07 August 2003

Love Song for a Merlion

I was born in kk hospital and delivered
through the singapore mill
the standard life cycle of a clone
(the limited presidents scholars edition is now available)
reproduced in strict quality control
allowing, of course, for a touch
of personal creativity.

in my years in kindergarten, hao kong ming, social studies,
and now the national education module in university
i have bowed to the icons of singaporeanista
drawn the courtesy lion the orchid
and crude representations of the singapore flag
(this is not a singaporean flag
but it really is, since i'm not a
countercultural american liberal artist)

never have i heard
the name of merlion
uttered in the same breath as the courtesy lion
singlish or garden city

i was lied to.
all tourist brouchures compress this nation
to an icon the size smaller than a postage stamp
but placed in the same upper right-hand corner
a fish-lion in the posture of a sea-horse.
another singapore first:
proud product of our life sciences industry.

when the merlion turns 80
perhaps there will rise
from the concrete ground of this manicured garden
scribes, biographers, each hired pen mythologising.

for them, the merlion did not just exist
and was created by the wild imaginings
of a tourist promotion board
but had stood since time immemorial
a singaporean - OUR VERY OWN!!!! - colossus of rhodes
benign guardian of the singapore harbour
that has seen this country rise from the sea-foam
small fishing town to the aphrodite of the knowledge economy.

the missionaries of our urban redevelopment gospel,
the excavation tractor and the demolition pile
shall boldly put to death the real
transmogrify place to memory
replace it with a million ornamental plaques
and a merlion:

We can learn to remember.

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