(to wai gong1)

taking your own hand, you led yourself home.
family is where the dust settled from joss sticks,
where hands once parted your hair, in the dark. you
wore your stepmother’s face, taking her silver eyes
with your mismatched youth; her courage in your blood.

each grain you brought home fed six children. sometimes
the laundry refused to dry. axles fell apart. the neighbour’s
convenience store ran out of soap. Grandma left her
storms to your greased hands; ships sailed to school,
leaving for open waters.

waiting was the language we shared. we existed beneath
words, between Mother and your daughters; porridge
from the same rice bucket. red packets grew lessons of
familial love, from agreeing to disagree. we returned the
menu, accepting each difference over fish head and soup.

after your last weekend drive to your favourite haunt, it
shuttered; echoing through every bed holding your frame
together. water brought calm without solace: bad news
lining your chest, chocolate milk for your last question;
the rain’s answer, last words, fluid filling your lungs.

incense marks your footsteps in each room. follow its
trail through the ancestral home; every nook familiar
ground, every moment with your beloved. Mother
believes she had seen you on the seventh day;
framed in the afterglow, newspapers on the floor.

the mirror reminds me how she bears your silver eyes:
how they too capture my waking moments, enclosed in
mismatched youth – in my face, yearning for home.
every morning, razor blades part my hair to reveal your
lines; fresh as settled dust, blood beneath my brows.

1maternal grandfather

Nicholas Quek is an undergraduate from NUS with a strange love for music, poetry, and the moments between breaths.

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