Emily of Emerald Hill

Theodore Lim Li

[From Stella Kon's play of the same name.]

Testing the days against their patience,
stuttering through an intravenous
sequence of delusions, the
septuagenarian, paralysed from half a
side down continues divesting the
days with a serpentine rustling of

Sliced by jalousies, each disjointed
mundane occurrence adheres only to
surrender at the next to the aberrant
itinerary of a fly, settling on a rim of
glass, mating the unfettered universe.

The soliloquy of tea taken
without a sound: a face is
a luminous stain dissolving in a
saucer before a human spout;
the spasmodic jerking: of a
bone-dry arm - a springroll

Only the artefacts around her commune,
with time loosening its grasp on meaning,
and all that were left, nothing more than
the efflorescence of a flowering screen, or
the noble sentiments that fall down
hanging scrolls of silent calligraphy.

Still, as a matter of form
the relatives intrude
to resurrect the fact
that she
who had studied all her life
to serve, survived
her husband and her only son,
and now sequestered, sloughing offthe years
on batik prints.

It was actually the maid
who blurted before a shocked congregation
at Bethesda,
that the vociferous railing
of her venerable mistress
had had nothing to do with the miserable cancer
gnawing at her chest.
It was the ignominy rather
of having to share the late Master's
last official moments with another,
of admitting to the sanctity of the demised,
the pollution of another wife!

Upstaged to the very last
she would contrive
as forbearingly as before
to preserve the dignity
of a family of Emerald Hill.

The ivory cane that was
today a seven-bended kris

A bell.
The arrival of the faithful.
The dignified cadaver turns
from the hieroglyphics
of a gutted dream
to regard the ragged band
of gold-brocaded, diamond-pointed
jade encrusted cronies
manipulated by their maids,
unfold the trivial pattern of their woes,
their flowers, their gardens,
their gilt-entangled mansions.

Revised 29th October, 1998

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Singaporean Literature Theodore Lim Li