middle child’s the problem
WRITTEN BY SHAUN LOH
Five years ago today, you were skinny,
earrings dangling, eyes popping
in emerald blue. You told me
jokes about the man who came
on your stomach, which made you
chortle. The boy who choked
you after you said you were done. Then we giggled.
You never told me about the demons
that roared at night, as our kitchen knife
sat beside you in bed, no shape of an ex
who pushed you over. You never told me
about the voices you heard around our
living room, as I sat there finishing Math
equations. You never told me until
today, as your eyes roll back under
the dosage of antidepressants,
your hair circa o-seven Britney,
your hands strapped down
to the gurney, your body metamorphosed
from skinny-bitched, spaghetti-strapped
to the fat girls we once pitied.
Four years ago, me at fourteen,
in a Macdonalds over ice-cream
you told me, you had sex with a man
you didn’t know. I frowned,
salem witch judge,
and you burst into tears,
rambling under a kid’s judgment.
Three years ago as we jammed to Rihanna,
you told me to cherish my education,
and the attention Mummy gave that you
never got, because you got a vagina
instead. You told me to love my girl,
or boy. Do not screw things up.
I laughed you off.
Two years ago your pregnancy test
bill sent straight to our address —
you forgot to pay. Mummy called
you a prostitute, ji nu. Mummy told me
Dad didn’t die for you to be
a damned slut. I tried telling her
it’s your life but she just kept crying.
One year ago you left home.
Two weeks later the police
left you in the asylum. Apparently,
while on your sabbatical
you saw demons. I was so angry
you didn’t tell me you needed to run.
You said you’ll never be sorry.
Today in the ward for the 8th time
in 6 years, I look into your dazed eyes.
I tell you about the boy who taught me
how to face my fears, before becoming
my very ghost. I tell you about the latest jeans
I bought from Levi’s. I tell you how much
I love my life, and yours more.
Shaun Loh is a Singaporean poet based in North Carolina. His creative works have been published in down in the dirt and An Atelier of Healing: Poetry about Trauma and Recovery. Elsewhere, his essays and op-eds have been published in South China Morning Post (Young Post) and the Harvard Kennedy School Singapore Policy Journal.