A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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March 2007, vol 3 no 1

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Joanna Preston

Singa Pura; the City of Lions

We step out of the hotel the next morning, and the heat is like a glove we draw on over skin already clammy. More than just temperature, it has bulk and texture. We decide to start with the most famous shopping strip in the East.

Orchard Road–
the tourists a little thicker
outside "The House of Condom"

I'd never thought of walking, just ordinary walking, as something that could bring you to the edge of exhaustion. We learn to move slower, swing legs wider, navigate between the patches of shade. Discover the restorative properties of watermelon juice. We stop for a while under the Merlion's tail, while you point out the things you remember from when you lived here.

telling me about the time
you fell into a monsoon drain
you fall into a monsoon drain

Night happens in the minute between 7:23 and 7:24–a straight curtain-drop from light to dark. The texture of the air softens a little, becomes more flannel than velvet. The glove loosens a bit. This is the Singapore of your childhood–hawker centres and the smell of charcoal. We stroll from stall to stall, learning how to say no with the angle of our hands to the vendors and touts and the old men in raincoats selling watches and packets of tissues. The words have come back to you; cha-siew pau, sui mai, murtabak, nasi, sotong.

exploring Singapore
by satay