Five poems

26 soldiers


A small army pressed into service

from capline to baseline

marching smartly across the page

some with proud embellishments

on standard issue typeface

a swash here a serif there

tracking tightly in different formations

ablazed with wor(l)d building directives

trailing bullet points in their wake

                       & a single orphan.





Not whitewashing my name

means I have to proffer a new one

so the barista can call out

something pale and watery

like half-strength English breakfast

to wash down the fluffy scones

made from full cream

homogenised milk.





Esc to a new pg where

we speak the same language



there’s no full stop


just a sliding

into the next line


Ctrl alt delete

if we make a blot


you can leave white spaces

and I can still read you.



L’esprit de l’escalier


How many times have you succumbed

to the wit of the staircase

a belated retort on the way out?

prepared for Wildean whimsy

so sly of mouth smirk of face

but your coat-tails are caught on the door

your foot trips on a wobbly nail

more ripped than riposte

bons mots scattering

in freefall like broken marbles

across the lining floor.




Xylophonic tinkles across the water these gentle chimes on bobbing boats what rivulets of fate led us here tonight? Awed quiet at this gentle symphony of dark air and music the panorama so finely curated it could be an exhibition of balance the liquid horizontal the solid vertical and later cold to warmth the body of water domesticated to a bathtub the faraway city lights now a flickering candle a contraction from all the vastness of the world to just you opposite me foreshortened and I can feel contentment filling me up like corpuscles in a vein and life is atomised to this very heartbeat.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 20, 2021 as "Five poems".

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Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and critic. Her first book of poetry, Turbulence, was published in 2020 by UWAP.

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