"Readiness" by Y. S. Lee

She swims the breaststroke for her state.
You have no fight, complains the coach.           Your uncle was the better
                                                                              swimmer, he just kept going
She learns to battle to the brink
of a concrete box, yet stay within it.

For A-levels she crams hard, writes fast,
chooses Singapore for uni, too distant

for weekends at home. She plans
to christen herself anew, in English.

For now, she answers to Nooi—
daughter, sister—but her avatar

whispers from past the highway’s bend.
The night coach is a stained aquarium

for the self-exiled. They say Communists            We didn’t talk about that
prowl the jungle beyond but in its window

she sees only Carol’s eyes.




From The Malahat Review's fall issue #224