top of page

middle child’s the problem


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.

bottom of page