Kitchen table blues

she retires to her kitchen

for the comfort and the warmth

it is her den, her study and her workplace

she reads, she listens to music and she cooks the family meals


there are also ghosts in this kitchen

spirits who visit and sleep between the pages of her books on her desk:

there is Madame Bovary who lingers when she cuts the onions

and permeates her kitchen with the cloying odour –

the inevitability of domesticity

the stinging tears that longs for escape

from provincial life,

the ever encroaching bourgeois-dom.

there is Anna Karenina who infuses the air of romance

and whips up dreams of the realms of passion

as airy as any pavlova,

she has no panache for this just desert,

not the spirit to macerate the forbidden fruit.

there is Sylvia Plath who stirs the creative juices

and stews the existentialist doubts

the restless search –

her genius for self annihilation

a feast yet to be served in her kitchen.

red onions

copyright © 2007 thoelisney


coupling does not ensure a soul mate


copyright © 2007 thoelisney

coupling does not ensure a soul mate

it tricks

by the semblance of giving one

and leaves one doubly desolate

for having been duped for so long.

I dreamt of a kindred spirit

to be fused in a dance

to the stars and to knit

our limbs in embrace

of joy and discover the contours of our bodies

to map our desires and chart our caprice

to voyage in a vessel of our love

and fuelled by our passion

for books, music and learning.

I did not foresee that we would flounder

and get lost in the labyrinth of meaning

that we could not be sustained

by a plain diet of mutual understanding

the fresh innocence that we brought on board.

We were timorous in our exploration

of our sensual and sensuous selves

not knowing how to plumb and exploit the depths.

I was ignorant and knew not what to search-

there was no virtue in such ignorance

nor the dependence I had on his navigation

and provision.

Now I have no such excuse

to continue in this claustrophobic existence.

My eyes are still fixed on a dance to the stars

but my trip will be solo

to be celibate and celebrate

the compass that is my soul

to veer towards my God, my Constellation

but I could not abandon my hapless mate

stranded by my faithlessness

on my course to a different destiny

so we are still drifting

abiding time when the wind will change

awaiting to sight the other shore

yin yang sign

a young man in white

Amidst the din and the fury of the storm
the acrid and steamy heat, the fat raindrops that fell in rivulets down gutters
the percussion as they hit on the cars and the roofs, the blaring horns
the cacophony of the scurrying pedestrians, bicycles, trishaw drivers
school children and traffic all wending their way;
I saw a young man in white under a waxed umbrella
continuing unconcerned:
calm, unhurried, as if in a reverie
he came into my vision like an exercise in zen
Then he stooped under an awning
into the depths of a herbalist shop.
I caught my breath, awed by this impression of serenity
would he be caught in the same Confucian morass
convinced in the jaundiced prejudice for the male child
assured in his chauvinistic pride of place?
would he believe in karma ?
would he delegate disability to neuter me evenmore
to a life without passion and love?
That scar, still raw and red from childhood
denigrates my sense of womanhood
that I was chaan fai, useless, destined as one of life’s debris.
I have never sought the love of the men of my race
for fear of that image mirrored in their dark eyes
my self esteem fragile, slowly built abroad
in the land of strangers.
Now, I catch myself daring to look at men
and secretly weave a dream
for a talisman to bind up those ancient wounds
for the girlchild who would allow herself to be
healed back into the fold.
(written in1997)

A Homage to Li Po

poetThe brilliant moonlight

pierces my shut lids

like an interrogatory lamp

boring through my subconscious.

In my somnolent state,

Li Po’s poem from my childhood

springs into mind,

recalling family, homeland

the bitter sweet yearning

of all that is dear and familiar

by the exile faraway

in some distant land.

But that would be an untruth

in my present position:

my statelessness,

my schizophrenic mélange

of language,culture and cuisine

leaves me afloat

like a kite


the skein that binds me

to my ethnic origins

lies tangled,

fitfully held,

so as not to lose the thread.

Often, deep into the night,

I watch satellite t.v.

Chinese programmes,

acessing a language

grown rusty with disuse.

The luminous moon

beams still mercilessly

into my room

on to my bed


unplaced guilt.

I pay homage to Li Po

to his homeland

and that of my ancestors, not mine

never even visited

yet still bound

by a desolate sense

of homesickness.


Quiet night thoughts

Before my bed

there is bright moonlight

so that it seems

like frost on the ground;


Lifting my head

I watch the bright moon

Lowering my head

I dream that I’m home

– Li Po

(translated by Arthur Cooper)


Journey to Scotland


With headphones jammed on my head

Music blaring into my ears

I tried to drown the voices

Those that chastise and jeer

That I should ache on a journey

On the same route

But without you, without you

I stare out at the meadows,

Rolling by, with sunshine spilling

Into the car

With me desperately making inane conversation.


“Is that not the willowherb that edges the fields?

The yarrow and the yellow celandines?

The purple heather that clothes the hillside

What is the latin name, I wonder?”


My mind busy trying

To ignore the sinews of my being

Telling me that I m missing you, missing you

Where is my inner equilibrium now?

They have failed me miserably;

My sang froid

My equanimity.

Should I sit cross legged

Try and expel you from my thoughts

With each breath I draw?

While here I am, still prattling on

Pretending to take in the border scenery.



chinese shrine

on the death of granny

(Loh Ching Mui dies 5/2/1998, 10.45pm)

they told me that poh-poh died

she had been needing hand to foot attention

these past twenty four months

serviced by a young Indonesian woman

she spoke no Chinese, poh-poh no Malay

But she had lost her speaking voice then

she who had mumbled secret prayers for this grandchild

on first day of primary school the jossticks wending smoke to whatever god or ancestor

she who went to the temple to divine my future

and entreated the goddess Kuanyin for mercy

on  a sick child stricken with polio

she with whom was shared a four poster bed

with mosquito net

and grandad

to listen to the antics of the monkey king

and many, many of those melodramatic Chinese tales of love

or kungfu stories spun out on the redifusion in Menglembu

because the child could not run out to play.

she with whom was cracked the melon seeds carefully with teeth

watching the Cantonese operas on the local makeshift temple stages

eating the Buddhist vegetarian noodles.

She is here no more

too many airmiles away

this errant grandchild mourns the passing of her maternal grandmother

without the jossticks

with an alien god

in a different culture, with a foreign tongue

she who passes to the other shore

may she rest in peace.