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Closing Time by Theophilus Kwek

‘Tanglin Halt’s tenants […] will need to move out of their hawker stalls and shops in seven years.’

– TODAY, 4 July 2014

Enough time, they said, for a reckoning, 

to scrape the grounds from the bottoms of our cups 

and sweep the stacked cups from their tables

as at the end of a night’s reminiscing,

to turn the tables over to the birds

already sentry among our half-filled seats

for what’s left from the helpings uneaten

and chess-games unfinished, tall tales unheard,

to draw the shutters over the LED signs

beaming comfort from their hack-wired frames,

throw out the flattened sticks of sugar-cane

strung with the last of our raffia twine,

strip out the lights – that for now, still smoulder

with a ghostly joy though the current’s off,

charged as on our first day, with the thrill

of something built, and something brighter.


Theophilus Kwek has published four collections of poetry, two of which were shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize. His poems, essays and translations have appeared in The Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, The London Magazine, and Mekong Review, among other publications. He serves as Poetry Editor of the Asian Books Blog, and his most recent collection, Moving House, is published by Carcanet Press in the UK.


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