by Kevin Martens Wong
No one should ever make a living from writing in Singapore.
No one should ever have enough money
from prostituting their body,
We'll say that poetry is a luxury we cannot afford,
so that it becomes a luxury we can absolutely afford
Which part of SingLit
isn't part of us?
Would you prefer
plays past present
or poetry too brown to be redacted?
We are everywhere.
We know you will write an abstract about this too.
Try and get it published.
Your cute little Eurasian anthologies,
your stories of Eunoian trauma,
your struggles against mysterious, unidentifiable forces too far out of the page to project back onto,
your "literary merit".
Tell us about your pain.
Tell us about your anguish.
Tell us about the horror and the terror.
We'll tell you about sales.
We'll tell you about how hard it is to market you,
not because it is hard to market you,
Nothing can be afforded.
Only acknowledged, dimly and hazily,
through real, sincere critique:
we know what you want.
Nus kuniseh kung bos,
kung tudu kereh prendeh skribeh.
How foolish to think
that there is no standard but you,
but we, but us.
That once on the page,
we can become I.
You are me now.
no one should ever make a living from writing in Singapore.
I am making no living.
I am making Life.
I am making Story.
I am making Body,
I am making chocolate milk
worth its weight
Body and blood.
A communal dining space.
A common dreaming time.
A fountain after dark.
I'll make a living out of whatever you give me.
probably enough abuse to conduct seven or eight world wars within just the corporeal space of my body,
and your eyes.
Your ears and fears and cameras.
Your dollars and saints.
Because aiyoh sayang
don't you know
what Kristang money is made of?
No lah, not hope, or love, or anything tragic like that:
Jenti Kristang sa doi:
it's made of you.
All the ways you make haste.
All the time and taxpayer money you waste.
And all the riches
you know you so desperately
want to taste.
Kevin Martens Wong is a gay, non-binary Kristang / Portuguese-Eurasian speculative fiction writer, independent scholar and linguist. He leads the internationally-recognised grassroots movement to revitalise the critically endangered Kristang language in Singapore, Kodrah Kristang, and was the 2017 recipient of both the President's Volunteer and Philanthropy Award (Individual—Youth) and the Lee Hsien Loong Award for Outstanding All-Round Achievement. His first novel, Altered Straits, was longlisted for the 2015 Epigram Books Fiction Prize, and his work has also appeared in Transect, entitled and the Light to Night Festival. He currently runs his own freelance coaching and consulting initiative, Merlionsman (merlionsman.com).