How to take care of your mother

In memory of Wong Chai Kee

The most difficult thing about my father’s wake was being told ‘you must take care of your mother’. Over and over some well-meaning attendee would shuffle over, say the words and walk away. Coming from acquaintances or strangers, the move seemed Singaporean in the worst sense, like they were trying to meet ‘funeral wake KPIs’ of (i) show up (ii) walk past embalmed corpse (iii) offer grieving son advice to convey sympathy. I’d go so far as to say it was rude; the intimacy of sharing grief must be earned, not intruded upon. Continue reading “How to take care of your mother”

The Voice

1950 The Voice egg tempera & enamel on canvas 244.1 x 268 cm
© 2013 Barnett Newman Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


What is ekphrasis? Simply put, it is the process of translating a work of art from one genre to another–a sculpture that seeks to capture the essence of a novel, say, or a dance that tries to grasp the energy of a kind of music. Literally, it is a way of speaking (phrasis) out (ek), of calling an object by name and in doing so, giving it new life.

This ekphrastic poem takes as its departure Barnett Newman’s Abstract Expressionist painting The Voice, and considers human beings and their environment as works of art too. Do we know who is calling? Continue reading “The Voice”