LXIV | Paper Cut

I’m in a part of Singapore
I don’t recognise.

The ground here
is yellow,

a path winding through trees and foliage.

I’m in a park.

Yellow flowers on every bush.
Mangoes on some trees.

The smell of ripe fruit and green leaves.

A cleaner in the NParks uniform
sweeping dead leaves into piles.

Her broom hisses
one word

over again.


I reach a bridge.

Also painted yellow.
With metal railings.

Over a river.

Singapore doesn’t have many rivers.

Which one is this?

I don’t think it exists.

On the other side
of the bridge,
there’s a tree
I’m very familiar with.

This one isn’t naked.

It’s full of leaves,
it’s full of fruit.

Red against green against yellow.

In the midst
of the red and green

is a white parrot
with a wad of papers
in its beak.

I cross the bridge.

This rowan tree is the biggest
of them all.

Its roots sink
beneath the rock ledge
of the river bank.

Like an octopus.

I wonder if it knows
how embarrassing being a parasite is.

I’m losing my mind
          I need to sleep.

The parrot looks down at me.


Stupid bird.

You came after all.

A voice.
Can’t be the parrot’s

since there paper in its beak.

It is me.

The same voice.

‘Who’s that?’

Me. The parrot.
With the paper in its beak.

It waves the paper
at me.

I jump,
snatch it back.

The side of my finger stings
but I have them in my hands now.

The parrot flies down,
sits on a root.

I slump down
next to it.

I’m more tired than I thought.

What are you going to do now?

The parrot preens its feathers.
The sun is high up in the sky now.

There’s no breeze here.
There’s no one here.

‘I don’t know,’ I answer.

We sit in silence.

The cleaner’s broom


This park isn’t in your world.

‘I guessed that much.’

‘You weren’t sure.’

The broom
goes quiet.


I look at my finger.

A thin red line.
A paper cut.

Why does it
hurt like hell?

‘Are paper cuts supposed to hurt this much?’

The parrot blinks at me.

How would I know?

My voice is uncertain.
‘You’re not.’

Head tilted to the side.

I’m not?
I’m not a parrot?

You’re not reading my thoughts

The parrot stares
at me.

Then what am I?

A parrot-shaped white rock.

‘You’re some kind of spirit.
‘A guide that belongs to Aspen.’

I realise
I can’t hear the river.

It’s flowing
without making any noise.

Now that the broom
is no longer making noise,
it’s even more


I read the divorce papers
in my hands.

My hands are shaking
even though I could smile at them


Even though I watched
them fill it up
like it has nothing to do with me.

I don’t recognise their handwriting.

Or their signatures.

When I was in school
I forged them

so they became mine.

These strokes,
these patterns,

are not familiar to me.

They belong
to people

I don’t know.

I blink and
the papers are crushed
by my own hands.

The parrot watches me

No witty remarks.

I throw the wad of paper into the river.
The leaves of the rowan tree
start to whisper

a familiar tune.

Not because of the wind.
There’s no wind here.

The tree is alive.

‘Will this lead me to Rowan?’
I ask.

The parrot doesn’t reply,
so I turn to look at it

but it’s not there anymore.

I have no choice
but to take a deep breath

and step up to the tree
on my own.

I feel stupid
stepping over the roots of an ordinary tree,
waiting for something
to happen.

The tree continues to whisper
like I don’t exist.




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