Kitchen Table MFA (World Above): Papan, Malaysia on My Mind
Words By Kit L. Lok, Art By Dona Omanoff
This poem is part of the Kitchen Table MFA, a series that showcases writing communities through interviews and creative writing.
Papan, your name on the highway sign draws me
I turn left onto a tree-lined approach
And you come in view, a one-street ghost town.
Crumbling pre-war shophouses on left, on right,
their gap-teeth doorways, deep and dark.
Papan, What lies behind your gaping mouths?
What words are stuck there? What tin-stained
laughter, tears? How many tons
of tin ingots do these damp, peeling walls once hold?
The clatter of abacus strangled now by the grip
of creepers, the impinging trunks, branches
of banyan trees.
Papan, your lodes of rich tin once drew traders, seekers.
I imagine you a beaming, bustling one-street town.
I was once like that, busy and beaming, with purpose.
They say $200 million worth of tin still sit beneath you.
Worthless now, the world has rust-proof substitutes.
Unless…someone can come up with another use
Reinvention. I like that, lost now in Jersey.
One can always start over anywhere….