Inez Tan

The Golem Speaks

What purpose do you serve?
Where did you get your motives?
Who do you obey?

You are made of your three best friends and three archnemeses: what do you carry from each?
Who did you want to be when you were twelve?
Who did you want to be when you were twelve and secretly still want to be now?

What was the best pillow you ever had?
Favorite dream it gave you?
Do you sleep with your mouth open?
Why do you think people sleep?

Longest cry?
Longest nosebleed?
Longest you’ve gone without food or water?

Do you respond well to criticism?
What is your approach to conflict?
Do you consider yourself a leader?
What qualities in a leader are you willing to overlook?

Who do you admire?
Who do you admire whom no one else admires?
Have you ever wondered if you could be disordered?
Have you considered what could cause you to become disordered?

Who’s hurt you?
Have you told them so?
How often do they break in to run laps in your mind?

When you’re sad, what do you do?
When were you the saddest?
What was the song that played in your head then?
What songs do you still avoid listening to now?

What’s something you’ve borrowed and never given back?
To whom do you owe money?
To whom do you owe the most?

With whom have you had an immediate, true connection?
Why haven’t you been able to find that again?

Are you satisfied with your body?
Have you come to terms with being formed from dust?
When did you first feel like yourself?
When do you feel the most beautiful?
Have you ever made anyone else feel beautiful?

What’s the most expensive item you’ve broken?
Biggest promise you’ve broken?
What have you said that you wish you could take back?

What was your worst sexual experience?
Most formative sexual experience?
Most informative?
What is the common theme underlying all your fantasies?

Where do you feel the most pain?
Why do you remain there?

Which would you rather lose: your followers or your faith?
Your sense of romance or your sense of responsibility?
Have you ever tried to lose on purpose?
Have you ever refused to win?

Who loves you?
Who has said “I love you” to you?
What has made you doubt that love?

What’s the angriest you’ve ever been?
What’s the worst punishment you can imagine?
Who deserves it?
For how long?

Who do you wish were asking you these questions?
What would you like to ask them in return?
Why haven’t you?

What’s the deepest thing in you?
What’s the deepest thing in the deepest thing?
What’s the deepest thing you’ve desired and given up on?

Do you know the word that was placed in your head that gives you life?
Do you know who placed it there?
Do you know that that word controls everything you are?
Will you still rejoice when that word is taken away?




Who told you your words mean nothing?
Who made you believe brutality
would save the world? The face of your god
is the face of the man who forced you to dance
in the scarlet furnace of his shame. Now you sit
as I do, with your chair turned to the wall and
your legs crossed so the soreness does not
dissipate. If it hurts, why stop? I was told
to search for someone who would recognize
what I keep inside my halting gait. I admit
I am still seeking. Could you please tell me
what else you’ve seen? When the veil
of every page is finally torn, I promise
every word you say will live again.



Inez Tan is the author of This Is Where I Won’t Be Alone: Stories (Epigram Books), which was a national bestseller in Singapore. A recent Kundiman fellow, she has won the Academy of American Poets Prize, and her writing has been featured in Rattle, Hyphen, The Rupture, and Fairy Tale Review. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan and an MFA in poetry at the University of California, Irvine, where she teaches creative writing. Find her online at