Suddenly, you realise those words
could not be printed on sea-water,
and what you thought were waves
beyond the palms and barbecue pits
are cunning hoardings, sea-blue running
the length of beach you used to know.
Seeing through it all you find
the shore gone, abnormally far out,
and trucks criss-crossing
where boats used to bask.
Engines erupt as giant cranes bow down,
bend to their tasks, filling up the bay.
The coast waits in tense disarray, witness
to invasion, man’s power, a kind of rape.
Panicked, the birds have fled.
Heron, sandpiper, even land-birds leave
an eerie desolation; their sanctuaries,
violated, now are empty. As are the playgrounds
and the paths, deserted; not a soul
where children once chased games,
and kites pulled fliers ragged in the wind.
Nothing so forlorn as a forsaken park,
a place for people rendered inhospitable.
Warehouses and wharfs are on the cards.
The Port Authority raises its winning hand.
Nature rescinds prerogative, the sea withdraws.
Crab, clam, the boatmen and their shacks
defer to relocation, reassign their living,
subsist upon the pickings left behind. In time,
their isolation from each other will be sealed.
Still, the casuarinas hold their peace.
Life’s corrugation deep upon their bodies
mouth their plea, like wounds; mute anticipate
the saw, bulldozer, ropes that truss
and haul away their history and their gift
of quiet shade, cool haven from the heat.
You wonder if the rain trees share their gloom,
gracious as ever, offering their spacious canopy
in every weather. No one to regard them now.
Ominous trash-bins mock their generosity, bring
to your startled gaze the recent poster
heedless of the blue-print for the scene:
“From now on Singaporeans will be going green.”