I was a whole person

Three Poems by Marylyn Tan


in the right context
every substance out of the right context
is dirt.

key word: belonging.
alternatively, the unclaimed.

eeeee, there’s a hair in my soup
eeeee, the contents of someone’s stomach
eeeee, it’s not chocolate
eeeee, they lay in my bed

I said, what if I just needed—
what if in the name of true love
I had to shit on your chest every day
for the rest of our married lives?
The true contradiction of our times
is all children know
Everyone Poops
and that it is biologically impossible
for girls to fart.
I said I thought you’d be more open to filth because
people have said your skin was muddied.
I said you gotta reclaim the dirt.
She said,
that’s fucking disgusting.
She said, I’m sorry, but no.
She said, but seriously, in this weather, you have to shower.

Effluent is a pretty-sounding F-bomb
that means by-product, bio-waste,
cast-off, sheddings, your skin cells
raked in the corners of the room,
the pubic hairs a signature on the toilet seat,
your hard-won scabs,
your eraser rubbings in the folds
of your elbows,

a material record of the day
where your body and embodied environment meet
to say
your scatalogical fascinations.
my anxiety shits are black as rejection.

If you recycle your lovers,
are you green with envy?
Can you hold your liquid waste until urine love?

The key to getting a happy ending is shower first,
don’t fart too much,
consider tipping the masseuse.
Because most people master personal hygiene
by the age of six
but some of us manage to unlearn it along the way.
some of us manage that magic trick of
bathe already like never bathe.

Three years ago I stopped sleeping with penis
because cishet men don’t wash their cocks before trying to get them wet
and maybe I don’t want to open that can of
wet wipes
because I know most people
have internalised the phobia of dead fish
garnished with cheese
and so with another vagina-haver
it’s a communal effort
to cleanse the chao cheebye.

but some of us
manage to unlearn that along the way.

The most intimate parts of you:
your filthy gloryhole mouth,
your fibrous uterus bits
stringing like durian pulp,
the time your skin wept herpes simplex-1.

It’s not the doctors who treat us /
like we’re subhuman.
Have you ever been warned to stay away from children?
Do the perks of being untouchable
include a rocking soundtrack by MC Hammer?

Being associated with filth
does wonders for one’s self-esteem.
Solid waste in solidarity.
So I take up with the perverts,
the degenerates,
the ones with dirty fag blood,
the people who know that menstruation
was successfully reframed
from potency to poison,

the language of the plague,

the apocalpytic patron saint of the pestilence,
the ones who recognise that smeared tapioca
looks like boogers
but enjoy bubble tea any way,

who have no patience for pretending
that rot is not inevitable.
Being untouchable only means
one has ascended to another dimension
where such things are possible,
means we are being honest with ourselves
about where that stain came from,
means eeeeeeenough of self-loathing.

Seriously, though—




rotisserie (excerpted)

in her twelve-step desperation
she joined the sisterhood of
the travelling corset

split her thighs like slit peaches,
a confessional booth left ajar,
a moth’s abdomen emerging wetly
from the seam in a chrysalis

(listen she says spreading her lips
I got a black hole

and a headache like a prayer
I’ve been saying for years)

she says georgie porgie pudding and pie’s
stopped making excuses that also are lies
these days she is just busy
growing her hair
eating curds and whey
and learning how to breathe very

I said, we can get our light back
if we find out how to bleed pink again
like one of those himalayan salt lamps

I said, you make me want to break the world apart
into a geode full of glittering edge
(run that through google image)

I said nicorette transdermal patches
cut up to 77% of withdrawal symptoms
within the first week but
not when it’s late and lonely
and no one will layan [1] you

this morning the train paused for
five minutes at every stop
like an asthmatic trying to run
I could draw you to me
like the plunger of a syringe
but the doctors want to know
show us with the doll
where you’ve been touched
(so press all the way inside,
where it hurts the most)



1Bahasa Melayu – ‘humour, entertain’



I had a vision of a woman squatting over food
like she was exercising her residential rights
to the kitchen.

my mother used to have a fridge magnet that says
but that changed when we stopped hiring
help at home.

when you tell the girl you’re fucking
you’ll make lunch, and she asks if it’s
nasi kang kang,
nod as if you could cook anything other than pasta
and surreptitiously fire up your searchbar.

google said:
some southeast asian cultures believe
that virginal fluids, including menstrual blood,
have special supernatural powers

and is commonly used by individuals
and witch doctors in rituals.

google said,
according to malay folklore,
a woman who feeds her husband or
boy friend with nasi kang kang

can have absolute control over him.

the idea is that
witchcraft comes naturally
to women.

kang kang means straddle.
squat, because you don’t raise your leg to pee.
queef, because you’re claiming property.
spread your thighs like a rumour part
the red sea so you can
keep your marriage together—

like a shitty science experiment,
take part in the water cycle
above a pot of fresh-cooked rice,
let vapour condense at what
themalaysianlife.blogspot.sg calls your muff

to rain upon the padi field of the philips rice cooker.

falling in love is a fistfight.
it is common to hear bells
when you finally win the tinder match.
there are those who will tell you
there’s not much difference between
a wrestling and a wedding ring.

the idea is that
witchcraft comes naturally to women
but which
witch women?

my hubby say white rice too fattening THEN HOW?
luckily, the caloric intake of nasi kang kang
is half that
of swallowing your pride

I sometime forget to wash my down there,
and sometime wash already still very smelly
I scared my boyfriend eat already
recognise my chao chee bye.[2]

the hot air rising from the cooker
will have a tightening effect on your lovehole,
like brand new.
hashtag SHIOK.[3] so after the rice steam
his one will also cock steam.[4] he will stop calling your labia flaps
roast beef after you use your—
pleasure cooker.

everyday I work until damn late damn cui[5],
no time to cook no maid how????

themalaysianlife.blogspot.sg says:
for busy career women, useful
improvisations to this recipe include using
claypot chicken rice.

just tar pau[6] the rice
and do the kang kang at home.

no need to keep a pet dog.
just get a man.

for many career women,
there are pot lids like glass ceilings
over their rice bowls

irrigating their wetlands to make sure
they are wanted.
these thighs were made for walking,
not waterlogging.
it doesn’t matter
if your nasi kang kang is organically-sourced vegan and
gluten-free, it’s still not the most
emotionally-healthy option

but keeping body and soul together is
so much more than a campaign telling
so instead of starving yourself
eat your own nasi kang kang
fall madly under your own spell, forget those who
call you demon because you are

nobody needs a recipe to cook rice,
so here are gardening tips instead:
weed out self-doubt.
slash and burn those who
tells you to be both curved
and skinny as a sickle.
pluck up every impulse to sink claws into your flab
and perish the thought

you are hungry                    only to please



2Singaporean Hokkien vernacular – lit. ‘smelly vagina’

3Singaporean vernacular – a feeling of happiness or pleasure

4Singaporean vernacular – slang for ‘becoming erect’

5Singaporean Hokkien – ‘broken, tired-out, a failure’

6Singaporean Hokkien – to takeaway food



Marylyn Tan interrogates the queer feminine body, liminal spaces, and alienation. A linguistics major, poet, and artist, her past performances include those at the Singapore Biennale, IndigNationSG, and Singapore Writers Festival, and has featured in various print and online publications. Has been called an ‘erotic poet’. Makes art at instagr.am/masqueerades. Her natural habitat: mrylyn.wordpress.com


Image creditI Was A Whole Person Even Before I Met You, Marylyn Tan

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