Things We Mistake For Vows

1. Wine glasses purring in foam cots, a mug’s coffee tattoo.

2. Children imagine what and how toothbrushes communicate. The usual suspects: rent over hygiene, space over sanity.

3. Not here—all curtains and no visitors. No tourists to make the beds.

4. Rambling even in your snores: sheets easing, exhaling, then wrenched taut with the weight of appointments we have failed to continue without. But narrowly.

5. Is a lullaby; is a memo stuck on oblivion. Of all compromises we sacrifice the least deserving ones.

6. You laugh when I say the phone is hanging by a thread. Outside, trees become charlatans preparing to flinch.

7. An ashtray, a fireplace dormant with memories of ignition. Pull my collar like a fuse, pencil each stretch mark like fuel.

8. Seriously, toothbrushes?

9. What the calendar advertises, it does not betray. It is no oracle.

10. Hands gripping sky, pair of forgivers trying. A star withers, crumbles and breaks. You whisper, “We’re all young eventually.”*

11. Rudimentary apology of languishing aphorisms: lol & gtg & btw, dinner?

12. Also in the morning, milk embracing its expiration date. Your breath on my nape shivers like a deadline.

13. Some twelve-step programs begin with triumph. O, yonder sunlight simm’ring at the window’s edge like Cointreau.

14. Dust claims proximity to everything but alternatives. This means commitment.

15. If Mom walks in on us, plunge to the floor and pretend you’re looking for something. I’ll still be asleep.

16. It may or may not rain. Fog must be slept away. On a day like this, Eleanor Roosevelt wakes to a future trivialised by the beauty of her dreams.

17. Pop and go. Prozac on the rocks.

18. DDMMYY: 061111. I love your chest emblazoned on my back, our legs embroidered like branches. No dear diaries.

19. You never know what season it is. Just snow masquerading as perfume, a loss of control, a stain to remember how good it feels.

20. These are not maternal warnings for the sleaze of running water.

*Rearrangement of lyrics from Young Blood by The Naked and Famous.

Previously published in Chasing Curtained Suns (Math Paper Press, 2012).

Born in 1991, Jerrold Yam is studying Law at University College London. His debut poetry collection is Chasing Curtained Suns (Math Paper Press, 2012) and his second is forthcoming by the end of 2012. He won the National University of Singapore’s Creative Writing Competition 2011.

Object(s) to bring back to life: “Chalkboards. I remember getting all wide-eyed and excited by the kaleidoscopic swirls of chalk dust in a classroom. Looking back, hasn’t the pursuit of knowledge always meant whetting an insatiable appetite to leave indelible stains on our fingers?”