Kitchen Table MFA (World Above): Papan, Malaysia on My Mind

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 

for you. 

Reinvention. I like that, lost now in Jersey.

One can always start over anywhere….

Read Nancy Reddy’s interview with World Above here. World Above member Cole Eubank’s poem can be found here.

Kit L. Lok

Kit L. Lok, Malaysian born, uprooted to South Jersey in 1999. Rediscovering her artist self with ongoing writing and art courses, active writing community, plus other cultural, and learning opportunities in the region. Loves foreign films, the theatre, art museums, reading, book discussions, and curries. Can hold Vrksasana (tree pose) for three minutes. Most productive and creative in the wee hours.

Dona Omanoff

Art by Dona Omanoff from Pixabay.