Arlene Ang


Arrival is another
optical illusion of departure—

to reach the bottom,
the body is called upon
to leave first: the surface, a self,

the neck of a broken bottle
that hangs by a string.

Prior to drowning,
people shout in unison
with their faith—little fetish objects
around their throat—

but do not stop
the ship from sinking.



Even water has a pulse.

It slows down in the absence
of living, and competes
with movements that have
to do with survival.

The body swells,
like a blister. Its mouth—drunk
and half-open—as if
forestalled from calling a name.



Arms transmute to hair,
the hair to clothes,
the clothes to skin—which
in their turn
outlive the flesh.

Once the wristwatch
is filled with water, it begins
to let go of time.



For those who exist
underwater, salt finds its way
into the body and loses
its identity as taste.

Appetite covers
great distances: the attraction
of the dead lies on what
they fill eventually.

When the migratory fish
leave, they are carrying away
millimetres of face
in their bellies.

The eyes—full of drink
and blindness—jut out as if in pain
or a question mark
after How did it come to this.

In the end, not even
the swollen tongue can fit itself
back into the scheme
of a mouth.

To be part of the ocean
is an experience in being.



Once physical things
have lost their function, they acquire
a sorrow that belongs
only to others.

How soft, unborn
the fingernails look now.

And they say
the last drink becomes a kind
of love that remains
independent of the body.







I wrote this after a dream about entering the submerged wreck of a submarine. I wasn't afraid. I don't remember if I was actually breathing. After a while, I realized the only thing that separated me from the dead bodies was the water.