Essays    Reportage    Marginalia    Interviews    Poetry    Fiction    Videos    Everything   
Body, Reconfigurations, glass

The world held us / In glass circles

By Teng Qian Xi

sight We start off 2018 with a new portfolio, Sight. How can we trust the evidence of our eyes, when no gaze is ever neutral, and there are so many ways of seeing? In this compelling trio of poems, Singaporean writer Teng Qian Xi refracts and refocuses our line of sight, reminding us that rays of light don’t necessarily travel in straight lines.
Three Poems
by Teng Qian Xi





You imagine emptying
your bag of blood & bones

until it entices love
from the gazes of strangers and friends,

every retina a stray animal
you feed and name

until your life overflows
with their hunger.

Try mirrors:
we can see what is behind us,

look at gorgons.





Trying to pin your constellation
With accuracy

In the night house
Of my own mind

For each inch of longing is an inch of dust.


Someone diagnoses us as

I understand
The word as
Gazing at another

Through glass circles held
At a necessary distance
From objects

Surfacing years later
In the nights of your own world.


*        *        *         *        *


The constellation
Of my own

Accuracy is trying
To house your mind

Pinned in
Each inch of night

With longing
For an inch of dust.


The world held us
In glass circles

A word surfaces nights later

From another planet
Someone diagnoses

As telescoped as I gaze through
Necessary objects

At the deepening years
Of your own distance


*        *        *         *        *


In each inch of constellation
Is longing

Pinning night
To the house of dust

Within my own mind

For accuracy
Try an inch of yours


Later the telescoped nights
Surfacing from your own objects

I diagnose us
At a necessary distance

Circling through worlds
Gazing at glass years

As the planet of words deepens
As someone held another


Note: “Reconfigurations” consists of fragments from the poems “The Evolution of Language”, “Eye and Tongue”, “three love objects”, and “Night Poem”, published in Teng Qian Xi’s collection They hear salt crystallising (2010).





The transparent refuses to throw your face
back at you, forcing your attention
beyond yourself, itself.




The transparent as protection. Think of school labs:
what stands between your skin
and what burns.




The transparent as survival. The sun,
a magnifying glass, dark tinder,
a white point of light.




The transparent is smashed because you forget
it too occupies space until your skin
chances on its jagged edge.