House of Cards

after Philip Larkin’s “Essential Beauty”

People sure smile a lot in advertisements,
especially those with little girls running away
from immaculate lawns and impossible founts
into the camera, their arms like open gates.
Even the panda and macaws titter in what could well be
Eden bordered by apartments, flashing plenty of teeth.
Her parents and grandparents – it is easy to assume
familial relations in these pictures – stand further back,
all smiles and well-represented in pairs like cards
on the table after dessert, a full house
everyone knows doesn’t quite pay out but chooses
to believe anyway because that’s how artists imagine
social mobility per square metre looks like.

Behind the perfect family, looming out of proportion,
sits the perfect home behind an apartment window
on furniture still under plastic, appliances still unpaid for
in boxes. Train tracks and prestigious schools converge
towards airbrushed clouds, promising brighter futures
played close to the chest beyond the sunset. Little girls
with winning smiles continue to run till dreamers slam
right into their gated arms, mistaking fences for home.

Loh Guan Liang is the author of the poetry collection Transparent Strangers (Math Paper Press, 2012). His works have appeared in various journals, including Black Heart Magazine, Crack the Spine, Kin Poetry Journal, Mascara Literary Review and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. Guan Liang currently lives in Singapore.

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