Language, like love

Alvin Pang

can build bridges
or burn them.

This much is known.


I take a word
and insert it into the
space between us.

Does that connect us? Only
if you take it in
and make it your own. Then

you take another word
and throw it back
to me. My turn.


This is about physics.
Taking a loose word, and
Stretching it, transferring all

Your rage and thought and
Passion into that taut pull.
Stretching it just beyond its

Capacity. And then letting go.


Whole strings of them.
You'd think they had
substance, the way we love

to throw and stretch them
out, taut lines to peg
ordinary meanings on.


Or how about morse code
where language is always a series
of stops and starts:

Flash, flash, nothing, flash,
flash, nothing, flash.

The way we
decipher the silences,
you'd think love
was written in code.


In a language like love
there are only syllables
even a child could manage.


Children speak it. So
does grass, reaching
upwards towards air.

The language of trees
is heavy with love,
florid and accented,

we even give flowers
when we do not know
what to say.

You hear it in the
dreamy purr of the cat
curled up on the carpet

or on your lap, you can
listen to the orioles
shrilling, frantic,

and think it brings pleasure.


A fish lays eggs

its eyes staring straight
ahead, as if at nothing,
not wanting to look

back. Too small
and too soft to be marbles
the clear spheres form

in spurts of foam
rising to the surface
like thought balloons.


Love perhaps, like language,
happens. It's done, simply
because it can be done

and someone thinks
they want it to happen.


Perhaps language is most like love
when it is not there, when
it has to be looked for.

When it won't come
if called. When it leaves.
When we reach for it, just

before we realise
its absence.

Published in Testing the Silence (1997)

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Singaporean Literature Alvin Pang