Nicholas Liu

Ghazal of Insufficient Research

I wanted to find the enemy in you
but I got distracted.
We stood in a field looking into another field.
Mouse deer came into the field.
Some had all their teeth, others had both their horns.
We called that deeply satisfying.
Fumigators approached, so we made the deer choose
ten favourite flies to shelter in their mouths. They sat in a circle,
tails swishing angry little eyebrows in the dust. Next to them
I felt like a robot with limited social experience
and that felt like no bad thing
so I told them of the importance of consistent tense,
how it’s no good to end up doing
what you started out having done.
You had them write “I Remember”s.
One of them wrote, “I remember eating the candles
though the whole cake was laid before me.”
It was a good sentence, but I marked it down for lying—
the cake had gone off and the candles, as always, were delicious.
Grading was tough. We told ourselves they had
no names, needed no names
(we had read this somewhere, to be honest),
but the truth is they wanted them very much.
In the end we put down “1–25. | Deer, Mouse | A/A-/B+”,
left the registrar to sort it out.
I’ll write a ghazal for them in atonement, a proper one
with a refrain and everything.
I’ll call it “Your Choice of Sides.”

Nicholas Liu lives in Singapore. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in elimae, Mantis, RHINO and Viz. Inter-Arts and his first book, Versions from the English, will be published later this year by firstfruits publications. He blogs at The Placeholder.

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