Amanda Lee Koe asks, is this how a spirit is worn down, sliver by sliver?
The illusion of conspiracy was almost comforting, a better bet than coherence. I hadn’t yet realised my spirit was being squeezed out from me from the moment I could hold a pen; by the time I released these words into the air, it was too late for me to do any more than offer resentment.
For so long I have been trying to carve out my own way of living, find some break in the series of obligations constituting a life. How does one find the source of one’s naming? There was a sequence of months where I struggled to fall asleep, paralysed by the enigma of the coming years. At what point had I crossed the line? Some sinuous, abstracted version of me flit about altering the blueprint of my little life, imagining other ways to exist, commencing a series of small, discrete rebellions that would remind me I had once tasted another way of being. I thought of it as my one reprieve, or a final stronghold, or the one place where I could avoid the label “pretentious” for wanting another way to be.
No one was trying to wrestle away even that. Of course it was happening anyway. All the ways of triangulation were lasting, and ruinous, and here. Worst of all, they were irrevocably mine.
In Hamra there was a brutalist apartment block that seemed like it had been painted with rooms. Each unit had its own balcony. The views overlooked the gas stations and coffee shops, the mosques and the western unions, the moneychangers and hole-in-the-wall bookstores, until finally, as if they had already ventured too far by some accident of metaphysics, we were upon the quotidian sea. I imagined the lights in these apartments being turned off one after another. I thought it a poignant metaphor for a dulling of the senses, twisted and processual and so all the more fitting. I would write a prose-poem about it, I thought. There, I would name my neuroses and so escape them.
All I know is what it would mean to lose. The wearing down, the slivers. The lattice of the boundless world would collapse into crystals and I was not to even notice. I would make excuses for my co-option, I would write mediocre Ashbery-lite poems on weekends, I would be married with a reasonable number of children and percolate through shopping malls with said reasonable number of children until finally, suffused with safe streets and sure things and expensive, mysteriously batter-wrapped cephalopods, I would slink into a pragmatic sleep, content with the safety and stability of my remaining days.
Christian Yeo graduated with a BA in Law from Cambridge, and volunteered with Salam LADC in the Bekaa Valley in the summer of 2021. His work has been published or is forthcoming in The Mays, Anthropocene, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Bad Petty Press ("The Book of Bad Betties"), Ethos Books ("This is Not a Safety Barrier"), Ekstasis Magazine, among others. He won the Arthur Sale Poetry Prize, was runner-up for the Aryamati Poetry Prize, and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. His work has been performed at the Lancaster and Singapore Poetry Festivals.