Sher Ting

Songs of War

Tonight, I dream of a land
without fruit, green molasses
sprouting from the soil, crouched
in a mouthful of dark, listening
to the heartbeat of a city echo dagu
across the shadows.

In native Hokkien,
my grandma’s mouth blooms
with songs of violence, a wound
emptied of its light.

I write 爱国主意
and she tell me it’s really written
爱国主义. How the language,
just like the war, has never outlasted
colonial fatigues. The diphthong
curling like a language buried,
a monument of scattered teeth.

She tells me to sing to that wrinkle
in time when we existed among nothing.
A hymn of crowded hopes
and cloudless skies.

To the soliloquy of cicadas, among which
the foot-soldier crouches, the eulogium
a single coil of diesel threading
through the canal’s ridge.

Even then, we changed
nothing. Young soldiers maimed
in an uneven battle,

To arrive at the bones
of an island.

A garden of enfilade fire
shaken by the sun.

An exhalation of light, pushed
through scores of cannon bores
and chords of bitter bravery,
through rustling palms
and southern winds.

Our dead lie paled like sheens
of molars, scattered across the hill.

How much of ourselves could we lose
in homage of a reality we believed?

If an ideal was its own
open-ended question.

Tomorrow, they will march through
the streets with their prisoners of war, gunka
drafting across radio waves.

Tonight, my grandmother stops singing
songs of violence. The last anthem,
from the throat to alveolar ridge, resting
with the foot-soldiers on Opium Hill.



Anatomy Of A Sin
For the hospitals lost to war

He spent his last days here—
my uncle—listening to the world

upon his back.

Bad luck = 厄运. See also:
饿运 (to hunger for luck).

My uncle was always hungry,

Among the white sea of morphine,
lucid and inconsolable,

He was a mirror held away
from the sun,

Paled against the cotton chairs
and linen sheets,

Listening to the steel blades
of the ceiling fan knife

The air, sterilising the screams
of doctors and orderlies.

My grandmother said
he’d been sleeping when it happened.

The way she had found another
reality she could believe.

The fog-horned whistle
of a bullet syringes through

The curtain, vivisecting

the fabric, taking out
a Lanz incision

Into his body already fleshed
with the stench of burning.

She said they had anatomised
the Geneva convention.

Running a bayonet through
an unconscious patient’s Battle scar.

Piercing through wound,
principle and nobility

Into the white callus of bone.

What do we call human
but only a person untouched by war?


Maybe in

Lorazepam, Codeine
and Pethidine,

We could have found
another ending.

The gun-shot

As a half-formed

The provision, a cone
of blindness

Between two

When, all around us,
the world was changing.

All around us, they had opened
our bodies like empty words

Made for fire.



Sher Ting is a Singaporean-Chinese writer. She is a 2021 Writeability Fellow with Writers Victoria and a 2023 Kenyon Review Winter Workshop participant. She is a 2022/2023 Pushcart and Best of The Net nominee with work published/forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, Salt Hill, Colorado Review, AAWW's The Margins, OSU The Journal, and elsewhere. Her debut chapbook, Bodies of Separation, is published with Cathexis Northwest Press and second chapbook, The Long-Lasting Grief of Foxes, is forthcoming with Mouthfeel Press. She tweets at @sherttt and writes at