I’m Not Your Uncle


This for the the uncles

This is for the one 
who plays his Chinese radio 
out loud on public transport
because earphones are too
troublesome and of course
the whole bus wants to hear
“Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin”
for the fifteenth time during
the several hours spent travelling
from Tampines to Jurong to
catch that rare Pokémon 
his mahjong friend told him about

This is for the one
who got off at Old Airport Road
to get the famous prawn mee
from the hawker centre, who 
couldn’t be bothered to 
follow traffic rules and 
climbed across the railing in
the middle of the road, dodging 
cars like some hero of an old
Hong Kong action movie would dodge fists

This is for the one
who pounds his fist to 
get the attention of a xiao jie, grinning
toothlessly and gesturing 
vaguely to bring another round of
Carlsberg, not caring too much about 
the stares from customers of
the Kopitiam he sits in
shirtless, at 9AM with only a
Good Morning towel around his neck

This is for the one
who will greet you every morning with 
a smile as he sweeps at the 
leaves that clog our 
void deck, clearing a path 
for hectic commuters who on their
return home, glare disapprovingly as
he rests on the seat at the 
pick up point, staring into the sunset

This is for the one
who in the setting sun sits with
his tai tai at the bench downstairs, smiling
at young couples that pass as he 
reminds her of their courtship, how
they met at the playground nearby and
soon enough ended up at the 
cinema, neither paying much attention as
he leaned over in the dark, and they laughed as
Kacang Puteh spilled on the floor

This is for the one
who’s shaking hands spill 
food into plastic bowls for
the strays that circle the void deck;
he is never seen, only thanked by
purrs and miaows for the traces of his
benevolence, left in little brown 
fish on tiled floors
And this, this for the one
who was found on the floor after
a stroll off the neighbourhood carpark 
rooftop was dismissed to be an
accident, caused by the onset of
senility, and when they covered his
body, cutting him off from the 
world for the last time, no one
bothered to contact his family, it
wouldn’t have made a difference, he
had departed from them long ago, 
when liability replaced his name

This is for the uncles
in all their single-minded
uncouth, impatient,
quirky, unashamed, 
mild-mannered, smiling
caring, lonely glory,

We just need to see it

Tian Sundermann was an Literary Arts student from 2016-2019. The literary arts programme helped to sharpen his poetic voice, translating abstract ideas into thought-provoking works.