Monsoon History | Nature

Monsoon History

The air is wet, Soaks bring up into mattresses, And curls in apparitions of smoke. Like fat white slugs furled among the timber, Or silver fish tunneling the damp linen covers of schoolbooks, Or walking Quietly like centipedes, The air walking everywhere On its hundred feet Is filled with the glare of tropical water. Again we are taken over by clouds and rolling darkness. Small snails appear Clashing their timid horns Among the morning glory vines. Drinking Milo, Nyonya and baba sit at home. This was forty years ago. Sarong-wrapped they counted silver paper for the dead. Portraits of grandfathers Hung always in the parlour. Reading Tennyson, at six p.m. in pajamas, Listening to down-pouring rain: The air ticks with gnats, black spiders fly, Moths sweep out of our rooms

Where termites built their hills of eggs and queens zoom in heat, We wash our feet for bed, Watch mother uncoil her snake hair, Unbuckle the silver mesh around her waist, Waiting for father pacing the sand as fishers pull From the straits after monsoon. The air is still, silent Like sleepers rocked in the pantun, Sheltered by Malacca. This was forty years ago, When nyonya married baba.

Shirley Geok-lin Lim

…Meaning…

It has been raining heavily and the air is damp. Even the mattresses are damp. The air is so damp that it is compared to or seen like smoke. The water droplets are seen as ‘fat white slugs’ crawling on pieces of wood. The people can feel the damp air like insects crawling on their skin.

It is starting to rain again. Clouds can be seen and rolling thunder heard. Snails are seen in the garden on the morning glory creepers.

The Baba-Nyonya family is drinking Milo in the comfort of their home. The men (Baba) wear sarong and are folding ‘silver paper’ to be burnt to pay respect to their ancestors. Portraits of their dead ancestors hang on the walls of the living room.

It is now 6 o’clock in the evening. The poet, wearing pyjamas, is reading a book written by Tennyson. The sound of the rain falling could be heard outside the house. All kinds of insects appear in the room because of the rain. Termites have built a nest inside the house. The family wash their feet before they go to bed. The children watch their mother uncoil her long hair which looks like a snake. Then, their mother unbuckles her ‘silver mesh’ belt. At that time, father is on the beach waiting for the fisherman to come back with their catch.

The atmosphere is now quiet after the rain. The poet remembers this scene forty years ago in Malacca during the monsoon season.

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