Sunday 5 May 2024

2 Poems by Jonathan Chan

language poem

to better pronounce my Rs

                                        and Ls

i snipped the membrane

beneath my tongue.         another incision for

                     whiteness. its embrace.  just like

the folding of eyelids. the slimming

                       of a nose.     frenectomy. the pseudoscience
of fluency.          English as class,
bearing an American
            whiff.        it is the word. language buttresses financial
                  salvation. influx empowers

            industry. of iron.

of steel. the cars will         invert

           their wheels.                 the phones
                       are a pure surface.

                                 even the rice cookers
          have learned
                       to speak.


the tempestuous murk of night was
shattered by
a crush of snail underfoot,

the crackling like the sound
of a leaf, drained of moisture, or a
thrown-away plastic box.

behind, the wall of weary gospel
tones had begun to fade, voices
in an auditorium.

oh what a thing to have
shoes on, to be made to feel
so blithe
so impervious.

the hush of an
apology cascades
to the ground.

the slurry of a body
smeared against the metal

into the drain.


Jonathan Chan is a writer and editor. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore and educated at Cambridge and Yale Universities. He is the author of the poetry collection going home (Landmark, 2022) and Managing Editor of He has recently been moved by the writing of Willie Lin, Thomas Merton, and Clint Smith. More of his writing can be found at

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