ah beng is so smart,
already he can watch tv & know the whole story.
your kim cheong is also quite smart,
what boy is he in the exam?
this playground is not too bad, but i’m always
so worried, car here, car there.
at exam time, it’s worse.
because you know why?
kim cheong eats so little.
give him some complain. my ah beng was like that,
now he’d different. if you give him anything
he’s sure to finish it all up.
sure, sure. cheong’s father buys him
vitamins but he keeps it inside his mouth
& later gives it to the cat.
i cold like mad but what for?
if i don’t see it, how can i scold?
on saturday, tv showed a new type,
special for children. why don’t you call
his father buy some? maybe they are better.
money’s no problem. it’s not that
we want to save. if we buy it
& he doesn’t eat it, throwing money
into the jamban is the same.
ah beng’s father spends so much,
rakes out the mosaic floor & wants
to make terrazzo or what.
we also got new furniture, bought from diethelm.
the sofa is so soft. i dare not sit. they all
sit like don’t want to get up. so expensive.
nearly two thousand dollars, sure must be good.
that you can’t say. my toa-soh
bought an expensive sewing machine,
after 6 months, it is already spoilt.
she took it back but… beng,
come here, come, don’t play the fool.
your tuition teacher is coming.
wah! kim cheong, now you’re quite big.
come cheong, quick go home & bathe.
ah part wants to take you chia-hong in new motor-car.
ah beng is so smart,
† 19.06.2006, Singapore
Arthur Yap Chioh Hiong was a Singaporean poet, writer and painter. Born in Singapore in 1943, Yap was the sixth child of a carpenter and a housewife. Yap attended St Andrew's School and the University of Singapore, after which he won a British Council scholarship to study at the University of Leeds in England. At Leeds Arthur earned a master's degree in Linguistics and English Language Teaching, later obtaining his PhD from the National University of Singapore in the years after he returned from Leeds. He stayed on in the University's Department of English Language and Literature as a lecturer between the years 1979 and 1998. Between 1992 and 1996, Yap served as a mentor with the Creative Arts Programme run by the Ministry of Education to help inspire students and nurture young writers at local secondary schools and junior colleges. Yap was then diagnosed with lung cancer, and received radiotherapy treatment.
His first collection of poems Only Lines was published in 1971, when he was 28. It had a first print run of 2,000 to 3,000 copies. Its whimsical, wordplay-based humour captured the hearts of poetry lovers, and it won the first poetry award from the National Book Development Council of Singapore in 1976. Yap's third collection, Down The Line (1980) was nationally acclaimed and won Yap his second Book Council Award. In 1983, Yap was honored with Singapore's Cultural Medallion for Literature and the South-East Asian Write Award in Bangkok. Yap described this as one of the high points in his literary career. Translations of his books were published in many Asian countries, mainly in the Japanese, Mandarin and Malay languages. In 1988, Yap won his third Book Council Award for Man Snake Apple & Other Poems (1986).
After a two-and-half year battle with throat cancer, Yap died in his sleep at home on 19 June 2006. He was 63.
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