An Ode to the Sungei Road Market (3-part collective) by Mohd Khairulnizam

Sungei Sudah Larut

I went down

To the Sungei,

And dove in

With my clothes on.

I wanted to let the waves of thoughts

wash over me,

While my feet touched the riverbed.

The promise of riches

Led me to one of

The Orang Sungai;

His smile invited me

to sieve through

his treasure of trinkets.

My fingers splayed out,


to clutch onto something

to remember this place by.

They came from upstream, you know.

With their suits, signages and their speakers.

They came to take our River from us.

Look at it from our perspective,

they shout

from the top

of their ivory towers.

We are called

‘opportunistic traders’

and an inconvenience,

but never by our names.

I found a different kind

of treasure

down at the river.

Eighty years of keeping

their civilization afloat,

tapi sungai in sudahpun larut.


River Runs Dry

Today in Geography class I learnt

How climate change

Among other things,

Causes rivers to dry up.

Something about agriculture

And man’s impact on the environment.

Perhaps if I listened more closely

I’d know why

The flow of the Mekong Delta

Suffocates on its many dams, and that

Irrigation hinders The Nile’s descent

Into the Mediterranean Sea

Or how the promise

Of change

And a better railway station


Sungei Road out,

Leaving in its wake

A barren river bed.


Fishermen Wives

They say that

Fishermen go out to sea

Before the dawn spills over,

That their wives wait

Three days before declaring

Their husbands lost at sea.

Let me be your lighthouse,

And keep vigil over

The wind-lashed waves,

Let me scour for

A glimpse

Of your boat

O’er the horizon,

And the sight of

Your bronzed skin

Cured by salt

And the sea wind.

Let the tide guide

Your vessel back into port,

As you anchor your hands

Around mine.

Reel me in

With your tales of far-off

Unmapped islands

While I drift out

Into the open sea of slumber.

For I know,

That if I were to wake

In the pitch of night

From dreams that defy description

The snare of your embrace will

Always tighten around me

And the only place

That I’d risk getting shipwrecked is in

Your ocean eyes.

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