bodies to which we do not belong by See Wern Hao

We keep asking our bodies for more.
When my father brought me
to the gym for the first time,
he said there must be tears for growth.
I learnt from him,
the way the mirror shows us
the difference between our actual form
and what we imagine.

I started to press —
pen to paper, dumbbell to chest, lips —
expecting repetition to give
meaning, force, tenderness,
not necessarily in that order.
There is only so much that can be stretched.

After a while, my palms grew calluses. The body refusing
to be torn at the same place twice.
Soon, even muscles started getting used
to aching. I became dull. For days at a stretch,

if I did not write a new poem or go to the gym,
I think about my father. How he made me
go out of the house on Saturdays to run
below the train tracks at Ang Mo Kio.

There must be tears for growth.
How, eight years on, when I asked him
about life in Melbourne, his short silence
tells me he vacillates between both meanings,
the breaking and the broken. This

alone is enough for me

to do another pushup,
write another line,
speak over the line. Yes,
I have made friends here.

Six years ago, I started overtaking my father
on the track by a lap, then two.

Today, I have stopped looking in the mirror.

 

 

See Wern Hao is pursuing Law and Liberal Arts at the National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS College. His works have been featured in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Softblow and other literary journals. He has also contributed to anthologies such as Words: Lost and Found and Rollercoasters & Bedsheets.