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Sungei Road

“But what to do? All good things must come to an end.”

Poetry | Poetry Tuesday, poetry
February 14, 2023

“While the Sungei Road Hawking Zone has had a long history, and holds special memories for many Singaporeans, over time, the nature of the site has changed, as reflected in both the profile of vendors and buyers, and type of goods sold. The Government has assessed that such street trades should only be allowed to continue in designated venues like trade fairs and flea markets, rather than on a permanent basis, to minimise disamenities to the public.”
—Press statement from Singapore government agencies, 14 February 2017

“I just had to come down one last time to document the place where I have childhood memories. Closing them down is a very cruel thing to do,” he said.

“But what to do? All good things must come to an end.”
—”Sungei Road Thieves’ Market: The final weeks,” Channel NewsAsia, 9 July 2017

Exhausted heart of a watch, dead baby’s birth cert,
unknown god with scarred face: these are sold in Sungei Road.

Cream smoothens the cracks on lips, blood shocks
the tongue, gives way to the sea, the laksa from Sungei Road.

Two men shout at each other, or perhaps not, while the crowd
gawks at the death of a fish, in a canal by Sungei Road.

His body is a scroll to be read, a dragon’s head surges
from his heart, he sells mysteries of the flesh in Sungei Road.

Commerce makes us sweet, the theorists said, but not for the crone
who feels each sale a loss, and abuses the buyers of Sungei Road.

The deliberations flower, bear their hard fruit,
springing gnarled roots to crumple Sungei Road.

He spoke to me with tendrils of rot, the grip of the grave
stilling his speech, so I had no idea what he did at Sungei Road.

A lion dances down this road which is neither past nor present,
the crowd is unmade, scatters down streets which are not Sungei Road.

I hate it that my love smokes: still I bought him an ashtray
to catch the life he’s burning away, on the last day of Sungei Road.