rail corridor: sketches
first stride: along grassy paths, walkways carved by the imprints of past treks. butterflies and herons, longkangs surging, folded around malls, by roads and schools and barracks, under underpasses and into denser herbage. the folding humidity and whip of wind, brief brush of soft rain. gingerly over dead frogs and eyes honed-in on rotting fruit, like a red maw. quartered community tracks, hands cupped to make the gravel glow green. against the vegetation, the whir of weeds whacked by brothers in red jumpsuits. last stretch: the squelch of mud, the rush of the river. similes always gastronomic: like fudge, brownie batter, teh peng, fanta orange. the concrete of a looming intersection, framed by foliage. mouth opens into deceptive pools, treaded with delicacy, exhaustion simmering, the unbearable lightness of walking on water.
Clementi Forest, Singapore
'For a time / I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.’ - Wendell Berry, ‘The Peace of Wild Things’
the misty layer bears no forethought of sorrow. it hovers over the clearing and the stream, just as the yawn of daylight scatters over vines and fans of leaves. the albizia tree is glazed in morning’s attention. the swifts take their place in shyer crowns, and the beetles rest, shells glistening red, like jewels. and yet, i cannot shake the tinted weight of grief: like the grip of mud, or the roots that coil like snakes, how distraction bends into every ache, the transience of crisper air. for the gradual cut of silence, the laying down of tracks, the slow weaning of faces, and the lives lived in transition, the forest comes, and will come again, resolving into a kind of strength. for a time, we come as we are.
Jonathan Chan is a writer, editor, and graduate student at Yale University. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore and educated in Cambridge, England. He is interested in questions of faith, identity, and creative expression