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Journsplit: Moana (ft. choir!)

Join Eliora, Rei, and a special guest (!!) as they dive deep into Disney’s Moana. Have you ever thought about the theme of Identity in the film? What about how the music ties into it?

Rei: Hey guys! Journsplit is back with another episode! Today, we’re talking about Moana!

Eliora: This episode is a bit special as we have a guest appearance: Rulin from Choir! She’ll chime in now and then to tell us more about the music in the movie. This episode was written and produced with input from Choir members.

R: The film tells the story of Moana, the strong-willed daughter of the chief of a Polynesian village, who is chosen by the ocean to return the lost heart of the goddess Te Fiti. When a food shortage strikes her island, Moana sets sail in search of Maui, a legendary demigod, who assists her in returning the heart and saving her people.

E: The movie starts with Moana’s grandmother telling a story to a group of children about Te Fiti, whose heart was stolen by Maui.

R: PLEASE TAKE NOTE: the heart is like, a green glowing amulet. Te Fiti did NOT fall in love with Maui.

E: Okay, okay. Anyway, baby Moana is notably not scared of the tales of monsters and demons lurking in the seas, unlike the other children.

R: In fact, if you pay attention, Moana’s grandmother basically gives a summary of everything that happens later on, including the events that push Moana to leave the island in search of the heart of Te Fiti. More on Te Fiti and what became of her later!

E: We stan an oracle grandma!!

R: Anyway, after pandemonium breaks out, as is bound to happen when you have ten children in the same room, Moana sneaks away and toddles down to the shore, where she spots a pretty seashell that has washed up on the sand. She is about to pick it up when she sees that a baby turtle is being harassed by predatory birds.

E: There’s this really adorable moment where she flaps her arm in frustration because the seashell is drifting away in the shallows, but she chooses to leave it in order to help the turtle.

R: Can we talk about how CUTE all of baby Moana’s expressions and actions and exclamations are!?!?!?

E: Yeah!! And they’re so realistic, too! Anyway, when the turtle has successfully reached the ocean, a sparkling wave ripples through the water. The water appears to have witnessed Moana’s purity and selflessness and rewards her by retreating to reveal more seashells.

R: Moana follows the trail of shells, delightedly picking them up. The ocean plays with her, mimicking her movements and ‘styling’ her hair. It eventually brings her the lost heart of Te Fiti.

E: As these things happen, we hear the Innocent Warrior theme for the first time. Hey Rulin, what are the key features of the theme?

Choir (Rulin): Hi!! The music starts out as the sound of the waves retreating. Then, low, consistent humming enters. We hear a melody sung by a feminine voice, which is then joined by other voices after the first verse to form a distant harmony.
The musical progression uses 9th chords, which, in Western music, are used to create the soft ambience, gentle vibes and resonance characteristic of background music. And we can hear that the melody has a major tonality, creating a light atmosphere and showing Moana’s joy and ease. Furthermore, there is no instrumental accompaniment, making the scene feel more natural and intimate.

E: Thanks, Rulin!! That’s really cool. The lyrics of this melody are in Samoan, a Polynesian language, and it is reminiscent of a mother singing a lullaby to a child. Here, however, there are multiple voices. In a way, they are the voices of the sea.

R: In fact, there is a line that directly translates to ‘There is a task for you, my dearest one.’ The usage of this endearment further cements the maternal or familial connection between Moana and the disembodied voices, and therefore between Moana and the sea.

E: This sea of voices (ehehe look what we did there) represents not only the vastness of the sea but also Moana’s ancestors – those who came before her, calling to her and giving her a task.

R: Said task, of course, is to restore the heart of Te Fiti.

E: …which she drops in the sea, and is then picked up by her grandmother.

R: Her father comes to bring her back to the village, and the next song, Where You Are, begins.

E: It quickly introduces the rising action of the story – throughout the song, we see Moana as she grows up and is repeatedly led away from the water by her parents. As a young child, she is stubborn in her love for the sea, but as she matures, she begins to accept that she must suppress that side of herself, and in the words of her parents ‘find happiness where you are’.

R: More on this conflict later. During and after the song we get this incredible sense of community from the entire village singing, dancing and working together. Moana is, at first, set apart: she doesn’t dance with the rest of the village, and although she participates in arts and crafts with everyone, she ends up producing works related to the sea, which is definitely not what her parents want.

E: When Moana manages to sneak away from her parents, she joins her grandmother dancing by the sea. Her grandmother tells Moana that she feels a connection with the sea as well, and ‘The village may think I’m crazy//Or say that I drift too far//but once you know what you like//Well, there you are’.

R: There is a timeskip here, showing Moana much older, with more natural movements, still dancing with her grandmother after all the years, which shows how her love for the sea has not waned.

E: However, later on, ‘So here I’ll stay//My home, my people beside me’ plays as Moana dances in sync with other women in the village, a metaphor for her deciding, however temporarily, to conform to what is expected of her.

R: Even then, she finds herself drawn to the sea. In the last part of Where You Are, we see her look towards the shore, where her grandmother dances, but force herself to look away.

E: Her grandmother often just does her own thing by the sea; she is there if and when Moana decides to come back to the water – not forcing her to, but also Knowing that she Will come back.

R: And she does! Cue ‘How Far I’ll Go’, which is Moana’s ‘I Want’ song. She sings about her yearning to go to sea, and the conflict from earlier is still present, as seen in ‘I wish I could be the perfect daughter/But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try’.

E: It’s the Reflection of this movie. All that stuff about not being a perfect daughter. Moana does, however, resolve (again) to abandon her passion and stay on the island.

C: Hey! It’s me again. If you pay attention, there’s low-pitched chanting layered under Moana’s lines in the bit when she makes this decision: ‘I can lead with pride//I can make us strong//I’ll be satisfied if I play along//But the voice inside sings a different song//What is wrong with me?’.

E: Thanks, Rulin! This chanting, like the voices in Innocent Warrior, represents Moana’s ancestors. It appears whenever Moana does something that she thinks is the right thing to do by her ancestors.

R: That’s right! If you listen closely, you’ll even hear that the chanting drops away at ‘What is wrong with me’, and not, as you would expect, at the moment when she starts talking about ‘the voice inside’ that calls her to sea, which she thinks goes against her ancestors’ wishes. Foreshadowing, perhaps, that her desire to sail the sea and fulfilling her ancestors’ wishes are not so different after all?

E: Ooooh that is so cool. As the song goes on, Moana gives in to her desires and decides to try sailing. However, she’s totally untrained, and after the song ends, her boat capsizes, and she gets hurt.

R: And then she gives up on her dream of sailing once again. God, she wavers back and forth so many times it’s even confusing to us.

E: Lol yeah. But her grandmother is there, as always, to offer encouragement. She shows Moana a hidden cave that contains many boats. In that cave, Moana has a vision. It’s accompanied by the song We Know the Way, which starts out in Samoan and switches to English. Through this vision, we learn alongside Moana that her ancestors were actually voyagers, a fact that elates her and somewhat explains her connection to the sea.

R: It also means that although her wanting to go out to sea is, in a way, rebelling against her heritage because she isn’t fulfilling the role her family wants her to play, it is also a way to honour her ancestors and restore a part of her people’s identity.

E: It’s pretty cool how it turns out that she must save her people by going to sea! These two seemingly conflicting identities turn out to be one thing, and she doesn’t have to betray either one in her journey.

R: Later on, Moana, driven by her dying grandmother’s last words to her, finally sets sail to find Maui and properly starts her journey to return the heart of Te Fiti. Here, we hear a reprise of How Far I’ll Go.

C: I’m here to point out that the same low-pitched chanting as before appears at the very beginning of this song.

[Rulin pauses for the music to play]

C: It drops away as Moana starts singing, then comes back again when she sings ‘Every turn I take//Every trail I track//Is a choice I make//Now I can’t turn back//From the great unknown where I go alone//Where I long to be’ Notice that it drops off once again at ‘where I long to be’.

E: That’s right! That’s where Moana fully resolves to set sail.

R: Even though she sings ‘from the great unknown where I go alone’, her ancestors are kind of ‘with’ her in her journey; they support her decisions. Even her grandmother returns in the form of a stingray and follows her as she sails.

E: In fact, any time Moana does epic seafaring stuff there’s disembodied singing in the background, whether it’s part of the soundtrack, like the song Logo Te Pate (long-oh tey pa-tay), or not. We could say that these voices are the voices of her ancestors, encouraging her as she follows in their footsteps.

R: Perhaps the most obvious representation of Moana finding the balance between two identities is in the song ‘I am Moana’, which combines ‘Where You Are’ and ‘How Far I’ll Go’,

E: There is a part in the song where she talks about how her voyager ancestors call to her to fulfil her purpose. ‘I am the daughter of the village chief//We are descended from voyagers//Who found their way across the world//They call me’. This is implied to be the same call that has been calling her to the sea all along.

R: And this call is like, a tangible representation of her purpose. There’s an immense sense of purpose in this story, an overwhelming knowledge of what Moana needs to do, and that she was always meant to do it because it was passed down through generations of her people.

E: It induces such deep emotion because purpose is something a lot of people have difficulty finding. I cried, like, so much!!

R: In Moana’s journey, she loses and re-finds her purpose, and in doing so helps her people restore a lost part of their identity – voyaging. There’s this message that it’s okay to forget or choose not to pursue your passions for a while because you can always come back to them when you’re ready.

E: And Moana’s grandmother is the one who leads Moana to these realisations. She was the one who instructed Moana to go out to sea and restore the heart of Te Fiti, and she also comforts Moana, telling her that it’s ok if she wants to go home, but also reminding her that the same voice that called her to sea is still inside her, and if the voice tells her to go on, then she should.

R: So Moana does continue on in her journey, eventually reaching Te Fiti – or where Te Fiti should be, because, as it turns out, Te Fiti without her heart is Te Ka.

E: The scene where Moana returns the heart is an incredibly emotional, beautiful climax of the story.

R: The ocean has been preventing Te Ka from reaching Moana (because, you know, the whole lava monster thing) but Moana tells the ocean to let Te Ka come to her because she knows now that Te Ka was Te Fiti all along.

E: And so the ocean parts, in a much more dramatic and majestic way than the first time it parted for Moana. Te Ka scrambles desperately across the seafloor towards Moana, and they move towards each other in slow motion.

R: The Innocent Warrior theme from earlier returns, because Moana is finally carrying out the task the sea entrusted her with years ago! Rulin, thoughts?

C: Innocent Warrior definitely completes the story here! The music also starts with the sound of the water retreating, but it’s different from its first appearance. The masculine voices are lower, louder and sound more agitated, which reflects the strong emotion in this scene. They give way to a simple, two-note instrumental in the minor key, which represents the sadness and sympathy Moana feels for Te Ka. Then, multiple feminine voices come in, harmonising and singing the first verse of the original song. They alternate with Moana, who sings an entirely new melody.

E: Additionally, this time, the song ends with Moana alone, and the other voices drop away suddenly. It’s as if Moana’s ancestors are saying: “We’ll sing with you, and support you in your journey, but at the end of the day we’ll let you have your moment alone.”

R: Her ancestors may have been the ones who called to Moana and guided her through her journey, but Moana is the one who has to replace the heart of Te Fiti. The song echoes in the background as Moana reaches the final stop of her adventures, and Moana’s solo here represents her growth over the years.

C: The harmony in the background symbolises the weight of her people’s well-being and of completing the task assigned to her coming down onto her shoulders. And on top of that, the timbre of instruments such as the string accompaniment completes the image and brings out a more wholesome tone to the music.

R: From the lyrics’ meaning in Samoan and the callback to the first Innocent Warrior, we are reminded that even after stumbling through storms and howling winds, Moana’s heart is still as pure as it was when she was a child exploring on the sands.

E: Moana sings with the ensemble’s voices in the background, telling Te Ka she knows its true identity. As discussed earlier, the background vocals represent both the sea and Moana’s ancestors, and so it’s as if it’s not just Moana, but a whole host of her people alongside her, welcoming Te Fiti back!

R: After her adventure, Moana reunites with her family, and she and her people become voyagers again. As a reprise of We Know The Way plays, we see Moana wearing her grandmother’s necklace, practising the same navigation techniques as her ancestors; finally fulfilling the part of her identity that is intrinsically tied to the sea.

E: What a beautiful ending!!

R: Interestingly, the people of Polynesia did, in fact, stop voyaging for about a thousand years in real life. They resumed voyaging again two thousand years ago. Pretty cool how they linked the story to real life!

E: You’d think that after a thousand years, those boats Moana discovered would have decayed or something.

R: …And that’s where we’ll end for today!

R (voiceover): Look out for our next episode on A Series of Unfortunate Events!

An unexpectedly simple unity between math and arts

An interview with Cheng Herng Yi, Class of 2011

Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding, to transform a flat piece of paper into a refined sculpture. To many, it may be a simple hobby for leisure or to show appreciation with a gift. But to those enthusiasts who take a deeper dive into origami, more nuance reveals itself. This is the story of Cheng Herng Yi’s experience in exploring his passions in math and art.

Herng Yi graduated from NUSH in 2011, did his undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and is currently pursuing his PhD in mathematics at the University of Toronto.

In NUSH, Herng Yi had an interest in origami, spending much of his free time folding various origami objects for leisure. He enjoyed the beauty that could be formed from such a common and simple household object: paper. As he continued folding origami, he started to value his ability to express creativity in his origami pieces. He grew interested in various ways of tweaking origami folding methods to make his pieces more lifelike. As it were, he also had an interest in mathematics and pursued independent research projects in the area. The stars really aligned when the Head of Department for Math noticed his interest and encouraged him to take up a project for the Singapore Mathematics Project Festival relating to origami design. Under the guidance of a mentor, he conducted 3 projects about various geometric blocks that could be folded and fused. This culminated in his project “Composing Frusta to Fold Polyhedral Origami”. He then presented his project at the International Science and Engineering Fair 2011, the world’s largest international pre-college science fair, and achieved the 1st prize in his category. This sequence of events was all triggered by him deciding to pursue his interest in origami and intaking this pursuit to the next level.

Fast forward a few years and Herng Yi enrolled to MIT. A key difference in the education system to him there was the emphasis of diversity of modules in MIT’s curriculum, where he had to choose compulsory humanities modules to attend. Herng Yi went with the flow and decided to double down, trying a new humanities module every semester to broaden his perspective. Indeed, his approach paid dividends, as not only did he enjoy the variety of the modules, but they also changed his entire viewpoint and revealed new ways of thinking. Herng Yi resonated deeply with drama and acting. Initially, he found being able to engage in activities like shouting and movement without judgement was a welcome experience. He enjoyed the introductory module and continued learning about drama, participating in a play organised by his instructor. As he delved deeper into theatre, he began to love the freedom theatre gave him to express his own ideas and emotions. Engaging in drama, he found, required commitment. On top of requiring technical expertise, one needs the courage to be vulnerable on stage, to bare personal emotions and thoughts to the audience. He prized the precious ability to honestly express himself, even participating in an intensive theatre camp in Berlin to further hone his skills and gain more enjoyable experiences.

Personally, I find Herng Yi’s journey inspiring. Pursuing one’s passion can require bravery, especially if it’s non-academic. It has taught me that art and science are simply two sides of the same coin. As Herng Yi succinctly put it, if civilisation was a ship, science would be necessary to ensure the systems of everyday convenience were running smoothly. Art would be the ships steering system, determining the direction of society in line with its various perspectives. Beauty and good design are necessities in everyday life and people don’t realise how important they are, until a simple folded piece of paper creates appreciation and brings them joy. As a piece of advice, Herng Yi firmly believes that developing your interests is not important or urgent. Interests can appear and disappear and there is no need to stress about finding your “true calling”. As long as you can do what makes you happy, do something that makes you forget the time, do something that puts a smile on your face even if you fail, that’s enough.

Journsplit: A Pocket Full of Rye

Bewilderment, anxiety and distrust ensue at Yewtree Lodge when a businessman with a less-than-likable personality is brutally poisoned while at work, and when this mystery is found to reference events from the past, the confusion skyrockets. Aditi and Debraath discuss Revenge, Justice, Familial Conflict and Fragility of Trust – four profound themes at the heart of A Pocket Full of Rye – along with some fun Easter eggs hidden in the book, in the final episode that wraps up the Agatha Christie miniseries!

Aditi: Hey school! Journsplit is back with another episode! This is the third and last part of our miniseries on Agatha Christie. If you haven’t heard the previous episodes, you can listen to them on our website. Today, we’ll be talking about another one of the Queen of Crime’s most riveting works starring Ms Marple – A Pocket Full of Rye!

Debraath: Before we talk about the book, here are some fascinating facts about our favourite geriatric sleuth, Ms Marple! Miss Marple made her first appearance in Murder at the Vicarage first published in 1930, but she did not appear in another full length novel until The Body in the Library which was published 12 years later in 1942.

Aditi: Did you know, unlike the Hercule Poirot series of books, Christie had absolutely no intention of continuing Ms Marple books for the rest of her life? However, she eventually did, and Ms Marple has grown to be the endearing quirky detective that we know today!

Debraath: Wow! That is interesting, and this novel certainly is too! Like many of Christie’s books which use nursery rhymes as a scaffolding, the title of this book and its plot reference a well-known nursery rhyme – Sing a Song of Sixpence. Middle class businessman Rex Fortescue is found lying limp and lifeless after his afternoon tea, shocking those close to him as well as the police.

Aditi: That’s only the beginning! What’s more shocking is that one murder spirals into two, and then three, as the prime suspect, Rex’s wife Adele Fortescue and the parlour maid, Gladys Martin are also brutally killed, and the crime scenes have unmistakeable references to the titular nursery rhyme.

Debraath: Yes! Later in the story, we can clearly see that Rex Fortescue had not had a very pleasant history with blackbirds, which the rhyme alludes to a number of times. The way Christie strung together the two almost unrelated stories of Rex’s death and his time in Blackbird mine and weaved them into one seamless and enjoyable plot is certainly notable.

Aditi: That’s right! Revenge, which is a common motive in many of Christie’s works like And Then There Were None, took a backseat in this story as one of the biggest red herrings in the plot when Jennifer (whose identity as the daughter of Rex’s dead colleague was uncovered by Miss Marple) admitted to placing the dead blackbirds near Rex to remind him of the devastation that he had caused in her family by leaving her father to die in the forests of Africa.

Debraath: Other than Revenge, the themes of Justice and Familial Conflict are well fleshed out as well. The theme of Justice is on the forefront of many of Christie’s books which involve detectives resolving many sinister and intricate crimes. A very interesting facet in this theme of Justice that Christie frequently brings up is that Justice belongs to everyone, not just the well off.

Aditi: I didn’t realise that, but you’re right! Her books emphasise how justice must be served, regardless of who the victims are and what backgrounds they come from. Miss Marple is pulled into this case because she is connected to Gladys, a parlor maid from a lower socio-economic background. Miss Marple strongly believes that her murder deserves as much attention as the murder of a wealthy business executive. Indeed, this is a theme that is at the forefront of many of Christie’s works: Justice is not just for those who are privileged, but for everyone. Similar to APFOR, in ATTWN, the judge believes that he is doing the right thing by punishing those who escaped their sentences. Gladys’ naivety allowed for Lance’s plan to take place as he wanted it to, and this was alluded to in the novel a few times.

Debraath: Even Ms Marple felt regret when she found Gladys’ note only after she passed away, reiterating the point that Christie believed justice should be served to all. Another theme in the book is one of Conflict. Once again, this theme is not special to APFOR and is also a relatively common theme in her books.

Aditi: In APFOR, this conflict occurs within a family. The bitter rivalry between Percival and Lance, Rex’s sons, for their inheritance is shown vividly and is an issue many of us have seen on the screen. Families break down and friendships turn sour just for money!

Debraath: This theme of Conflict is indeed captured in many of Christie’s other books. In Go Back For Murder, secrets from 16 years ago are revealed when a woman reinvestigates a murder that framed someone innocent and put them in jail. This slowly takes a toll on her relationship with the other people who were in the house when the murder occured, as one of them was the true murderer who orchestrated such a plan.

Aditi: Adding on, in Death On The Nile, a jealous woman commits murders to steal her best friend’s fiancé. Even in And Then There Were None, where the morally convoluted Vera, who killed her charge in the name of love only to be scorned later, is brought to light. Indeed, many of her stories revolve around how easily relationships can break down due to the inherent fragility of trust.

Debraath: You bring up some rather interesting points! Throughout the novel, we can practically visualise the characters in real life. As in most of Christie’s novels, although the setting is sketched and the finer details are left to our imaginations, the characterisation is very strong. All necessary details are supplied for the reader through descriptions of how they dress and everyday actions. Taking Ms Marple as an example, Christie describes her as “dithery,” and we can clearly see that she is fickle, unsure and only subtly suggests her opinions throughout the novel.

Aditi: Hmm, that is true, but on closer reading we realise that this “dithery” behavior, however, is more to camouflage her curious sleuthing than anything else. In reality, every step that Miss Marple takes is very calculated and she takes in just about everything that’s around her.

Debraath: That’s right! To end off, let’s look at yet another theme that is subtly brought up in the novel. From Miss Marple, we become more aware of the benefits of the wisdom that comes with age. Initially, Inspector Neele does not think much of Miss Marple. He also does not see the significance of the pocket full of rye, the clothes pin on Gladys’ nose, or the fact that Adele was poisoned while eating scones with honey. Yet, when Miss Marple makes the connection between the nursery rhyme and the series of crimes, many pieces of the seemingly random puzzle fall into place, and both Neele and the readers realise that old is most definitely gold!

Aditi: Indeed! That’s all we have for a pocket full of rye! This episode wraps up our miniseries on Agatha Christie’s works. Hope you enjoyed this episode and the series!

Rei: Look out for our next episode on Moana, which will be a collaboration with Choir!

Journsplit: Death On The Nile

Aditi and Debraath talk about the intriguing themes in one of Agatha Christie’s world-renowned masterpieces: Death on the Nile! Do you find the shift in Jackie’s character arc fascinating? Ever wondered how Agatha Christie got the inspiration to write a novel set in such a unique holiday destination?

B: Hey school! Journsplit is back with another episode; the second part of our miniseries on Agatha Christie! If you haven’t heard our first episode, you can listen to it on our website/! This episode, we’ll be moving on to Death On The Nile! This book deals with some rather interesting themes as well, a few of which we’ll be covering: Obsessive Love, Allure of Evil, Envy and Greed, and finally Entitlement.

A: Let’s talk about the theme of obsessive love. Jackie, the best friend of affluent Linnet, was very volatile, her feelings always towards the extremes. This was even observed by the astute detective Poirot very early on in the story. He remarked that Jackie cared too much and that it was not safe. Later on in the story, Jackie’s prescient obsession over her former fiance was proven to be dangerous to everyone as she committed multiple murders just to get him back.

B: The second major theme was the Allure of Evil, especially as Jackie fell victim to it. Jackie appeared to be a wholesome person who could never turn to evil, but when her character arc is scrutinised, we can see her gradual shift to being malicious. To some extent, we can even sympathise with her and understand why she committed such cold-blooded murders that were so not in line with her character in general. (Although, that wasn’t a very good way of dealing with her problems). This shows just how tempting and alluring evil can be and how easy it is for one to turn to the dark side especially when they run out of patience.

A: The next theme we’ll cover is Envy and Greed. Jackie was always portrayed as the encouraging and enthusiastic best friend, like the faithful sidekick to the hero, and was always happy for her entitled friend Linnet. Linnet did not reciprocate this when Jackie got engaged to Simon, and decided to be a killjoy, throw her weight around and rob her best friend of the one thing that made her truly happy.

B: Aside from that, Linnet was pretty, young and rich, a combination which attracted the envy of literally everyone who set their eyes on her. Throughout the story, people keep commenting on how Linnet didn’t deserve anything she had. Jackie started getting jealous of all the attention that she got and her envy led her to develop a strong hatred towards Linnet, and drove her towards evil deeds that no one could have imagined of her because it didn’t fit with the loyal best friend vibe that she strongly personified at the beginning of the novel. Nevertheless, all this said, Linnet wasn’t content with what she had – she was already engaged to Lord Windlesham, a fancy, posh affluent guy but she still wanted Simon who was technically out of bounds. This links with the next theme, Entitlement.

A: Linnet’s love for Simon was very materialistic. Throughout her smooth life journey, whatever she wanted was presented to her in a golden platter before she even realised that she wanted it, due to which she was accustomed to getting her way. When she realised that she wanted Simon, she didn’t think twice about pushing the limit and taking her best friend’s fiance. When she wanted something, she got it, no matter how much it affected others – but this backfired on her in the end. Part of her attraction to Simon Doyle was not just his appearance or his personality, but the fact that he was poor and that she could dominate the relationship easily unlike Lord Windlesham who actually was very influential and also very fond of her but owned a lot of land, causing her to have a fear of being known as “Windlesham’s wife” instead of Linnet Ridgeway.

B: That, along with the fact that she could have married any man in the world but she decided to go for Simon Doyle speaks volumes of her selfishness and insecurity – she just couldn’t see her friend happier than she was. Was it really a true friendship or just a toxic excuse for a relationship?

A: A small observation I made was that the characters in the book who were neither greedy nor jealous seemed to be the happiest in the book (i.e. Rosalie and Cordelia).

B: Let’s discuss something lighter. Did you notice that on the very boat where three murders occurred with love and vengeance as a motive, new couples came together? Ironic, isn’t it?

A: Yes! Tim (the kleptomaniac) stops stealing things, corrects his ways and decides to marry Rosalie. Ferguson wanted to marry Cordelia but Cordelia eventually married Dr. Besner whom she thought had a good moral compass and whose profession she found interesting. Something positive, at least!

B: It’s really interesting how one needs to re-read these well-crafted novels in order to pick up such subtle hints. The exotic setting of Egypt was likely inspired by Christie’s husband, Max Mallowan’s vocation as a prominent archaeologist.

A: Oh, I didn’t know about that! Well that’s all for today, folks! We hope you enjoyed this episode about Agatha Christie and her works.

B: Look out for our final episode on A Pocket full of Rye! ✨

Then and Now: Orchard Road

By Jovern


As sure as a start of another day, the sun rises from the east. Fact.

Most things erode with the sands of time. Fact.

All men will die. Fact.

No matter rain or shine, whether the graveyard is bustling to welcome another or whether deathly silence prevails, the fact is that we, guardians of the dead, keep the balance by sweeping the graves clean and pulling out overgrowing weeds.

Everyday. A duty. Like the generations before who carried it out dutifully.

Unchanging Fact.

With no respite under the unbearable tropical heat, I put aside my rake, taking a breather from the arduous work. Leaning against the girthy trunk of the Saga tree, protected by its thick foliage. Gazing at the swarm of visitors streaming through the cemetery gates, some walking stiffly, their faces sombre, weighed down. They trekked along the coarse soil paths, breaking away into their own groups as they moved toward different headstones artfully arranged along the side of the hill. I, visibly wincing as the inconsiderate few decide to take a “shortcut” at the expense of the newly trimmed grass.

It is the hungry ghost festival, the day of the seventh lunar month, when the spirits wander the world of the living. It is the day for those who believe in it to honour the dead, to let them go in “peace” by freeing them of their earthly resentment.

These family members and friends kneeling in front of the tomb stones pray as they light incense and place offerings. I see them leaving relaxed and renewed, leaving their burdens behind. They are in a world of their own, oblivious to the very man who kept this place clean and tidy, a presence less dense than air. The day passes fast like any other. As the last person left, I was once again left alone in the empty grave. Year after year I toil unnoticed, unappreciated with not a single thank you to be shown for my work. I could only sigh in resignation.

I trudged back to my little shack, falling on my bed that welcomed me with a warm embrace. Listlessly I lay, sinking ever so softly into a dream. A sweet dream away from dreadfully monotonous work awaiting me the next morning.

The bright light of the new morrow streamed through the dusty blinds and woke me from my dream. I was greeted by something that was atypical. At the door of my decrepit little shack was an inconspicuous newspaper article with Government tearing down cemetery written in dark bold.

It read in the most patriotic of ways:

It is with a heavy heart that the government has included the demolition of the Ngee Ann graveyards in the remodelling of Orchard Road. Singapore, a land and natural resource scare country, must use whatever it can to develop to keep pace with foreign powers. While some might be upset about the disturbance to their ancestors’ graves, it is for the sake of those living that these sacrifices must be made.

It was all too soon before the dingy yellow metallic monstrosities came in waves. Their only objective: squashing the flora and fauna that dared block their path. They raised their hands high, smashing them down on the stone, shattering it. Again, and again, the machines dug, ravaging the earth and removing the coffins.

The unearthed coffins were unceremoniously tossed into a fire, for disposal. The flaming inferno gobbled the coffins up, swelling in size after each one, illuminating the pre-dawn sky. The wood hissed and crackled as it burned to black, letting out tortured screams.

The fields, once green, turned a barren brown Stones scattered. Family members stood, fist clenched, wishing that they could advert the destruction before them. Yet, a single flimsy red and white strip blocked all advance.

I stood there among the masses, oblivious to their anguish. As the clanking of metal stopped, the roar of the fire quietened to crackling embers, the dust starting to settle, and they left… one by one… I still stood rooted. This was what I wanted, yet there was an abject feeling of loss. The eerie, looming possibility of the unknown.

Like a person that had stared at a white wall all his life, finally accessing a world of colour so vibrant and full of possibility—overwhelmingly and scarily so.

The sun rays filtered over the horizon, painting the sky hues of orange and yellow. Golden warmth slowly inched up me, first from my feet, washing away my worries. I could only clench my fists and steel myself, preparing to stride into the unknown.

Time waits for no man, the world will keep turning with the cycle of day and night, ups and downs till the end of our time. That is an unchanging fact.


Then and Now: Former National Library Singapore

By Lionel

Then. (1960)


Singapore’s first national library was built. I lived on Stamford Road, and it was just a short walk from my house. I remember being six when my parents took me there for the first time, and as a child I was fascinated. The completed library had a reinforced concrete framed structure with brick walls, the architecture reflecting the red-brick epoch of the British architecture. The place was tremendous, spanning a large area and three stories tall. Like a child to its parents, I felt a strange comfort and connection to the place, as if it were holding me in its arms. That day, I spent hours burying my nose in books, tossing each aside after my childish attention span decided it was enough.  

Unfortunately, it seemed that almost everyone had something negative to say about the library. They said “it looked “horrible” and “out of character”. But I didn’t care, I loved it as it was, unfazed by any criticism.  

From then, my parents took me there every week, and occasionally I would visit it on my own on the way home from school. The librarians seemed to like me; they were always okay with my antics as long as I kept quiet.  


My grandfather died.   

I came home from school one day and saw him lying on his chair. My ten-year-old self took a while to notice how his head was tilted back in an awkward position, his jaw slightly open and his movements still. All assumptions of him sleeping fell away when I shook him by the shoulders and he rolled onto the floor, his arms limp and unmoving.   

I called him once. Twice. No reaction, no pulse. My calls turned to screams as his breath reached its silent halt. My mom gasped when she heard my pleas and came down, greeted by the sight of me with a tearstained face and a lifeless grandfather.  

Dealing with it was never easy. It was my first time with death and the experience made me hate it. I ran to the library, because it was the only other place I felt safe. I hid in the furthest corner, among the back rows of shelves, crying. To cope, I started to read. Tears stained the pages of some books lightly, but as they piled up, my heart felt a subtle sense of release. One after another, these stories helped with the grief I was facing. The warmth of the library returned to assure me that everything was okay.   

I knew it wasn’t but at least for a moment, it made me feel alright.  


In my pre adult years I was experiencing some rough times. What’s surreal is how at 18, you’re thrown into the world to survive so suddenly, as I entered the cycle of job searching and tax counting. Overwhelmed by stress the only thing that provided me solace was the library. In this place of refuge I felt like a child again; the security it provided in this turbulent phase in life put me at great ease. There was something about sinking back in a chair with a book in hand that felt so timeless.  

This friendly silence showed me relief in distress, and the feel of these pages gave me a reason to believe that I was safe and sound.  


Years passed; I’m 50 now. My daughter had her firstborn a month ago, a beautiful baby boy. Age has brought me wisdom and throughout the years I continued to hold onto that library as something of deep sentimental value to me. It accompanied me through the bad times, the good times, and sometimes it was my safe space, where on the rougher days I would pray through my sorrows there. One is never be too old to read; it was these pages and rows of bookshelves that got me through my life, giving me the will and courage to go on, to be able to live through the tough times to make it where I am now.  

Now, the library is being demolished. It closed on April 1 this year to prepare for its destruction, the reasons for this being poor land use in the area and traffic congestion. A new national library was to be built in its place in a different location, on Victoria Street, while the land the original building sat on would to be used to make way for the Singapore Management University and Fort Canning Tunnel. I visited the library one last time to utter my last silent goodbyes to it, before it got taken down.   

Entering the place, memories of my youth came flooding back. I brushed my fingers against the shelves, seeing the familiar titles and the feel of the covers. I picked up a few classics I used to read, Ray Bradbury, Robert Louis Stevenson… I ran through those one last time. Memories of my grandfather returned, but in my maturity I had come to terms with the inevitability of loss. The world moves, things change. I guess I had to move on. Just like this library, I know the new library will never be the same, but everything must go at some point.   

So there I sat, for hours on the stool that bore my weight for decades. 

Now. (2005)

Journsplit: And Then There Were None

Part 1 of our Agatha Christie miniseries! Aditi and Debraath talk about Dame Agatha’s eventful life and analyse the themes of one of her best-known works: And Then There Were None! Did you marvel at the buildup of paranoia as the story progressed? Were you intrigued by the moral ambiguity of Justice Wargrave?

Aditi: Hi School! Journsplit is back with another episode!! This episode will be a bit special as this is the first episode of what will soon be a three-part miniseries on the queen of crime, Agatha Christie, and some of her works.

Debraath: Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, was an English writer known for her sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections, particularly those revolving around fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

A: Yes! She also wrote the world’s longest-running play, The Mousetrap, which was performed in the West End from 1952 to 2020, as well as six novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. 

D: In 1971, she was made a Dame for her contributions to literature. Guinness World Records lists Christie as the best-selling fiction writer of all time, her novels having sold more than two billion copies.

A: Since childhood, she was quite the rebel. According to her, her mother believed she should not learn to read until she was eight, Curious young Agatha paid her no heed and was reading by the age of four. In 1905, after her father died, her mother sent her to Paris, where she was educated in a series of pensionnats (boarding schools), focusing on voice training and piano playing. Deciding she lacked the temperament and talent, she gave up her goal of performing professionally as a concert pianist or an opera singer.

D: Yup, definitely a rebel. Apparently her husband had asked her for a divorce soon after they got married, because he had fallen in love with a woman called Nancy Neele. On 3 December 1926, the pair quarrelled after her husband announced his plan to spend the weekend with friends, unaccompanied by his wife. Later that evening, Christie disappeared from their home. People back then were really hungry for a scandal and this disappearance made headlines. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes even gave a spirit medium one of Christie’s gloves to find her!

A: The following morning, her car, a Morris Cowley, was discovered at Newlands Corner, parked above a chalk quarry with an expired driving licence and clothes inside. This disappearance drove people to utter madness. People were scouring the streets for any trace of where she might be, but as you can deduce from the true stroke of genius with which she wrote her stories, she wasn’t found for quite a while. Finally, after 10 days, she was found at a hotel. You’ll never guess what name she was registered under – Tressa Neele! She used the surname of her husband’s lover! Savage… It’s really cool how she could think up such a sophisticated plan in just a day! There’s no doubt where the criminals and detectives in her books get it from!

D: According to a few sources, Christie’s autobiography makes no reference to the disappearance. Two doctors diagnosed her as suffering from “an unquestionable genuine loss of memory”, yet opinion remains divided over the reason for her disappearance. Some, including her biographer Morgan, believe she disappeared during a state of psychological dissociation and amnesia. The author Jared Cade concluded that Christie planned the event to embarrass her husband but did not anticipate the resulting public melodrama. Christie’s biographer Laura Thompson provides an alternative view that Christie disappeared during a nervous breakdown, conscious of her actions but not in emotional control of herself. Public reaction at the time was largely negative, supposing a publicity stunt or an attempt to frame her husband for murder.

A: If you thought her life was interesting, wait till you hear about her stories. Today, we’ll be talking about And Then There Were None.

D: We’ll be analysing its themes today. Ten Little Soldier Boys, a well known, rather morbid nursery rhyme is a major plot point as it dictates the manner in which the people are killed.

A: There were three main themes for the story: Conscience and Guilt, Paranoia (about dying) and finally Justice. The first theme is evident from the start where the ten people killed by the judge, Justice Wargrave (including Morris) all were responsible for killing someone. Wargrave also fulfilled his lustful intention of killing others.

D: Yes! You can tell the story is about guilt right from when the gramophone record sets the story going, with a voice reading out which of the ten was responsible for whose murder and when the murders were committed. This also causes the breakdown of Mrs Rogers. After hearing the voice, she let out a scream and collapsed.

A: By the end of the book, Vera has killed 2 people in the course of her entire life. The first was Cyril who was her charge when she was a governess, and the second, Lombard, was shot by her as a means of self-preservation. After killing Lombard, her mental state coupled with her guilt and regret causes her to kill herself by hanging. To think of it, the way Wargrave set up the hanging was sadistic. Wargrave took his mind games to a whole new level… Vera saw Hugo and Cyril whenever she was close to encountering death.

D: In the epilogue, when Wargrave tells the reader indirectly that he was the mastermind, the resolution is when he shoots himself in the forehead in the manner he disguised his death on Soldier Island, hence rendering the case nearly impossible to solve. Indeed, the set-up was very intricate.

A: Quite a sizeable portion of the book involves frequent flashbacks and monologues. They detail mental conditions of the people and their lingering guilt such as Ms Brent, who kicked Beatrice Taylor out of her house as the girl had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. Following this, Beatrice jumped off a bridge and committed suicide by drowning. Especially for Vera, when even the seaweed and the smell of the sea it released caused her to remember the repressed memory and trauma. She was so terrified at the point of time that she thought she was being strangled when the seaweed touched her neck in the bathroom.

D: Here’s an interesting observation: Lombard does not consider himself to be a murderer because he didn’t think that the natives he killed were actual deaths. This is clearly evident from “And natives don’t mind dying, you know. They don’t feel about it as Europeans do” to which Vera reacts in a shocked manner initially but is not affected by it (“They were only natives”) and when Ms Brent replies that they were humans too, she mockingly replies “Our black brothers – our black brothers. Oh, I’m going to laugh”. It could be hysteria from immediately listening to the record recite the misdeeds of the ten people, or it could be her actual opinion.

A: The second theme is Paranoia, especially about their deaths. As the number of living people left on Soldier Island begins to dwindle, everyone begins to suspect the other living members left. The suspicion and terror mounting is written in a way so that the reader too feels terrified. From the moment when there are six people left, the monologues of each person show how panicked they are getting.

D: Indeed, this culminates when only Lombard and Vera are left. Without hesitating, she shoots Lombard because she knows that she isn’t the murderer and hence wrongly deduces that Lombard must be responsible for the killings.

A: Wargrave purposefully exploited this building paranoia by making the people whose crimes were worse suffer from the slow mental breakdown and guilt by killing them last (he mentioned this in his letter). Hence, Marston is killed first for his recklessness and the absence of guilt he had towards the death of the two children while Vera is killed last, by her own hands, for the guilt of killing Cyril by purposefully letting him swim in the sea when she knew he would not be able to survive the strong currents. She then lived with the guilt of her lover, Hugo losing all his trust in her after she killed Cyril for his inheritance. (this was proven when Wargrave met up with Hugo where he talked about the vile action she committed).

D: Also, from the very start, there is a blame game being played. Dr Armstrong is blamed first after the death of Mrs Rogers, and this is then further exacerbated once the hypodermic syringe used to inject cyanide into and hence kill Ms Brent is found to be missing from his room when the remaining people go to investigate. The paranoia leads to a continual exchange of accusations and distrust. This shows how easily people turn against each other when their lives are at stake.

A: The last theme is Justice. Wargrave wanted justice for those who died unnaturally at the hands of others, and thus went on a relentless hunt for ten murderers who slipped through the loopholes of the Law. As a judge, he could not help the victims of these murderers because the cases fell through the cracks of the law. Thus, he tried to be a vigilante by killing the perpetrators.

D: Come to think of it, that is a common line in some of her books! Remember Murder On The Orient Express? Cassetti was not punished for his crime hence people ganged up on and murdered him.

A: Oh yes! That’s a very good observation. Wargrave really wanted to help avenge the victims, though. He went the extra mile to find the ten murderers and then methodically kill them. Only in the epilogue do we realise the judge kills them in those ways to avenge the people who were wrongfully killed.

D: But then, the ethical question arises of whether whatever the judge did is justified. There’s two sides to this: Some people think his actions are justifiable – he was delivering justice where the legal system had failed. Others consider him to be in the wrong, along the lines of the quote by Gandhi, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind”. Furthermore, he enjoys killing so it’s a personally motivated goal rather than an act of avengement. This is exemplified by the methodical way he killed them in accordance with the nursery rhyme, which he himself described to be childish.

A: In the end, Wargrave wanted recognition, and wrote down the whole setup of the crimes because he was proud of it. This can also be seen in the way that he tucked in the chair neatly after Vera hung herself (which also shows the level of conniving organisation and diabolically methodical planning that went into being the mastermind of such a grand and heinous crime – it was as if he was taking a bow after starring in a play or putting the finishing touches on a 10-layered cake). He wanted to confuse the police (which he successfully did) as the moving of the chair indicated that there was indeed someone left alive after Vera hung herself, but the police were unable to figure out who it was as by then, Wargrave had killed himself, but had made it look like the work of another, in line with the nursery rhyme, further showing his childish yet elaborate scheme.

D: Unlike the other people, he felt no remorse for killing the people as he felt he was enacting revenge. Pity though, he orchestrated such a finely woven plot and could have used his intelligence for the betterment of society instead of the sadistic murders that he committed.

A: In this way, Agatha Christie explores the line between true justice and vigilantism. Wargrave seems insane due to his actions. Although he is avenging their victims, the guests on soldier island seem likeable, which could be indicative of how appearances are deceiving.

D: I agree. Everyone starts out by feeling wonderful and excited about spending the weekend on the island till the record plays and people begin dying soon after. They are driven to extremes by the mounting paranoia of their impending death and are pushed from civility to a total breakdown of such courtesies. For example, at the start of the book, they behave in a very civil manner during their first dinner on the island but when the guests are murdered, everyone begins to suspect one another. People are terrified of being accompanied by only a single person in fear of them getting murdered and the formal politeness disappears among the terror. In the book, when only half the people remain, the dinner is a very terrifying moment because they know that there is a murderer amongst them but they cannot pinpoint as to who that person is.

A: Here’s some Fun Facts! The judge was mostly described as reptilian and wherever someone died, the murderer was described with turtle-like qualities. For example, when Emily Brent was killed, the murderer was described as somebody all wet and dripping with soft dragging footsteps.

D: Oh, cool! Another interesting thing: Agatha Christie was compelled to write And Then There Were None because it was such a difficult plot to write effectively that the idea fascinated her. The story outline went through massive rewrites before she was ready to write it.

A: I also read that initially the crimes the characters committed were quite different from the final version. Vera Claythorne originally drove her lover to suicide instead of indirectly causing her lover’s nephew’s death, Emily Brent bullied her servant into taking poison instead of kicking her out after she got pregnant out of wedlock, and General MacArthur sent thirty soldiers to die in battle unnecessarily instead of purposely sending his wife’s lover to his death in a war operation, just like the biblical narrative of David, Bathsheba and Uriah.

D: Ending off, there were originally 12 characters on the island, instead of ten. And finally, this is kind of obvious, but the name of the island is Soldier Island, just like the rhyme Ten Little Soldiers. In older versions where the rhyme uses Ten Little Indians, the island was called Indian Island.

A: That’s all we have for And Then There Were None. In the second episode of our trilogy, we will be exploring another one of her famous works, Death On The Nile. Hope you learnt something new today, and we’ll see you in the next episode. 

Valentine’s Day Anti-Love Poem Contest

Preamble, preamble. It doesn’t matter anyway. Nothing really does. Which really contextualises our futile struggles for connection in a dying world, no?

Top three



In a memory pulled from the heart, I found
a long-lost trace of your gentle cadence;
your fiesty tenor, diminished but resolute.
It compelled me, enveloped in a drugged haze
to once again wear the feel of you between my lips
like a wolf in sheepskin.

But the feeling is unfamiliar, the heft of a hilt
no longer meant for me to weild
for the edges of your inflections have ebbed,
and the shine of your blade has dulled, leaving your lustre
another discarded carcass at the mercy of time,
and another burden to be buried and offset.

Yet you continue to reside in the recesses of my soul,
the ghost of an old flame that withers me
when I hear your unmistakable lilt
trace the patterns of another
ousting upon me the unbearable realisation
that it is I who have lost you,
and not you who has lost me.

So I lock you away and leave the key
under my tongue, now limp and dormant,
until all that remains is my bored indifference
as my lips stretch, not into words that call upon you
but a tired yawn
as I look towards the laborious movement of hands
I compel to move faster still
and have now slipped gently through my fingers
to leave an awkward, uncomfortable stasis
that makes me wish I was some other where
so you would not be so regrettably out of my reach.



Caved In
a modified twin cinema poem


Ng Yu Feng

i dreamt of hell once in my sleep
an empty, endless limbo
where eclectic waters run forever deep
and 'ships without people
where fragmented mind-blips bob intermittent
and snakes of smoke cloud wistful brooding
the bleached corals, the false commitment
of colours, washed up shore
the stars were bright, bright as your face
but now constellations are fading, blinking away
you, a mangled array of utter misplace
can't muster the memory of your face
room waltzed with you, a crazed kaleidoscope 
sporadic coins of blue heavy on your eyes
and white sheets, and flustered red skin
and while im drifting away, a green goodbye
green of growth, of growing apart
blurring bounds between end and start
though your hands on mine, a gentle touch
but now, to me, it doesn't mean much
my bewilderment an abstract art
your grief-stricken a romantic 
im dissolving, a burst wart
confused world frenetic
morning i woke, drenched in brackish dew
and your schedule starts anew
i know you don't love me, you never do
but im willing to make do
i know this relationship is all scorn and torn
and our first and only child was stillborn
but i don't need your "love"
and yes i know, my "love" for you has burnt out too
my candle now half as long but just as bright
and i want to end it right
it was a mistake, this "love", just the two of us on a small boat parting from the main ship
but now we've come so far, alone
and i only have you now
and i just need someone to watch me die
i dreamt of hell once in my sleep
and as much as i hate to admit, i don't want to lose you

Consolations (five, no order of merit)


King of My Heart

Dear Anon: You are the king of my heart,
And I, your ever-faithful, loving queen.
Fate dealt the cards and I knew from the start, 
It’s your love that I’ve always sought to win. 

A dream you were, so close yet asunder. 
Bedazzled by the diamonds in your hand, 
I took a leap of faith, and went under – 
This shattered illusion my new homeland. 

I lost the bid when I gave you my life, 
Handed me a spade so I dug my grave. 
Threw away my ace and I took a dive,
But you are no knight - just another knave. 

And now Jack’s gone and he’s broken his crown, 
Shards embedded in my heart - rip! - they tear. 
In this endless ocean of you I drown,
Ever since you left me in my despair. 

But even though you’ve shredded me apart, 
Forever, you’ll be the king of my heart. 


ceryneian hind

the next morning it rained gray
i was left out on the hill
standing, staring, looking away
hunter's crossbow hanging weakly off my arm
how many people does it take to ruin a dream? 
the answer is none - a dream is like a bubble
shiny, iridescent, ethereal. be wary of when they pop.

the day it happened: a deer galloped by
sun glancing off its dappled cloak.
it trod thousand-eyed dandelions underfoot
crushed carnations into red,
left me in dust. stunned.
such a pretty specimen. i thought. what a shame
i haven't seen a single animal in months.
i raised my crossbow, and
spent the next months stalking its tracks.
the next months. obsession blossomed like a rose
the longer the hunt went on. i trekked after trails
fought through underbrush
spent days listening avidly for the tales 
the leaves have to tell. 
(the nerve. i thought. to turn my life upside down.)
the day came too fast. i tailed it to a stream, 
got my first full glance: 
gold antlers, bronze hooves, what an image it made
this was my one and only chance.
a deep, silent draught, conviction notching an arrow. 
i thought i aimed true.
an arrow is fast, the deer was faster
it leapt over the river, outrunning the recklessness of my arrow,
ran off into the horizon, crushing my hope underfoot.
i knew it’d never come near me again.
how many people does it take to ruin a dream? 
the answer is none - a dream is like fiction
satisfying while it lasts, but fiction has to have an end
the next morning it rained gray
i was left out on the hill
an unwanted rag. beheld
the destruction the hunt had wrought
all for nought. 


On that harsh moonlit night
At a place where the sun does not shine
You appeared, a figure of light
Too good, too pure to be mine
As time flies and the miles between us grow
I wonder what I would sacrifice
To blur the line of truth and lies
Just for a chance to drown in your eyes
You were my anchor to this reality
Without you, I am blind to what’s ahead
Your cruel smile razes like the raging sea
Yet the warmth leaves me seeing red
Worlds collapse, dreams shatter, flames burn
With you, my heart runs rampant
Fact from fiction, I can’t discern
When unreturned, love’s a tyrant 


Life of Penguin
Today, she gave me the book,
Small with green pages,
Filled with messages of hope,
Fired up that you are incoming.
Today, she lay back on the bed,
Frail with pale skin,
Fraught with ridges of worry,
Fear that you are in trouble.
Today, I place you in a box,
Tiny, with brown sides,
Frigid with pangs of despair,
Flayed that you are inanimate. 

Joye Lim Qian Qi

scattered delusions

linger in my scattered delusions
as i drown in an ocean of sleep –
rippling refractions of sun on the water’s surface
that fade as i fall
down, and down, and down.
and down.
flit among the trees, 
always just out of my reach.
a flickering, dancing flame, bright blue against dark night
whispering for me to follow, 
and i do.
now i am lost, and you are nowhere to be found.
are a closed book, and i never learned to read.
every eureka is proven wrong,
every experiment blows up in my face. 
if a million stars and a thousand galaxies were scattered
across every night sky
maybe then you’d see me.
i hate you.
but the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference
and my hate and love are so entwined
they may never be unravelled.
sometimes they suffocate me.
and sometimes they set me free. 

All entries

Akeel Kani

 My back, it hurts from her scars,
 Love is a dirty trick,
 But now I’m smoking cigars,
 Going with whoever I pick,

 A second-hand emotion, that’s all it is,
 A husk of what you thought was real,
 Deceiving others when I see fit,
 Love, marriage?  just another ordeal
 Finishing and consuming every thought, action and decision
 Undermining your social structure and putting everything at stake
 Caring not for you and obscuring your vision
 Knowing your heart, it will crumble and break,

 I know the loneliness, I’ve been there,
 This isn’t cynical, it’s the truth – why love really stinks.

Akshara Arunkumar

roses, scattered on the ground
endless echoes all around
"just leave me alone", he said
"end those thoughts inside your head
can't you see i don't love you?"
try i did, but that held true
i, dejected, left the shred
of hope i had in fate's red thread
now my heart, no more, it's dead.

Neo Wee Zen

(don’t be so hard on yourself. issa good poem :>)

Stare with compassionate fury
As you settle the unruly jury
After all, you’re law and order, without reason 
So please, greet me with distaste and derision 

Deliver me death!
My adoration will stay so evergreen,
I wilt at the sound of your every breath 
This agony, more than you’ve ever seen 

For once, I was a tool, a jester under your rule 
Then, I disintegrate, a translucent ghoul
I’ll fall into my place, and never show my face 
For the fear of the taste of disgrace 
My tale is all made up,
My soul is all makeup,
Call me out for my fraud,
Redact the moments I made you applaud. 

She’s every misstep, every mistake
Her glance, her grin, an intoxicating gin
And a sentence said, with meaning but lacking intent 
A sin without a chance of repent
Delusions, illusions soon follow
Attempts at redemption ring hollow. 

She has me arrested, my thoughts overstayed. 
She has me blocked, in front of heaven’s gate. 
Filled with guilt, the atmosphere killed,
I pray for my love and the lights to fade. 

Yet, your serenity shines through the clouds! 
You unwrap my airtight shroud 
Convict me of treason, to the highest degree. 
Prepare my sepulchre and set my body free. 

Deliver me death!
I wilt at the sound of your every breath 
My adoration will stay so evergreen, 
This agony, more than you’ve ever seen. 


 God, my heart's vacant now
 Yeah, she hates me now
 I popped a couple bottles of aspirin 
 But it’s not enough, the emptiness still reigns
 I won't let the doubt creep in
 Banish the pain from within
 Happy I never let you in 
 Glad I saved myself from ruin
 Love’s a game, it gives me pain
 My heart breaks yet again
 All I get from you is pain
 Never wanna see you again
 Now my life is spiralling down
 Heartache is all I found
 With love around my life’s damned
 Now I’m lost, now what’s the plan
 Love’s not a thriller
 Nothing but a cold blooded killer
 You, with that Viper’s tongue of yours
 All you do, all it does is lures
 But now I’m done with this
 It is nowhere near bliss
 It drives me to death
 Forces me to take my last breath
 Love is cold, and I’m done with it
 After all this, I’m well and truly beat
 Are you happy with what you caused
 Or will you brush past without a pause
 Just as you did before
 I can’t take this anymore.
 Breaking it off is what’s best
 So why can’t I put this to rest
 I’m tortured from the inside and this is how I’m gonna die... 

Shen Xing Yang

 Distractions and Fears
 I'm not ready for such dedication,
 O my treach'rous heart, why do you flutter?
 Love unknowable, bard's inspiration,
 But to me it's all just needless clutter.
 I take comfort in your touch so gentle
 It's become to me like bread and butter.
 Every way both physical and mental,
 On you I've become far too dependent.
 Can we act like this is accidental?
 Feels like you're the judge and I'm defendant.
 Fear rejection, yes, I am a coward,
 I'll look from afar, you're bright and splendent.
 I'll just stay alone; my love has soured-
 (Hence abandon I my love, unflowered.) 

Eliora Delphine Loo Yun

 you know
 everyone thinks that they know us.
 how - how?
 is that so?
 they think they've got us figured out.
 we know better
 don't we?
 don't we?
 you do.
 i do.
 i do i do i do i do i do i do
 i do until i don't.
 i need you to know
 that this isn't a confession.
 of love, i mean-
 i mean - it is.
 just not like that.
 i mean - i'm afraid.
 i'm afraid that it will become so.
 i'm so afraid, because
 i know
 what love like that does.
 it consumes everything
 in its brutal onslaught.
 i'm so afraid, because 
 when it’s through with us
 there will be nothing left
 but a you-shaped hole
 in the fabric of my universe. 
 i'm so afraid, because
 what's been done to me -
 it would happen to you.
 and it would be my hands
 pressed over your mouth and nose.
 and i need you to breathe.
 because - 
 it's not that i can't, without you.
 but it's easier.
 with you.
 i cannot have
 that the end to this tale
 is us learning to breathe
 through the gaps between
 each other's fingers.
 we'd still be gasping
 for air.
 and, well
 i can do nothing but say - 
 God help me.
 God help me
 to love you enough 
 not to fall in love
 with you. 


 As I watch her from a few seats away
 Nice and beautiful, silent and sweet, her radiant smile illuminating my way
 Destined for each other, or so I hoped, despite my faults and her flair
 Running into her anywhere makes my heart stop, I swear
 Emotions flood into my head with each glance, it seems
 And here is her story, finally expressed in real words instead of daydreams
 Which I believe is true, no matter from whose view
 “Opposites attract,” Is it true?
 As I raise my head for a glance
 not daring to take a second one
 I start to wonder
 about the person out of my reach
 “The ability to see across worlds
 does not ensure granted dreams “
 Have I truly been wasting time?
 Daydreaming about happy endings
 When it’s simply nonexistent?
 If love is blind
 Then so am I

Leong Jiandi Nathanael

My Unrequited Love
 When I saw her, it was love at first sight.
 Made my heart beat like the clock at midnight.
 Her shy and reserved personality,
 Was one of our commonalities.
 Her blushing face is too delightful,
 others glare at me, oh so spiteful.
 That pout when she gets a little mad,
 Makes me want to comfort her so bad.
 Fluent in both English and Japanese,
 Traveling overseas would be a breeze.
 Having an obsession with history,
 Makes our convos a constant mystery.
 That girl, she is simply divine.
 Forever showing up in my mind.
 I want to go out with her already.
 However, my love is stuck in 2D.


 Pain, pain
 Pain again.
 When they leave.
 Slice, slice.
 Snip, snip.
 All cut.
 Time passes.
 Gets better?
 Sulfuric acid. 


 you, your eyes as dark as night
 as the blackened skies where birds take flight
 no emotions in them two
 cold and endless, black and blue
 under the depths of the sea
 now you have imprisoned me 


 last year, i made a wish
 a hope to get you as a duo
 school was a time to group
 talking to you was nice
 looking to your time to get
 expressing my attempted push
 then sent a message, did i
 to tell you how i mean
 eleven minutes, before long
 receiving none bliss
 exit my delusion, not a spec
 attempts too far, too extra
 creeping gave you more pain
 harassing made you no closer
 lying to myself was no cure
 i myself made this major mess
 new year new me?
 edit my fingerprints, i cannot 


 My Valentine's gift 
 A long awaited day 
 So loved be those that are loved 
 And lonely to those who arent
 Butterflies flutter in my stomach as i think about whats to come 
 In the morning when I arrive 
 Students sleeping 
 He walks through the dull hallway into my class
 A spark in the midst of gloom
 His friends await at the door
 Eager to see my reaction
 My heart pounds
 He hands me a letter 
 Encased with hearts 
 Said something to me 
 So passionate and
 Full of earnesty
 "im breaking up with you" 


 So much for roses
 “I loved you so much” 
 Chanting in my head while I carry
 Visions of what we might have been
 I would walk barefooted across the deserts
 Swim like a dolphin, out of quicksand
 To seek you
 As I swim across the moat, hack at your fortress walls
 I scream “LET ME IN!!” 
 I will prove my worthiness of entering your garden oasis
 Let us be friends, so we may then be more than friends.
 Excuse me please, while I still dream of holding 
 flowers, for a while longer in your corridor dead-ends.
 Lower your guards, please. They bug me
 While I sugar a distraction from my intrusion. 
 Don’t raise suspicion. Please trust me,
 Allow me the way into your heart chamber.
 Where there is no red carpet
 I pave the forward path with a gilded tongue
 Climb up upon lines of vines 
 To reach you
 Here are a thousand poems dedicated to you,
 I will write more every time I
 smell your rose scents. 
 see through your tinted glasses. 
 hold up your bouquets by the stalk.
 hear the music of your fauna. softly
 harvest, plucking each plant one by one.
 hush my wincing. Until I can’t even hold a pen.
 My hands hurt, and they don’t look any less 
 A bloody pricking mess. What a catch. 
 Cast an eye of disdain over the pain.
 Or cover it up, lest resentment infects it. 
 Day by day, our flags seem to match closer to the red carpets.
 Since when? Did we litter rose petals on the floor for the purpose
 Of being trampled upon.
 The more I explore your castle,
 The emptier this Large House feels.
 Seeing red everyday doesn’t feel so rosy anymore.
 Maybe I loved you
 Only so much.

Ernest Emmanuel Cheong Haoen

 our fanfiction

 The whole wide world was our galaxy,
 Big enough for just you and me,
 And you were the brightest star that could be.
 She took off the head of Cassio,
 And tore you away ‘till I let you go,
 To leave me stranded with no way to know,
 And in this equation 
 We solve for all three bodies
 In a constantly chaotic path,
 Because there is no solution
 To the end of our stories
 And the parabolic curtain laugh.
 We used to rule the seven seas,
 Even though I grew weak at my knees,
 Couldn’t see the dark forest for the trees.
 She rocked our boat like a tempest storm,
 And before I knew it you were gone,
 Swept past me with the past that I still mourn,
 And in this assertion
 We find ‘Z’s ‘Y’s and ‘X’s
 In a constantly chaotic path,
 Because my revolution 
 Around the central axis
 Has been snipped in two and folded in half.
 And there is no one in space
 To stop tangential rejection
 From the supernova’s aftermath.


 When I first saw you, my heart skipped a
 Beat but down the rabbit hole I go uh-
 I’m addicted to you like a bottle of pills
 And before I know it, everything’s going downhill
 My brain’s high and it’s drowning in toxin
 Drunk with dopamine and oxytocin
 It’s like I’m taking a puff of a cigarette
 It hurts but I’m still chasing your silhouette
 My mind wanders around, I think I’m lovesick 
 And I still continue being overly optimistic
 But you shot a bullet through my heart, “Eat lead”
 Left me on the ground to bleed a shade deep red


 Two Weeks of love: A Brief Summary of Infatuation
 Monday, I first set my eyes on you on the way to school
 Tuesday, I can’t stop thinking bout’ you
 Statistically couples fall apart but we might just be true
 Wednesday, gathering my courage, I approach you and ask
 Surprise, there’s a smile there right behind your mask
 With you with me there will never be a single laborious task
 Thursday, we learn more about each other, at this moment (I think)
 Between us appeared the red string, an invisible link
 We talk to each other at the skating rink
 Now this is a ship that’ll never sink
 Friday, let’s watch a movie
 Saturday, walk in the park
 Sunday, go for some ice cream
 And walk home after dark
 I’m starting to lose myself
 Don’t want fame and don’t want wealth
 You’re the only thing in my soul
 Monday, my eyes don’t feel quite right
 Tuesday, my mind is telling lies
 Wednesday, my love’s fear in different light
 Thursday, new complications arise
 Friday, I realise, I have been blind
 Replay our memories in my mind
 Shake free of our untrue bind
 And go forth, leaving this all behind
 Saturday, I wander through the street
 Don’t know and don’t care who I will meet
 Alone, by myself, I go for a treat
 Sunday, I’m binging by myself, I’m seriously done
 Let’s hope tomorrow I won’t meet another one
 I guess I’m myself again
 No more heartbreak, no more pain
 The obsession has taken its toll

Vadivel Jaivasanth

 Witch Oh Witch Oh Witch Oh Witch
 should’ve listened to my friends and ditched
 thought we were happy together
 but you kept changing like weather 
 girl I know the love is dead
 should have known it way ahead
 you told me he was just a friend
 I caught you cheating in the end
 I treated you like such a queen
 but u went out with him on Feb 14
 Trying to forget all that you’ve said
 Can you just stay out of my head.

Lim Woon Seng

 He was rich and she was young.
 He was rich and she was young.
 It was quite clearly not love,
 When both act in self-interest,
 While saying the same “I do”.
 He was rich and she was young,
 On the special day, they went out, 
 To get fifty-dollar chocolates by the river Seine
 And pictures that last as scars soon after.
 He was poor and she was young,
 An economic crisis, a job retrenchment,
 Laid bare the problem with the “love” between.
 She was sad not for him but for herself.
 He is poor and she is old.
 He was tired, she was sleepy.
 A petty argument over dishes.
 A slow fire that burns.
 He looked at himself in his mirror,
 And she looked at herself in her mirror,
 It didn’t reflect the image of who they want to be.
 Thus, they slowly agreed, 
 That now, perhaps is the time,
 To acknowledge that there was no “love” to speak of.
 Her for him, and him for her,
 It’s all a lie, it’s just a facade.
 So much for love and joy and whatever
 That you see in those cheap magazines from the corner stores
 For humans are strange creatures who prefer the artificial safety of beauty and money
 Over love.

Law Rui Xi

 Fluttering of petals, flowing like time,
 Clouds drifting freely in the sky.
 The girl I like, drawing sandcastles in the air
 She’s so gorgeous, I think I could cry

 Sitting at her desk, a picture of beauty,
 Pencil poised, words dancing on the page.
 She answers posed questions with unrivalled fervor
 Her bright eyes are the highlights of my day.

 Her house stands on a tree-lined street,
 Her dogs greet her at the door.
 She walks into a house smelling of delicious pie
 And curls up on the porch with a tome.

 A leafy dish graces her bowl as
 She laughs with the apple of her eye
 This painful truth, I struggle to grasp
 Why must it be him? Why can’t it be I? 

 I am the only one for her
 Why is she so blind? 
 I’ll prove it to her 
 That she can only be mine

 I drag her away one day like a prince
 Rescuing my princess from the dragon’s claws
 I convince myself she did not just wince;
 She’s with her only worthy worshipper at long last.

 A brawl breaks out, a fist to my cheek
 A foot to my chest and my ears start to ring.
 A strangled scream calls me a “creepy freak”
 But you refused to come with me 

 Is it my fault?

 Scarlet mars my vision like blood in my eyes
 The hum of strength coursing through my veins 
 I surrender no more to indecision
 and ignore their desperate pleas I shall

 She’s mine she’s mine she’s mine she’s mine
 She’s mine she’s mine she’s mineshe’smines

 By the end of it all, I wield a shattered bottle of wine
 I stagger to my feet, woozy in the head
 “It’s going to be alright now, it’s going to be fine.”
 She flinches away, features plastered with dread
 “Finally. At last, you are no one’s but mine.” 

Ritkriti Chatterjee

 What's the point of love?

 Love, you tell me
 is something that’s everyone’s cup of tea
 But I just have one doubt –
 What’s the point of all this stuff?
 What’s the point of love?
 Remember that couple out on the beach?
 They were smooching and hugging as though in love
 But guess what? It was all fake
 For exactly ­three days later, came the news
 that the boy had left, and the girl suffered a heartbreak
 What’s the point of love?
 Now before you argue – here’s one more case
 There was a second couple, who after reading
 the fate of the first, decided that never by force
 would they fall in love. But guess what?
 They had three children, and then divorced
 What’s the point of love?
 Not satisfied? Here’s another tragedy
 A couple were dating, but then were separated
 The man went overseas, and three years later came back
 The girl was delighted – But guess what?
 He was carrying a baby and a diaper-filled backpack
 What’s the point of love?
 The last case is not so tragic
 Two high school sweethearts were married together
 They promised each other that they would never part
 But guess what? The man died of a heart attack 
 and left the woman with an unfixable hole in her heart
 What’s the point of love? 
 Is there any point of love seen?
 I can’t see any – can you?
 So is there a point of love?
 I’ll say no – but it’s up to you 

Zhu Yancun

while True:

     a few glimpses away
     our eyes met
     a smile
     a look
     and we darted away
     a few days at times
     our paths crossed ways
     a touch
     a wave
     and I fell again for the crime
     a few nights in a row
     you flickered here and there
     unconscious laughs
     unfiltered glee
     I was kept lucid, yet alone
     a few months trickled by
     no there wasn't a few months
     had fun while it lasted
     felt dumb when it ended
     oh wait it happened again :0


It seemed too good to be true 
I fell in love without a clue 
I loved her with my heart and mind 
Never did I think she would leave me behind 

It all ended that fateful day 
When her feelings drifted away 
Why did it have to end this way 
She had left me to decay 

She always wanted to go higher 
I must have failed to fulfill her desire 
Was she always a liar 
She just had to set my heart on fire 

Possible I was not caring enough 
Perhaps I wasn't bold and tough 
Why did I have to fall for her charm 
Now in return all I get is harm 

It has been so long since she left me 
But she never left my memory 
This has been my burden to carry 
Never ever can I hope to be free 

Why did I have to love her so much 
Now all I long for is her touch 
She was my love, friend and so much more 
She had sent me begging at her door 

As my cold heart shatters 
It makes me think nothing matters 
From love and anti-love, I choose the latter 
Nothing is served on a silver platter 

My empty feelings cannot be expressed 
All I am now is depressed 
Wishing that I should have shown my best 
Wishing I could die of cardiac arrest 

Why she left I can never comprehend 
All my hopes are left to spend 
Now that my poem comes to an end 
Are you sure you want a girlfriend 

Hope you feel less lonely after reading these poems, and thank you to all the participants!

Ode to a Parrot

By Renee

A beautiful exotic Beast 
Beloved everywhere 
From north to south, from west to east 
For their Feathers and their Flair 
Their curious minds 
And playful manners 
Their sweet faces could light up a room 
They have talents for learning tricks of all kinds 
They can also speak on various matters 
They may also spread their wings and zoom!   

However once you choose to welcome 
These creatures into your life 
You may find they are truly fearsome 
And soon may come a time of Strife 
From dusk to dawn and all day long, 
They make profuse demands 
Their beaks are poised even during play 
To bite if something’s wrong 
At times they’ll seem just to not understand 

Yet the owner will always say 
I love my little Beelzebub Buddy 
He is Perfect in every way 
He can be a fuddy-duddy 
Or sometimes radically unstable 
But he’ll find ways to make me smile 
Or else, just—sit there with me 
So even when he’s ripping up a cable 
He’s just a friend with a lot of Style
As you can see 

Minecraft and Feeling Old

By Renee

Do you remember the days of Minecraft when boats didn’t have oars? Remember the days when people went to the End solely to fight the Ender Dragon? I was a massive fan of Minecraft back in 2013, I watched Minecraft videos every day the moment I got home from school, I read the wiki religiously and of course, I downloaded a pirated version.  

I stopped watching around 2015 and I never thought about it again until one day I opened up a video talking about the panda update. Then I fell into a terrifying spiral of research about the new mobs that had been added since 2015. Dolphins, parrots, polar bears, striders, shulkers, illagers…TURTLES? BABY TURTLES?? New biomes! New naturally generated structures! A material better than diamond, the triumphant champion since the dawn of Minecraft! Needless to say, I was horrified. Could it be that my previous genius was now irrelevant and outdated? Could it be that I was now a ‘noob’? 

Turtles, the most necessary addition to Minecraft. 
The ‘Warm Ocean’ biome. 

I felt old. Like some old lady who didn’t understand how technology worked, like my prime had passed and now I was some relic of the past. 

Then I realised I was only 14.

There are other things that make me feel old as well. I have friends my age who’ve already gotten white hairs, my back sometimes hurts, I don’t actually understand how to use Instagram stories. 

It appears that feeling old when you are at an age typically considered “still young” is quite a common phenomenon, often triggered when someone learns that this thing they enjoyed during their youth happened a decade or so ago. I have seen countless Buzzfeed articles talking about old TV shows and how the actors look currently, recreations of discontinued confectionery products and videos showing early editions of Minecraft claiming they would make the viewer feel nostalgic. These things make me feel absolutely ancient, but the time gap from then to now is certainly not as large as I would think. My father, for example, can tell me stories from over half a century ago. 

One of numerous “Then and Now” articles on Buzzfeed 

I talked to a friend during CCA who showed me a video from the Youtube channel CollegeHumor called ‘If You’re Only 20-Something, Stop Saying You’re Old’, what it made fun of is self-explanatory. I thought the point it was trying to make was a good one, when you’re young and complain about being old, you just look silly. Another CCA member then remarked that dismissing claims about feeling old was just like disregarding mental illnesses. I’m definitely not an expert about mental health, but I do agree that feeling old was not wholly a laughing matter. 

An article from the BBC, ‘The age you feel means more than your actual birthdate’, talked about people from all ages not identifying with their age. A person feeling younger than they actually were was shown to have a positive impact on their health and wellbeing. A person feeling older than they were might have been because they felt physically or mentally unfit. In general, certain age groups tend to want to be older or younger due to factors like work or health circumstances. The article concluded that in the medical field, people should take not just physical age but mental age into account as well when they diagnose patients, due to its impact on health. 

For now, I suppose all I can do is fixate less on how old I feel and focus more on relearning Minecraft my studies and the happy youthful moments in life.