they were kings. Once, I caught sight of a
long-tailed shrike that seemed to scream out
against the monotony of mynas and
indiscretions we have taken to pillage our forests
in a poor exchange for brick and glass that promise
us the same things in a different guise; a desire to forget
and atone for our sins. Twice, the black-naped oriole.

In the 28 years of my life, I have only seen a squirrel
thrice; and even then you should have seen how we both
jumped in fright as we jolted each other from
our private reveries in recognition of the other’s existence.
Eleven, six, three, two, one…
The second hand trips over the minute hand,
shoving the hour hand and I see the clock going
tick, tick, tick, tock, tock, tock, tick, tock, tick, tick –

the pounding and shrieking of a city who
bartered her birth right for a bowl of soup.

Poet’s Bio: Esther Vincent teaches Literary Arts and Literature at the School of the Arts, Singapore. She writes poetry that resonate on both the personal and political level, and believes that poetry should empower, not exclude, engage, not evade. She was co-editor of the poetry anthology, Little Things and the accompanying Teacher’s Guide. Her poems are forthcoming or have been published in The Journal of Remembered Arts, EastlitFeminine CollectiveInto the VoidLuminous EchoesUnhomedSound of MindLIVEPress PilotLittle ThingsCeriph #4 and in <messageinabottlepoetrymagazine>Editorial 13. Her poem, “Excuse me, what is your race?” was translated into Russian in To Go To S’pore by Kirill Cherbitski.

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