like most Chinese children, I had my name dictated by a Taoist priest which means my life had already been given its destiny – ancestors who had scattered stars around me
each with their own demands, the demands drawn out on my palms which he would read
like an astronaut mapping trajectory in space. Eventually he decides that we need
eight strokes in my name (is it because eight is auspicious in Chinese culture?) and I was born in the middle of the day so the character 明 was the perfect choice. It juxtaposes day
and night and means bright although that did not make sense to me. My grandmother told me that the missing element is usually added to the baby’s name as compensation so I must
not have been very bright. To make it more literal the priest decided to call me 聪明 which means intelligent and now I have to compensate my entire life. It also did not make sense
that the eight characters of my birth pointed to mere intelligence as if that was all I was worth. The Yin and Yang did not align, and never aligned as I force my pen on the paper
deluding myself that that was all I was worth. My ancestors demanded intelligence and intelligence I forced. But where was the moon before the invasion? Where was the night
when all I had were days? I look at my palms and the lines do not feel right. I never wanted the stars. To complete the ritual my grandmother burnt paper amulets in water and fed me
I carry the wishes of my ancestors wherever I go.
Lee Chong Ming is a Master’s student reading English Literature at the National University of Singapore. His poems have appeared in the anthology SG Poems 2015-2016 and online poetry journal SOFTBLOW, and won First Prize at the NUS Creative Writing Competition 2017. When he is not reading or writing, he enjoys playing the trumpet, watching films, and doing HIIT workouts. He tweets at @chongminglee and shares Instagram pictures on @chongmingg.