These poems, stories and essays about self-reflection, spirituality and philosophy were originally posted the AsianVoices Website (1997-2004), a site featuring poetry and fiction by young Asian writers.
Crying is Free
to be brutal.
All who need to die
a little to live, leave
behind more than
To see with fresh eyes
~ Jill Chan (New Zealand)
Who am I?
I don’t remember the first time
When I looked in the mirror and asked
Who am I?
I don’t remember if there were any times
I ever wondered
When will I die?
Sometimes I smile
Sometimes I cry
Sometimes I want to find a place
what’s behind the sky;
I try to understand
who’s made my mind.
Though I don’t know
how this will dry up,
I know one thing for sure
there’s always a sign:
back to where you desire
for your whole life.
with your id in all its simplicity
Listen to the sound from heaven…
~ Shiron Lai (Hong Kong)
In Search of Peace
Head full of thoughts, soul lingering, body unfeeling
Do I know me?
Don’t ask me questions, for I will break like chinaware, hitting the ground
Blissful smile banishes, melancholy one emerges
then robes the every throne of what before I was known for
The sky though is clear blue, appeared not to my naked hungry eyes
Through my heart I spoke to god,
requesting for the strength and might to blow the sheet of crying sky away
Into the night, into the world of dream I floated
God whispered then to me
” The power lies in you, just reach out for it…
…my body, mind and soul to reunite as one.
~ Searching for Peace and the painting (entitled Girl on a Bed) are by Midah Tancock (Singapore, Hong Kong, Britain). The painting and poem are used with permission. The poem contains some long lines which couldn’t fit on this page properly; the lines that begin with ‘Blissful’ and ‘Then’ should be one line, as should the lines that begin with ‘The sky’ and ‘Through’.
In search of tranquility
More than silence
More than peace
Soul and senses
Be still and calm
Storms and waves
But be seen in anywhere
Everywhere, anywhere, no where
Still one focus
Flower blossoms and withers
Summer breeze and winter chill
Stability and balance
Tranquility in mobility
In search of YOU
Tranquility in YOU
~ Carrie Chan
The world dances, we
do or dream the difference
between light and dark
~ Pong Ka-ming (Hong Kong)
Last night, I felt foreign,
in the land of my birthplace.
Born one nationality,
ethnically part of another.
I prefer dim sum to kari kare,
food my body rejects.
Part of two cultures,
but rejected by both.
~ Carl C. Perito. Kari kare is a dish from the Philippines consisting of oxtail and vegetable stew in peanut sauce.
Prejudicial elements, One’s identity
Just a fact of denial.
Self-recognition, One’s colour
Just something typical.
death symptoms, god’s cruelty,
Just a matter of reality.
~ Vivian Chiang (Hong Kong)
I wandered alone and unseen
In a wondrous forest of deep green
I felt the ground moan under my weight
Could I not be lighter on my feet?
I asked the sunbeams through the green leaves
As they shone over me mockingly.
What would you be today
A wood-nymph, I dare say
Or perhaps a gentle deer
I turned my face full to the sun
And dared it change me as it shone
I dare you, I said, change me now
I would be as you say transformed
A part of you, a lightbeam of gold
The trees were so soft all around
Their barks had grown together with the moss
And there was scent that filled my spirit
And I felt that all was my kindred
I touched the leaves and stroked the barks
And felt the softness of the grass
And my eyes were dazzled with a thousand flowers
Of resplendent luminous colours.
Neverending a path lay ahead
And the wind was a gentle breath of fragrance
I felt so much lighter on my feet
And the ground and I sighed with relief
And I could no longer see the sun
For everything and I were one
And I was neither a nymph or human
Nor a soft creature as the roe deer
I was something so unbound
Something never seen nor found
Never heard or spoken of
Now I was green and brown and soft and warm
I could see a blue sky above me
And with a thousand eyes I watched thee
oh sun, which changes me,
With a thousand arms I caught the wind
And with a thousand feet I danced,
In the distance I saw a small flower wilt
But by now I had melted
And I knew no wrong nor right
Nor you or I
I could not tell you why
Ask the sunbeam on the green
Where I am and where you are
And when you hear it answer
Keep in your heart the secret
That I who had never really been
~ Amarylla St. John (Hong Kong)
Where there is love,there is hatred.
Where there is joy, there is sorrow.
God has placed them hand in hand.
Whatever will be, we must experience both
In the course of our years.
Whether it be laughter or tears,
Who can ever change this fate?
This is the reality of life.
~ Vasudha Sharma (India)
Three Tanka after John Donne
O Death, O Death, there I see:
looks like falling leaves.
It swallows those who choose it:
pitiful and pleased:
shall die in no grave.
A long road of sins
is where I remain walking.
Shall I be spared?
I once opened the gate of death
to the one I still love today.
I may be pieces,
yet in one under your wings.
Take me to your nest,
tear me up in a high place:
God: until I’m unblemished.
~ Tony Nip (Hong Kong). Tony writes: “Why tanka? Tanka is a Japanese poetic form. Each tanka consists of 31 syllables. Its name literally means short song. When I use this form, I tried to execute some originally complicated thoughts with care until they appear to be simple enough. It’s worthwhile (but surely scary to me) to compare these pieces that I’ve written with the originals, often in long forms such as sonnets, by John Donne himself. About myself: I’m a trained composer and a lover of modern (or postmodern) arts. Above all, I’m a Christian.” You can also read the three sonnets by John Donne that inspired Tony.
Changes in Perception
Reactivity fading away
Fewer kinks larger tolerance
Acceptance of limitations
A completeness which unfolds
As the “you ” slows down
In the heat of conflict
You taste the awareness of the moment
And let go of the memory
An awareness of the mind speeding
everything passes away
Finally a need for order
Details which seemed mundane
Unhurried sense of order…
In between flight of thoughts ,
Constant attack of attraction and aversion
Silence comes to you…
You gaze with a breath of newness
Seeing, hearing , tasting, touching
Without evaluation, without choice
Moments that last forever
Moments when life reveals its mystery.
~ Ravi Lulla (Hong Kong)
I find myself fallen into a maze;
the flowering vines along the walls
had tempted me to enter.
I awake from my dreams to see
The beauty of the maze twisted
to fears beyond hope.
I look back,
My footprints stolen;
No memory remains.
Did a devil lead me here,
Or just my will?
I search for the way out
but every path leads to pain.
No one is willing to give me a hand;
at the very beginning they warned me:
“Don’t fall into the trap!”
I pray to God to save me
But He just sheds His tears,
and waves His hand to raise the wind.
Fallen leaves blown into the sky
shade the sunlight.
Then I come to a cold cold night.
I cry for,
and repent my guilt.
I lose all my senses;
I can’t help myself.
I hear laughter everywhere—
Is it from the people outside
Or from the devil nearby?
What can lead me through this maze
The voice from the bottom of my heart tells me:
His warm whisper
His kind smile.
Maybe this is the only way.
~ Joan Tang (Hong Kong)
Writing to Myself
I am writing to myself again,
But instead of addressing it to Jaeson
I address it to Julee or Angie or Joanna
But I tell them I love them?and will never leave them
Trying to leave them hints to repeat those words to me
Just so that I can listen to what it sounds like to be told that I’m loved?
By someone other than me?
As if it was such a big deal to have some stranger
When they don’t even know me
They may not have even had the patience to try
And I want them to love me
I want them to accept me
So I am writing to myself again,
This time I will say Hey Jaeson? I’m you
I’m writing to let you know that you’re beautiful,
And you’re poetic, and you’re gorgeous, and loyal,
And sincere, and have a wonderful way about you,
And that you’re uplifting and even when you’re down
You have a way of making people think of better days
Of making people smile about something deeper than
just the everyday nuance or diurnal diatribe, you are
a prince among men and you are loved with more fire
and fervour than the stars and angels rolled into a
cup of warm sweet comfort and unconditional affection
You are the reason why heaven was created, you are the
moment of love’s spur and eternal yearning unleash and
unstuck, you are the hurried spasm of the eternal
crush, you mash on and rush forth until all words mean
nothing, until all heated embraces return to you like
a constellation of ache and burning?stunning and
bedazzled, you glitter and tear, know no more fear,
and can address letters to you, instead of someone
who is only a mirror, only a reflection, only a puppet in
the machination of divine scheming, teaching us that
there is only One
And once you’ve found you,
The universe will at last be silent, still and
Is This Namaste?
~ Jaeson Iskander
Images flash in the back of my mind
As I try to remember my dreams
For the past few nights.
Trapped in a dimension unknown,
Dark and fearful; like Death awaits.
Shrieking and roaring. As if begging
For strength and courage to confront
Recurrent scenes of my phantasmagoria.
I grappled. I howled. I began to cry.
Tears ran like a river. Flooded. Blooded.
Drowning in an ocean on a sunless day,
Mourning for the arrival of doomsday.
Kneeling and praying, I closed my eyes
Palm to palm, pleading to the benevolent
Statues in a Temple in Tibet.
I wished to find a direction.
I wished to comprehend my meditation.
I wake up lost in a quandary.
~ William Cheng (Hong Kong)
The Word of the Father
Before the need for prayer, a man
facing the sun or north or some-direction
hands folded in piety, no need then
for prayer, only love that compels worship;
a sense of awe of the unknown. Now, within eight
houses along your road, eight religions
speak without words to God.
Newspaper flies open at your feet,
murder all over the page
and temple torn down, and mosque,
white walls execrated with religion’s blood.
Somewhere, the body of a woman lies
in a crumpled heap, crucifix twinkling on neck.
It’s not religion, you say, deny
That god has anything to do with all this violence
because your god is great and no man shall die
for his sake. With true love and sanctimonious
faith, you praise and thank, and then you will vow
not to worship another god, you will appease
a jealous god. Before the birth of religion,
a man walking barefoot on his land
facing the stars and the infinite sky, no call
to prostrate himself on the ground, beg mercy
for a sin he never committed. No Utopia
of peace and goodwill but a few wars less,
a few lives let live; yet, you insist religion is good
and it is God’s word, to be feared and followed.
~ Sravana Reddy (India)
A Modicum of Truth
You call for pizza, remembering the jingle,
“748-48-48; Send-For-It-For-It-For-It,” exchanging words for numbers—
You switch on the television.
Budget talks on Channel 5
Men exchanging numbers and words—
The state promises to deliver,
The doorbell rings.
Nowadays, they deliver anything for a price.
Is on everybody’s mind.
Is this why I’m struggling to get an ‘A’?
I cannot learn this way.
I need to rise above all that—
Greed, lust and lies.
But these are everywhere.
On magazine covers, newspaper headlines,
On the lips of taxi drivers, celebrities,
The politicians on TV.
The television cables entwine
The swiftness of information
The currency of what they call knowledge
Is nothing but a tide of confusion.
Eroding mountains whereon true genius lies,
Perverting the peaks to depths unthinkable.
Modern wisdom serves one purpose,
To buy, acquire, purchase, How can I express it simply?
Greedy genius—I mock the use, I mock the times.
They make me blame myself for laziness.
I say, “Cruel indolence besets the wearied mind.”
Now my wandering wisdom with waning steps,
Struggles to scale, to search for higher ground.
Can anyone scale but in modest motions
The mountain of wisdom; the nearest to the sky.
There are no mountains where I live
Only towers of modernity, the scrapers of the sky,
With satellite dishes which shrink the world
And show us all
But we do not see
The marching army of madmen-who exist
For pursuit of wealth, pride, pleasure—
In no particular order.
But here I mount the massive mountain of the mind
Against the tide of modernity; the slime of red or green or lime
(That depends on the colour of your credit card)
Cannot ever douse this climbing desire.
I yearn to claim the mountain of modest truth,
The only truth that counts in time.
For the mind cannot fall asleep
Though spirit denied the time to keep
Searching for the answer.
Because today there exists but a modicum of truth,
Through the perilous path of modern survival,
And those who do not know this
Continue to ask, “What’s the frequency for that channel?”
~Mohammad Said bin Rahim (Singapore)
Walking down the fuzzy street,
feeling a dizzy sensation
Going ahead at my floating pace,
Why was there a destination?
Oh, my God,
Why was I the winner of the devil’s Jackpot?
Sent to heaven and then imprisoned.
and ever . . .
~ Jess Yim Ka-mei (Hong Kong)
In the Dark
Standing in the dark,
feeling how the darkness would feel.
It hears every whisper from a distance,
but never any beautiful trusting lies.
Under a veil of darkness,
I’m transparent within the crowd,
can hide amidst the well-masked faces,
and be whatever, whoever, wherever.
Wind whistling, mind twisting,
both are guided by the amazing dark.
If a star’s slight grin starts my journey,
I can travel beyond dark-obscured boundaries
Shouting to the dark,
answers resound and follow me.
Talking to the crowd, screaming aloud,
Not a word was ever heard.
Misery, mystery, do they only exist in the dark?
Isn’t it that in the dark all eyes are blind?
And isn’t it certain that seens are frank but unseens fake?
If is it, let me be blind.
~ Jess Yim Ka Mei (Hong Kong)
being the apparition
the hidden story
as curiosity strikes
no power over
decisive but divided
entire garrison retreats
sand and dust flys
beyond the fort of emptiness
blocked circulation in his veins
refracts the past
the reddish black plum stuck
A sudden silence
awaking his soul
the dark shadow
shapes the candle
Colourless and dry
how much more to bear
weaving darkness as cover
how much more to wear
painting the memory as illusion.
Sparkles with light!
for you have hands to touch the prize
for you must have faith in your own eyes
the gold, the goal
The little prince
in his own kingdom
paints the ninth colour
in his new rainbow
~ Vivian Chiang (Hong Kong)
Must, a seed that does not carry weight
Unto rich pockets, or foolish such a way—
Scatter nevertheless, to a fertile plain may pay,
The rain moisturizes; veins awake
As the seed brews, a deed destines to break:
Row—the seed grows into a stem into a Trunk the Great
Day trade whose trade is to fish masses for a place;
Seats in gold, but on soil their pilgrims’ plane.
Enter once its spread of branches as birds prey to pray:
Endless glory invites an egoistic cock to praise,
Drill, seven days the seed creates, a mountain and a lake.
Jesus said that if one has faith as small as a mustard seed,
he/she can do great things.
~ Kucinta Setia (Singapore)
Mustard seeds are mentioned twice in the Book of Matthew:
31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
oblique, and moving closer.
Are they apart – or are they near?
Who is to say; what is to tell?
Two lines that meet; yet never
– a barricade in between –
Two lines so far apart; an
– converge eventually;
a single entity.
shifting constantly; nuances
– imperceptible, yet not
Forming patterns, forming signs.
Telling something; not always
taking shape; a picture is
Suddenly, into the light
– all is clear;
the heart understands.
~ by Elaine J. Goh (Singapore)
When I think of my Lord (Sense Poem)
When I think of my Lord,
I see the sun rise from the mountains.
When I think of my Lord,
I hear songs of morning birds.
When I think of my Lord
I taste cool spring water.
When I think of my Lord,
I smell I smell the scent of fresh roses.
When I think of my Lord,
I feel the warmth of sunshine in Autumn.
~ by Iris Cheng Ka-yin
May not the
Element of space
Rise against me
In acrid acrimony.
From the north
Arrives green goddess
Ghanta of serpent head
Garlanded with skulls
And in her hand
Holding metallic bells
Sounds in surges
Deafening eared knell.
Let me remember
The past deeds
For all the things
Great and small
For all the creeds.
For the white dove
For the yellow bear
For fields of worms
For earth borne cares.
Let not the
Element of sun
Arise against me
In wandering thirst
Or burning symptoms.
Yogins arise westward
Bringing seeds of wisdom
With wavering of garlands
Four coloured lights
And the scents
Moulded from purified elements.
All prevailing circles
Let not the element
Of the earth
Arise against me.
In splintered segments.
~ Durlabh Singh (England)
Bardo means ‘between two’. According to Tibetan Bhuddhist beliefs, the bardo is an intermediate stage between death and rebirth. But the bardo can also refer to intermediate stages between consciousness and dreams.
Pale Blue Skies
Under the pale blue soft skies
On white sanded sculpted shores
Where the birds cast their shadows
Amid decreasing days of summer lores.
Paths of never returning a thousand ages
Paths of ever occurring a thousand clefts
Cast out by wakeful gates of sheltered eyes
In echoes and the silent sound of the foot steps.
Here in the time where the paths end
Amid laborious hells carried within oneself
Pivoted fingers in moth moulded stance
In ever widening circles of the fiery spells.
Knowledge of ignorance, knowledge of knowing
Knowledge of light, knowledge of dark sowing
Knowledge of deeds, knowledge of the unsaid
Knowledge of beginnings, knowledge of the ends.
And how should I know
And what should I hold?
When I am only a novice
In the complexities of my soul.
~ Durlabh Singh (India)
A Plain Brown Box
In the middle of the street is a box. It is six foot six inches by three feet, with cedar planks on the sides; two three-by-two pine boards hold the sides together with dovetail joints. Smiling children, women, men, pastors, and morticians walk pass the box with candy in their hands.
In the box a woman is motionless. Her face is powered white, and her lips are painted magenta. I walk into a nearby store and question the clerk.
“Excuse me, but who made the box in the street?”
“Oh, you mean the carriage?”
“The one with the woman in it?”
“The carriage was left there a few days ago. No one knows who put it there.”
“Isn’t anyone going to put it away?”
“What if it gets damaged?”
“No.” he says, and turns to help a customer. I walk out to the carriage and look at the construction. The side planks are 8″-by 6’6″-by-1/2″. There are no nails holding the sides together, only dowel rods on the corners. A man walks up to me.
Continue Reading A Plain Brown Box: A Story by Peter Lin (USA)
“Like water, which can clearly mirror the sky and the trees only so long as its surface is undisturbed, the mind can only reflect the true image of the Self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed.” ~Indra Devi
When the veil of darkness has draped itself around your life and concealed the tears of your pain and despair, when the destiny you had envisaged has all but faded like water amongst the golden sands of the desert, when you stand alone in your hour of adversity and need and no-one is willing to stand beside you, when the battles within your life are on the verge of defeat and ruin, when you are in exile within your own mind, when your heart is empty and is merely watered by the tears of your agonized and anguished soul.
When you feel like a bird caged behind bars which once flew high above snow capped mountains free and unhindered and now reach out to touch the essence of your dreams, when tears and sorrow have embraced your soul, when the temples of your dreams lie in ashes like the ruins of an ancient age gone by and there are no traces of your footsteps within the valley of your dreams.
Continue reading Perseverance: An Essay by Naresh Jhali (Hong Kong)
Philosophical Tea Breaks
Although tea-breaks aren’t very popular in this little island, other than on rare occasions in exceptionally flamboyant restaurants, they are pretty much the habit in the Tan household. Ilse had never forgotten how this exquisite piece of English culture had managed to leak into her daily routine.
Although Hong Kong is her birthplace and home, Ilse’s affection for the island never went beyond the well-drawn Japanese animations and the fact that most of her extended family lived there.
‘Hong Kong,’ she wrote in her diary, ‘is not only practical— had it only been that, I would not have disliked it. Tough-minded, and being realistic seems the only key to excellence in the battle of the survival of the fittest. But Hong Kong isn’t only practical, it’s crude. There’s a sharp difference in being practical and being crude, and it’s the crude that I cannot stand.
‘There is something else that I cannot stand about Hong Kong people, and unfortunately, I’m afraid the trend has caught up with me too although I’m trying to resist it. It’s the horrible mix of Cantonese and English words during conversations. I don’t call that a language—it is something worse than pigeon English. It makes my skin creep. So now, my sentences are either fully English or fully Cantonese—sometimes I alternate between the two—but still, its better than degrading the language.’
‘There is a beauty in the words of every language—the sounds, the impressions, that stand out from the pages—I used to be able to discuss these with Connie and Ruth, but here in Hong Kong, no one seems to care. I use to compose stories with my old school-friends, but Hong Kong is the graveyard of creativity.’
Ilse didn’t hate Hong Kong, but neither did she ever like it whole-heartedly. She never hated her classmates, but she never could like them whole-heartedly either. She gave up being frank and honest—people in Hong Kong cared too much about opinions.
One summer day, a cousin of Mrs. Tan, arrived on the doorstep of the Tan household, and brought with her, what Ilse perceived as two perfect conversationalists.
Continue reading Philosophical Tea Breaks by Vivian Wong (Hong Kong)
Lachesis, Clotho and Atropos, the three fates yawned and stretched themselves. They had stayed up all night observing the people below Olympus.
Lachesis was the dispenser of lots and decided the destiny of men. Clotho, the Spinner, spun the threads of life. Atropos, the Inexorable, carried the dreaded shears, which cut the thread of life of the proper time.
Dawn was awaking. Apollo, with his sun chariot, rode past them, waving. The three Goddesses sighed and stood up.
Lachesis opened her huge book of Fate. It was the book that told all that would happen to a person’s whole life. Clotho opened her own book. Inside were written all the people that would be born that day. Atropos had her book too. The book that anyone would dread seeing. Inside was the list that told her whose life was to end that day. They had carried their books from the beginning of time. The books, bound in gold covers and silver spines, were given to them by Zeus, the most important and most powerful god in Olympus.
The three of them opened their huge books. Clotho loved her job for it was the most pleasant one, to bring new life to earth and bring joy and happiness to families. The first to born that day was Samuel Clith. Clotho smiled happily as she looked over the edge of Olympus
“Mary, Mary you must keep going! Push! Push!” the nurse shouted. Mary panted and tried to do what the nurse said. She pushed again and suddenly she felt the baby come out. She thought of her new born baby happily as she relaxed. Samuel, that was the name she had chosen for the baby when she learned that it was going to be a boy.
Continue reading Fate: A Story by Patricia Lo (Hong Kong)
AsianVoices Archives: These poems wand stories ere originally posted on the now-defunct AsianVoices website (1997-2004), which featured poetry and fiction by young Asian writers. Copyright belongs to the original authors. If you are the writer and would like to remove, add or edit this work, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will promptly carry out your request.
- Bloodlines: Family
- Passions: Love & heartbreak
- Edible Words: Food
- Life’s Journey: Innocence & experience
- Scenes: Everyday life
- Requiem: Death & remembrance
- Reflections: Self-discovery & spirituality
- In Class: School life & education
- In Transit: Travel & transportation
- Destinations: Places
- Nature: Animals & the environment
- Muses: The creative process
- Conflict: War and its effects
- Kids’ Corner: For younger readers
- Pets: About, for and by pets
- Friendship: Cherished bonds
- Emotions: Emotional states
- Haiku: Concise poems
- Brushstrokes: Chinese-language works