Three of a Kind

For Faith and Praise

I remember sitting at the make-up table in our room
writing goodbye letters to mummy, daddy, and each of you,
interrupted every now and then by a tear
which would spill out until it finally gave way
to something like a crying-out-loud –
It sounds silly now. I was only moving out, at 27,
to a 40-minute bus ride and 20-minute walk away. But
did we not sleep in the same room and sometimes had our heads
on the same pillow for those self-same 27 years?

I remember taking the school bus back together and getting
too carried away on the monkey bars with Jessica
that I missed the bus (you were on it)
and I called home in panic to tell mummy
(that I missed the bus, and that you were on it)
and how I felt guilty that you had to carry my schoolbag
for me on top of your own in the 15-minute walk back home,
and back then, to say bags were heavy
is an understatement, and you were only 8.
(you didn’t even ask where I was afterwards)

I remember how we were not too close when you were in
primary or secondary school, and I’m sorry
that I was not always there to be the big sister
you could look up to or rely on, especially when
you were growing up. You tell me you still have nightmares
and they all revolve around the same storyline, people and place –
I do too, just of a different kind
I know you don’t blame me and I’m thankful we’ve
grown closer now that those lost days are behind us.
(I love you)

I was jealous a lot – I thought you were prettier
I was vindictive – I ganged up against you and even asked
Candy to bite you in anger
But I stood up for you and told Simon to watch his back
I was there in the old school grounds when your heart broke
(he was your first love)
And I listened as you talked and talked and talked the darkness away

I let go of the blanket, our imaginary hammock and as you
fell to the ground and let out a cry, I yelled in unison in mock
horror that you ‘slipped through my hands’
and neither you nor mummy suspected a thing
But I was guilty and I eventually told you in hope
of absolution so why does this memory still linger
like a sore that won’t dry up?

They tell me I must wade into waters, where I will soon drown.
Before I march in, I leave this on the shore for you.
I pray you find it, sister, so you will know what was in my heart as I went under.

As I read these lines my eyes felt the familiar comfort
of tears as I gave myself up wholly to the love and loss felt
by Pari and Abdullah, siblings who were robbed of each other’s
existence by forces beyond their control,
but more so because I know that I never want either of us
to wade into such waters or drown,

But don’t we all eventually have to leave the shore?


Photo: ©Julie Anderson All Rights Reserved

Esther Vincent

Esther Vincent is a poet from Singapore, who teaches Literary Arts and Literature at the School of the Arts, Singapore. She writes poetry that resonates on both personal and political levels and believes that poetry should empower, not exclude, engage, not evade. She was co-editor of a poetry anthology, Little Things (2013) and the accompanying Teacher's Guide (2013). Her poems have been published in New Asian Writing (Nov2016), Unhomed (2016), Sound of Mind (2014), LIVEPress Pilot (2014-2015), Little Things (2013), Ceriph #4 (2011) and in Message in a Bottle Poetry Magazine Editorial 13. Her poem, "Excuse me, what is your race?" was translated into Russian in To Go To S'pore (2013) by Kirill Cherbitski. She is currently working on a new collection of poems.

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