Stateless On Campus

Born overseas but moved to the Land of Oz at six,

Confused and bewildered but over time found my feet,

Language barrier was a problem, cultural clashes were inevitable,

The resourcefulness of children underrated, to go with the flow seems second-nature,

Fast-forward ten years, ya boy well and truly made himself at home,

Sadly at the expense of the identity forged in the South East Asian nation he came from,

Learned some valuable lessons along the way, the good and the bad,

That folks are generally welcoming but others preferred you’d stayed in your own land,

‘I come from The Land Down Under’ but not all were offering vegemite sandwiches,

Even fellow transplanted compatriots weren’t above hazing and pettiness,

Such was the case in high school, a setting that was equal parts jail and something kinda tribal,

Your place within the hierarchy seemingly beyond control, affecting how you’ll win and influence people.

Can’t forget those days, a mixture of highs and lows,

Idyllic beyond school gates, it was a stable life at home,

Befriended mostly denizens born and bred, fairer-skinned and speaking with perfect Aussie accents,

Some on the strine side if not borderline bogan but such is life in Sydney’s wild wild west,

Wasn’t well-received by aforementioned fellow transplanted folks,

Up in arms over why I ain’t riding with my own,

The dude did try but was met with the stink-eye,

Tenuous grasp of the mother tongue had y’all branding him ‘acting white’,

While others griped I was too traditional, too similar to those from the motherland,

Better to move on now than tear my hair out to the last strand,

Am a hip hop head now but back then was a punk, alternative and heavy metal fan,

Perfect genres to voice out anger but deemed counter-cultural said the kababayans,

Can only bang against bricks for so long before that skull be cracking,

Friends and allies don’t come easy but thankfully found some that were willing,

But just ‘cuz you’re accepted don’t mean that you belong,

To others born and bred this outsider was a disturbance to them all,  

Wearing that bullshit on their sleeves, you know exactly what I mean,

‘Cat and dog eater’, ‘skin tone same as poop’, ‘Flip’ and ‘Gook’, jokes ‘bout small appendages, too,

Should’ve cracked the fuckers with minds stuck in an era before ‘73,

Would’ve meant suspension if not expulsion, at the time I’d sooner hang than self-destruct for their amusement,

Can’t lie, though, a generous serving of punches would’ve been well-deserved,

Smack ‘em til their faces broken, maybe a few limbs and ribs, too, for good measure,

Dunked on by both sides over identity politics, how the fuck did it come to this?

Seems the universe saw it fit to assign me the role of the picked-on-kid,

Stateless on campus, marooned on Point Nemo,

Ain’t nobody worth trusting so the struggle was mine alone,

Friends came and went, had to fend for myself sooner or later,

Such was the case by high school graduation, frowning in that picture for a reason.

But fuck it, it’s in the past where it belongs, no point crying ‘bout it now,

Gotta move on to level up, it’s been done and dusted about,

Might as well forgive and let go, but for the target it’s hard to forget,

Great insults last a long time, should there be a reunion these eyes will serve to remind them.

Another form of hustling

For the longest time, the hustle life’s been lionised,

The tireless worker with eyes on the prize, iron will and iron mind,

Good things come to they who work their asses off, the magnitude of achievements only as good as given efforts,

No rest for the weary and sleep is for the dead, slackers can only live in prayer if they wish to get ahead,

No respect for the ones sitting on their hands waiting for the grim reaper,

Out on the pitch and barely scoring, wouldn’t even cut it for second or third-stringers,

Can’t conquer new worlds if you don’t venture out to sea,

But easy to judge, too, from afar without knowing the full story,

Are you familiar with ‘em? Or just judging the cover sitting on the shelf?

Why not pick it up and leaf through a few chapters? Might learn you a little something.

Illnesses of the mind on the rise, been many years now and counting,

Possible aftertaste from society’s definition of true hustling,

On the subject of dreams the masses are wont to dismiss others’ as bulldust,

Is it any wonder why too many are closed books and apprehensive to the concept of trust?

Depression and anxiety spreading like the plague, insecurities and jealousy more than tripled,

Felt by all at some point or another but for many more such symptoms are everlasting,

Chase and conquer’s where it’s at, be it work, play and even relationships,

Staying in’s for losers and the cowards, days are made for seizing,

Dare to stumble and you’re written off and starting again’s a folly, rest and self-care exercises in sloth and vanity, that’s what they be saying on the daily,

Not all plans go accordingly, won’t always reach success in one go,

Multiple attempts might be necessary, just need to go with the flow,   

But where there’s passion there’s a way, just gotta find the right one,

But if possibilities yield nada then a fresh start never hurt anyone,

The ones that y’all judging could be such persons, taking new directions after the previous turned out to be failures,

Sitting, planning and plotting, that’s another type of hustling, perceived lack of actions could mask a mind working twenty-four-seven,

Then there are those taking a load off to catch their breath, gather their bearings and their senses before taking the next step,

Others in deep meditation, floundering against the haze in order to gain clarity,

Can’t do that on the move, clearly, bet y’all would sneer and call ‘em lazy,

Then there are those at war within themselves, the assailant unseen and persistent,

Faith in their abilities non-existent, the lingering scars are insurmountable obstacles,

Or maybe they’re on the straight and narrow but choosing to operate within the shadows,

Why does it only count when they’re crowing from rooftops? The silent achievers, too, more than earned their props.

Good on you for thinking that you’re killing it, but who are you to label ‘em?

Who permitted you to sneer at all others? Some might be thriving without your knowledge,

That work ethic sky high, enough to put yours to shame,

There’s always someone better, Friend, regardless of age, gender, background or race,

Hustling harder than you ever could dream about, eating up most of their twenty-fours,

Seeds sowed before the fruit’s grown, the resulting harvest maybe even greater than yours,

So what if they cultivate from their hiding place? Away from shiny tall buildings that you call a working place?

Better check yourself, fast, before what comes to light makes you look a total ass,

Think before you judge, there’s more than meets the eye,

That so-called fool that’s wasting their life could very well be serious hustlers in disguise.

Mirror Match

To anyone that was a fan of fighting games in their youth,

Passing many hours mashing buttons, innocent fun though the content’s uncouth,

Mirror matches were an eventual occurrence, when characters faced off against themselves,

Worth thinking ‘bout the scenario in real life, namely battles in the mind,

Close to a real-life mirror match as can possibly be,

Something sinister ‘bout an assailant felt within the self only,

External rivals come and go, temporary problems at best,

Different story when you’re gaslit from within, ain’t no way to run from yourself.

Too many fucks given or not enough, maybe oscillating between them both,

Insidious and vindictive, impeding the achievement of goals and personal growth,

Carried on for so long with nary a belief in one’s self,

Head clogged and hazy by the clouds of doubt and loathing, it’s a special type of hell,

Uncertain when the seed was planted but damn it the tree’s sprouting,

Different gardeners did their part, should’ve kept them out from the start,

Sleepwalking but never dreaming, had little faith they could be achieved,

Probably fuck it up irreversibly, all roads pointed to that direction constantly,

Any semblance of happiness and joy short-lived, pain seemed everlasting,

Maybe that’s just how the script was written, but fuck it why won’t they change the channel?

The praises from the masses for good deeds falling on deaf ears,

Goals achieved written off as mere flukes, been like this for years and years,

Maybe since childhood for your boy if you can believe, ain’t paused to reflect upon it, might’ve started when an inevitable death became common knowledge,

Warning signs of sorts reserved for the masses, ‘Stay out’ and ‘Keep away,’ best they keep their distance,

Give ‘em a challenge or proposition, watch how quick they go a different direction,

Predetermined assumptions of the outcome being the main reason,

Ain’t fishing for no pity party, this is just straight facts,

Nothing hurts more than accusations of the former, do yourself and them a favour and try to understand them,

Maybe some can relate, maybe others can’t, if you’re among the latter better consider yourself blessed,

But where one area’s lacking another’s been strengthened,

Might not hold themselves to a high standard but guaranteed that iron will’s been tempered,

Still plugging along and trying, could have caved in from the beginning,

Defied the darker forces tricking ‘em into the ultimate submission,

Takes lots of courage and even self-belief to get up from a beating,

Some days worse than others but damn it, they’re still standing,

Maybe they’ll find their calling, even if better late than never,

One foot forward all the way, the odds don’t even matter,

Such voices may be hard to silence, some days the noise is deafening,

Battle through it anyway, be defiant and not a victim.

One Call Away: False Dawn

One year post-upper secondary education,

From behind school gates, out into the real world, been quite the transition,

Barely any feeling-out process, overwhelmed being the new default setting, pressure mounting from both internal and external sources, fucking up’s not an option and too old now for excuses,

Grades achieved are useless, those academic accolades meaningless,

The real world don’t give a fuck, Amigo, it’s deadly serious business,

To find my place in the world, it’s easier said than done,

What to study and where to work, a gap year sounds fun, a paradox of choice that don’t come easy to some,

‘Rents been both a blessing and a curse, their brand of motivation not-so-low-key pressuring with expectations,

Nevertheless the love and support remains, gotta give credit where it’s due,

Helped me land my first gig and tertiary education too,

TAFE the first step to that coveted uni degree, just a detour of sorts, couldn’t get to the kingdom via the HSC,

Accepted into a government gig in early July, didn’t take up too much time,

Four hours a day with solid pay, finally made it to paradise,

Last two years were forgettable, the previous one in particular, this must be my reward, the spoils must surely go to the victor,

Toughed out that rough start, here’s the happy ending, finally hit the open road, Mom and Dad, look at me I made it!

But what goes up must come down, turned out to be a temporary high,

Job turned out to be a temp, three months later I was waving good-bye,

Felt like several steps backwards, in a game of snakes and ladders got bit by the largest serpent,

Plummeted back to the start, like the last three months had never happened,

Nevertheless added that experience to the CV, but searching for new lodgings won’t be easy,

Will I find a role as straightforward and convenient? And with handsome rewards, too, for good measure?

That’ll allow the education of yours truly to run smoothly? They say one grows through adversity but surely I’d earned the right to be choosy?

Ain’t never been a big spender, got plenty of money in the bank,

Enough to tide me over while the near future looks dank,

Then there’s the rumblings behind the scenes, not gonna air out dirty laundry,

But a civil war appeared imminent, thankfully there was safety between siblings,

Stuck together for now though uneasily but at least we remained intact,

Concerns growing louder over how much longer it’ll last,

Christmas came and went in a hurry as did the party at NYE,

So there you have it, a year divided into three, an awkward start and inglorious finish, sandwiched a trip to the mountain peak,

Hoping for better days in the next one, the train rolls on,

Little did we know then, a derailment was on course…

You Played Yourself 9: The Slap

Here we go, the biggest night of your career, third time’s a charm, hopefully, the big prize dodged you twice already,

Past few years been a rough ride, box-office bombs and shit ‘bout your personal life, least of which the entanglement with the wife,

2022 was supposed to be a return to form, a redemption of sorts for you to reclaim the throne,

Then things got underway, at first played out as expected, ‘til the court jester took centre stage, what followed no one saw coming,

Cracked a joke that involved the missus, initially had you laughing but damn, she was steaming,

Off you strode up onto the stage, the smile long gone, smacked that fool in the chops before casually walking off,

Then cursed him out loud, twice, ‘Keep my wife’s name out your fuckin’ mouth’, nice,

Got him lost for words while everyone present turned to stone, not long after they declared you the winner, got you all emotional, the tears they did roll,

So you’re going home a winner, but it’s a lot more complicated, Brother,

You made a damn fool of yourself, they’re talking ‘bout it all over, in tones that hardly serve to flatter,

No award’s gonna undo the damage, way to throw your brand away,

Career now on life support, never know if or when they’ll pull the chord,

You played yourself.

Felt the need to defend your wife’s honour, well that part is understandable,

Not sure if his verbal missiles were directly even aimed at her, could’ve only been about the film that he’d mentioned,

Nevertheless you could’ve and should’ve handled it better, what got into ya?

You were laughing just seconds ago, come on, Bro, why flip the switch to aggro?

Did she tell you to sort him out right there and then? Her non-reaction’s kinda telling,

Could’ve stopped you from making the front pages but sat there just keeping her quiet,

Could’ve handled it like a grown adult would, taken him aside then chew him for being so rude,

Tell him he’s out of pocket for that bullshit, that the missus wasn’t having it,

Way to provide your critics with extra ammunition, the ones saying she has your balls in a death grip,

Owns your heart and soul like a female mantis, day by day manipulating,

They’re saying, also, that you were just trying to act all hard and macho,

Still competing with the slain rapper that she still diggin’, gotta bury the notion that you’re soft like napkins, that you, too, can somehow be masculine,

Not gonna touch them August jokes, that’s for another post, but they’re still out there, Friend, branding you the second letter of the Greek alphabet,

And of course the C and S words rhyming with buck and shrimp, only gets worse from here, better get a grip,

They might take that prize from you, that ‘nice cool guy’ rep in a shambles,

Probably won’t be invited next year or to the one right after, ‘cuz you got caught up in your feelings like a sucker,

Throwing hands to combat temporary emotions, such behavior’s unbecoming of a responsible adult,

Count your lucky stars he ain’t pressing charges, could’ve had five-o on your ass after that career revival,

As for your fellow winners and attendees way to ruin their night,

Stole their thunder and made it all ‘bout you, if you’re punished, well, it kinda serves you right,

Time will tell if this’ll blow over, hopefully it won’t be a career-killer,

In any case, congrats on the win, Sir, third time turned out to be a charm,

Just a damn shame that in the end you’d done less good and plenty of harm,

You played yourself.

TIME

Morning is upon us, should be thanking God for another day of life,

Unsure if I’d earned it, if I even want it, lately it’s been a rough ride,

Two months later the wound remains raw, gonna take a whole lot to heal this open sore,

Can never erase the events of that night, got home following another hard grind,

She was standing there, should’ve been sleeping, could tell she was red-hot and steaming,

Huffing about matters unimportant, the impact wouldn’t have dented the fucking richter,

She gave too many fucks about ‘em, straight-up ducked and dodged my explaining,

Overtime followed by a long commute and I had to come home to this shit?

Can’t believe she stayed up late for it, I really wasn’t feeling it,

One thing led to another and we got to bickering, at first about the so-called issue at hand,

Then segued over to our recent history, from the beginning ‘til the present a startling contrast,

No more of that lovey-dovey rom-com thing, done eroded into something almost toxic,

Starting beef over the innocuous that should’ve quickly been forgotten,

Silent treatments would last for weeks if not months, how the fuck did it come to this?

When previously disagreements ended less than 24-hours later with a hug and a kiss.

And we’re here again, under the same roof but mentally stranded on our own islands,

Unwilling to call for help knowing that the other would be the one to come and get us,

But someone had to give, eventually, she lowered her defences first,

Tried to be the bigger person, extended the olive branch but I just wasn’t reaching for it,

Her apologies went unheard, her gestures of goodwill unaccepted,

Worked my ass off only to be bollocked and disrespected, playing with matches will get you incinerated,

She started it and I’m gonna finish it and I have every intention of extending it,

Hopefully to drive the message home, finally, that messing with me is one of life’s biggest follies,

One month deep now, this silent treatment, the longest that our cold wars had ever lasted,

‘Goodnight, My Love’ and all her other sentiments went unanswered save for contemptuous pre-sleep grunting.

The next day played out the same way with a continued deafening silence between us,

Up early but she’d left ahead of me, went on our respective hustles, to be unhappily reunited later,

That’s when the script was flipped, life ground to a screeching halt,

Just reached home, why wasn’t she around? Then came the fateful call,

Several unanswered calls in my phone, how did I miss ‘em? Face-palmed myself before addressing this latest caller,

It was her mother, hysterical on the other end,

A fool on the booze had crossed into her lane, the collision catastrophic and head to head,

The aftermath a big mess, traffic piling on both lanes,

The carnage left no survivors, time seemed to hit the brakes,

She ceased to exist, just like that, here this morning but gone later on,

The beef remains unresolved, no fences mended, the pain a special type of hell as you can imagine,

Can’t even recall what we’d gone to war over, it’s been more than a month ago,

In the grand scheme inconsequential, should’ve ended it but instead extended it, fuelled by pettiness and ego,

Blinded by pride, didn’t tell her I loved her the previous night, didn’t even kiss her good night,

I guess I was asking for it, the regret and heartbreak I’ll take them to my grave,

Sickening realisations following personal tragedy beating me down like Calzaghe did Lacy,

That I took her and our union for granted, failed to fulfil those vows,

To be there for one another, through good times and bad, she was a keeper, best I ever had, what will I do now?

Now two months later I’m still picking up the pieces,

Staring at the man in the mirror through eyes of bitterness and hatred,

Day by day cursing him for choosing feelings over what’s important, ‘fuck you and your fucking dramas, you selfish motherfucker!”

“She’s the best thing that ever happened to ya, a blessing that came your way like no other, you never deserved her and now you done lost her,”

A warning to you, Dear Reader, the words of Buddha stand the test of time,

‘Anger is like drinking poison but expecting the other to die,’

Grudges ain’t meant to be held for too long, better drop it quick if you wish to move on,

For grown adults such behaviour’s unbecoming, if you’re still prone to it you need some serious soul-searching,

Life gets shorter as your age grows longer, why dawdle in the same old chapters?

Time moves inexorably, best you keep up and move on swiftly,

Once it’s gone it’s gone forever, this ain’t no video game shit, no such thing as do-overs,

Tomorrow ain’t promised to anyone, that should motivate you to hug your loved ones,

Don’t let anything get between y’all, especially not the pointless and the trivial,

Never go to bed mad, especially at your fam, they’re the only ones you have, cherish their company while you can,

On that note I’ll soldier on, cold and forlorn, spare me your pity and scorn, I know I deserve to live the rest of my days alone.

Price Tag: Mr and Mrs Jones

Nice ride, somehow it looks familiar,

Owned by many a superstar, Mr and Mrs Jones ‘round the corner, wasn’t your last one a keeper?

Got you from point A to point B quite smoothly, an upgrade really wasn’t necessary,

So why this new toy that won’t appreciate and comes with a secret use-by date?

Seems you bought it out of peer pressure, believing it’ll make your image that much sweeter,

Trends are ever-changing, before you know it it’s out of fashion,

Nobody here hating, Friend, but that M.O slapped glittering on your sleeve,

Based your life’s choices and preferences on the actions of total strangers, it’s a fucked-up way to be.

Way to surrender your freedom and power, how does it feel to be held prisoner?

Got you blowing dough on useless shit for show, Struggle Street’s knocking but your dumb ass ain’t knowing it,

Taking paths that ain’t yours ‘cuz IG deemed your situation unexciting,

Came at the expense of your identity, now an amalgamation of those you’d been following,

The stars, icons, players and influencers, living enviable lives that’ll drive you bonkers,

Got a chokehold on the collective’s attention, somehow found yourself among them,

Gotta ask yourself some questions, address that proverbial white elephant,

Are your moves dictated by genuine want or fear of others’ judgment?

Wastes of space you’d parted ways with paper on, are you still enjoying ‘em?

How many are collecting dust in the shed? Has the sting of regret set up camp in your head?

Could’ve defied the mob but instead you’re a slave to ‘em, an unwinnable race you’re running, such a life can’t be fulfilling.

Maybe you don’t see it but yours is a major problem,

Letting others dictate choices, how the fuck is that liberating?

Perfection is but an illusion, the so-called famous, too, are flawed, they’re only human so quit revering ‘em like they’re gods,

Speaking of illusions, social media’s rife with ‘em, images can be doctored and locations manipulated,

So-called influencers tauntin’ and cappin’, not to mention gaslightin’,

Not all but most of ‘em, playing you like a fiddle same as their other victims,

A better life’s attainable if you play your cards right, shuffle the deck where necessary,

Press on forward, to hell with adversity, watch how fast your life’s enhanced, might build you a legacy,

A true badass is one that’s original, knows themselves like no other,

Rejecting white noise and useless chatter, opinions are like assholes and everybody’s got ‘em,

Ditch ‘em and live your own life, heed the wise words of Bruce,

“Showing off is the fool’s idea of glory,” insecurities and dissatisfaction manifesting in attempts at false praises and validation,

Take away their phones and access to the net and what do you get?

A bunch of entitled fools forced to be civilians, ill-equipped for what lies ahead,

Suddenly they ain’t so enviable, more than likely theirs was all an illusion,

Forced to start again, abandoned and forgotten, out of sight like the trends they started, how’s that for poetic justice?

Free yourself from their trap, go on treading your own path,

Embrace your true self, flaws and all, your lot ain’t so bad,

Focus on life’s true calling, scale you some mountains, the best investments you ever had,

Indulging what you don’t need for people you don’t need to please, kick ‘em to the side where they belong, they don’t own you anymore.

In Their Shoes

Been carrying this load now, weighed down for the longest time,

Shoulders slouched and knees tired, could’ve been a strong man but feeling just about fried,

Twin tormentors jockeying for position but equally loud and destructive,

Got your man running from one end of the proverbial spectrum right to the other,

Sights set on a particular path, planning and plotting to make it happen,

The outcome still uncertain but intuition dictates it’ll be worth it,

Just don’t tell that to the parents, loved ones too for that matter,

The script was written for me years ago, veering from it deemed acts of rebellion,

Standards and expectations, too, set from the moment of birth,

A metaphorical chokehold as far as I’m concerned, additional needless pressure,

Tried and failed so many times over, win-loss record favoring the latter,

Their prophecy unfulfilled with no contingencies, I must be a no-hoper,

Bad vibes permeating self-worth, nobody ‘round to talk it out with,

Why place trust in others capable of plunging daggers when you don’t expect it?

Every known relationship ever severed in the most unfavourable ways,

Barely a parting word exchanged, forget a sweet embrace, we’re talking bridges doused with petrol then setting it aflame,

Smiling through the pain, they won’t know shit this way,

But behind the mask an inverted smile, hovering over it the appeal of a self-inflicted demise. 

See you wandering about, your head up in the clouds,

Damn near bowling others over, they’re cussing at ya from right over their shoulders,

Looks like you’d had a heavy day or still stuck in the midst of it,

Word is you want out ‘cuz you can no longer take it,

Leave it to me to give you a dose of brutal reality, shit you need to hear,

That you’d never known true suffering, let alone absolute fear,

While your grown folks were upstanding mine were bottom of the barrel,

Drank, shot, snorted and swallowed what was within reach, passed their bad habits unto me,

Took my share of beatings at home and away, more than any kid deserved, certainly,

Just call me a heavy bag with legs, the shoe fits perfectly,

A lifelong nomad against my will, it was one eviction after another,

That was Mom and Pop’s way, I just inherited their traits,

Money was tight and it was my education or their vices,

Spoiler alert ahead, the latter took precedent,

The curse could’ve ended but fuck it the proverbial leaves ain’t turning,

Now I’m royally twisted like ‘em, draining every last fucking pay check,

Can’t live without the stash, though, no better way to numb the pain,

Experiences and inner torment just as potent as scarring from fighting and self-harming,

One thing lead to another and soon they made off with my lodgings,

Went through partners like used underwear, the little ones aren’t hearing it,

Now I’m here among the dregs, the ones the masses pretend don’t exist,

Can’t blame nothing or nobody, I’m programmed towards the self-destructive,

Desperate to fight back but untrained and too chicken-shit for it,

Stop and pay attention, Sir, this shit here be real life fucking problems.

You rail at feeling trapped, of expectations and needless pressure,

Because your parents believed you had it in you to achieve everlasting greatness,

Any idea how green many a face would be at that? That they cared enough to feed, clothe and raise your ass so you don’t fall right through the cracks?

If I’d had a taste of it I just might have become someone, but it remains a theory and always will be, just wanted a fighting chance but never was afforded one,

You grew up comfortably in a stable environment, finished school and now making a decent living,

Can afford to keep a roof overhead, to keep that belly fed, what others yearn for you take ‘em every day for granted,

Barely experienced the challenges others go through, daily,

Ever had to hide from murderers and thieves? Resort to drastic measures for lodgings and a decent feed? Sleep on the streets, come freezing cold or searing heat?

You ain’t been forced to survive the school of hard knocks and all her soul-searing tests,

Betrayed by your folks, stabbed figuratively and literally by so-called friends, tormented daily by even bigger demons than even the ones you think reside in your head,

Take a deep breath and venture out your cocoon, take a good look at the world around you,

That head been stuck so far up your ass that you don’t even have a clue,

Then you’ll realise the true depths of suffering, harden up and gain you some perspective,

Fuck your feelings and first-world problems, so much going for you but you choose to be blind to ‘em,

Hope that shit empowers you to be better, to count your blessings and be of service to others,

The ones for whom yours is an impossible dream, walk a mile in their shoes, it could’ve been worse for you, so pull your damn self together, Fool!

MOVING ON

Woke up bright and early like it was another school day,

It’s anything but, come afternoon it’ll be time to graduate,

The magnitude hasn’t registered, all’s well on the plains, gotta enjoy summer break before knuckling down for seventh grade,

Had breakfast with the fam bam then ducked into the showers,

Changed into school uniform, yellow shirt and grey shorts, December weather ain’t suitable for trousers,

The opening salvo in a day of lasts fired, many little habits memorised to be performed a final time,

Morning drop-off completed, kissed Mom ‘see you later’, entered the school grounds to join fellow grade-sixers,

Seems we’re united in our indifference, the significance of it all remains elusive,

As a collective it’s all dry eyes, no internal drafting of good-byes,

Could change as the big show edges closer, guaranteed the dam will break once it’s over,

Final morning assembly failed to activate the feelings,

Though I’d be lying by claiming I didn’t feel stirrings during Principal’s morning message,

Then it was off to the classroom, no more lessons to be covered.

Time spent reminiscing with the teacher, pep talks galore about what lies in our near future,

The past seven years lead to this, 91 to 97, from kindergarten to grade six,

I was a year late to the party but these classmates kinda grew on me,

Not that I’d call ‘em bossom buddies, miss me with being weepy after the ceremony,

Got through recess in a reflective mood, blocking out the usual banter from the dudes, contemplating over my food,

Lunchtime was similar, chopped it up with young’uns while the homies played soccer,

Ones who looked up to me as a big brother, oblivious that I’ll soon be a goner,

The school bell chimed, the final meal break was over, back to class to prepare, a final request from the teacher,

Handed us pieces of paper, asked us to write our secret wishes, no need for a big reveal, write ‘em then fold ‘em before dropping ‘em in a bucket,

Before they’re stuffed inside helium balloons, their purpose will be revealed soon,

For now just sit back and relax, spend some quality time as one big group,

At another time multiple selfie-sessions would have been in order, pics and vids uploaded on the ‘Gram,

‘End of an era’, ‘moving on’, ‘the next chapter’, how are those for hashtags?

Soon it was time, bade one another farewell, expressed gratitude to teacher,

For her guidance and patience, for putting up with us, fulfilled her role with flying colours,

Looked around home base, desks tidy and chairs atop tables, ready to be cleaned,

Walls that had played host to charts, rules and students’ art works now a bare and austere shade of cream,

No cap and gown for us, just plain old school uniforms, took some shine off of the occasion, not that it really matters,

Lined up for the final time, marched like troopers towards the assembly area,

Students from grades below us and their teachers, school staff and our parents, patiently waiting as we were seated up front and centre,

Principal kicked off proceedings, tired old clichés she was regurgitating,

Stuff about personal growth and the next chapter, as we transition from children to teenagers,

School captains addressed their peers, handled it like professionals,

Even in the face of their friends’ subtle trolling while others’ eyes were wandering,

Even the parish priest had his say, this was Catholic school after all,

Then once the VIPs had rocked the mic it was on for the cringiest part of all,

Graduates turned to face their support crew to serenade them in song,

Call it our teachers’ retribution for the times we’d driven ‘em up the wall,

Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion, the theme from that movie Up Close And Personal,

An impromptu karaoke session, writers on Glee would have found this unusual,

To us it was cheese, new levels of cringy, worse than what Gal Gadot and her cronies mustered up during 2020.

Then it was onto the main event, certificates to be received, yours truly called up first, they just HAD to do this alphabetically,

Then joined by the kindergarten buddies assigned to us at year’s beginning, whom throughout the year we’d been mentoring,

Collected a helium balloon each, the ones that stored our secret wishes,

Never mind if we got ours specifically, either way they’re about to go flying,

Assembled at the dirt area, balloons in one hand and that of our buddies in the other, released the balloons skywards to rapturous applause, upon our teachers’ final orders,

Thus concluded the ceremony, in addition to our time in elementary,

Classmates now alumni, the term teachers now prefixed with ‘former,’ our roles as mentors for those kindergarteners well and truly over,

The day’s significance finally hit us as we said our goodbyes to one another,

Gotta laugh at the tears between friends who’ll be spending summer break together,

The occasion must’ve got to them, I suppose that’s understandable, most are heading to the same high school together, again it becomes laughable,

Half-promised to keep in touch with the homies, to hang out like old times, did we live up to ‘em? You’ll find out in a little while,

Finally split from the herd unnoticed, looking forward to hopefully greener pastures,

Re-joined my immediate family, who were chatting with the Principal, she wished me well for the future, then I gave Pops the signal,

It’s time to go, the summer break beckons, headed towards the gate, taking those final steps triumphant,

Only at this time did I feel that gut punch, finally,

That elementary’s now behind me and so is a life carefree, melancholy hitting me low-key,

Took a final look at the school grounds, surveyed the land before leaving,

Class was dismissed for the summer, other students had joined their parents,

Fellow graduates ain’t in a hurry, some of ‘em ran to the jungle gym excitedly,

Climbing and swinging like they did in kindergarten, one last grasp at childhood before high school comes calling,

School buses done arrived, time to close school for the season,

Grade seven awaits after the break, bring on teen years let’s see how I handle it.

POSTSCRIPT

No, your boy ain’t kept in touch with the homies, it wasn’t meant to be,

That’s just how fate scripted it, our ships sailed through different directions,

Most of ‘em now married with children, as are most of my former peers,

Some even became teachers, though not at our old stomping ground of seven years,

Most of ‘em ain’t changed, facially, can see traces of ‘em in their kiddies,

No telling what became of our kindy buddies, by now they’d reached early thirties,

With families and careers of their own, time sure has flown,

Seemed to last forever living it, in hindsight shouldn’t have taken it for granted,

The school I’d attended still standing, still in operation and thriving,

Uniforms largely remained unchanged, new buildings done upgraded the landscape,

No telling if younger teachers in the day are still plying their trade, though one older gent’s still doing his thing, still smoking despite surpassing retirement age,

Now to address the elephant in the room, as if you didn’t know,

That little note that ascended upwards, the little wish that I’d wrote,

Ain’t nothing ambitious or noble, some would say it’s shallow,

Gotta bear in mind, I was a chubby child, picked on by the others, their jabs were most unkind,

So prior to the proceedings, took out a pen and scrawled that I wished for a better body, to turn this softness into brawn,

Maybe wishes come true, achievement unlocked years later,

No drugs, supplements or gym, just hard work and dedication, choke on that one, hecklers!

Dear Ninang

You were Pops’ oldest sibling and the one assigned to be my God parent,

I was aware of your presence on the family tree but interactions before elementary remained kinda fuzzy,

Met you for the first time five years after we’d migrated, I was eleven and English had become my first language,

Unrecognisable, maybe, from the kid you once knew, and the language barrier was a minor issue,

Back then you seemed kinda strict, not the type to be trifled with,

A veteran in the field of parenting, seen and heard every excuse and act of mischief,

Yet beneath it all lay a core of warmth and you were generous to a tee,

Granted us lodgings whenever we visited, unfazed about additional mouths to feed,

Cooked us meals during morning, day and night while attending to daily life,

Taking care of Grandma and running the home and family business, tell us, Ninang, how’d you ever do it?

Encountered obstacles growing up yet you knocked ‘em all, no wonder Pops spoke of you in reverential tones,

Clearly admired his big sister, the one who soldiered on even when the years took their toll.

Reunited five years later, another trip home in my mid-teens,

Your façade softened slightly, the disciplinarian replaced by one more grandmotherly,

Yet your generosity remained intact, the passage of time ain’t diluting that,

Still didn’t suffer fools, though, the grandkids found out fast!

I remembered the trip’s conclusion, you and Grandma shed tears,

Wondering, maybe, when we’ll return if ever, no such thing as guarantees,

We’d meet again, Ninang, but not until thirteen years,

Had plenty of growing to do, conquered school and university then joined the workforce, too,

A family reunion was on, 100 years since grandpa was born,

Grandma had passed, me and the grandkids had all grown,

You’d reached septuagenarian status then but remained sharp mentally,

Another surprise lay in store for me, that you’d learned a bit of English,

Also cooked up a generous serve of the dish that pops said I liked best,

Widened our lines of communication and kept me well-fed, tell me, what’d I do to deserve it?

Getting up in age but you remained and elite-level hostess, keeping us housed and comfortable while still maintaining the family business,

Travelled back two years later, this time for Grandma’s 100th

Glad to have spent additional time with you as you traversed through life’s sunset,

Another teary good-bye followed, perhaps more painful than the others,

The years are adding up, time’s forever marching.

Hoped to meet again, that was the plan anyway,

Caught up in life and ambitions, a health scare the icing on the cake,

Fate intervened just when it seemed all was in the clear,

Borders locked up by Covid 19, brought the entire world to its knees,

The beast still out there though significantly weakened, progress made in subtle ways but can’t be hasty when reopening,

Prayed for your continued good health, another meeting was way past due,

Then heard from folks back home, some not-so-great news,

The Lord had started calling, you delayed the inevitable for a time,

Before you earned your wings then ascended towards the sky.

But while we mourn your passing there’s a sense of comfort over the end of your suffering,

That it’s a beautiful world up there to where you are going,

It’s a testament to the way you’d lived, that your deeds would not be soon forgotten,

The kids and grandkids, they are missing you, the next generation, too, are missing you,

Rest In Peace, Ninang, it was your time to go,

Though face-to-face was limited, your love I’ll always remember it, glad it was you whom Mom and Pops chose,

Maybe we can chop it up sometime, catch up like we should have years before,

In a manner with no barriers, for now fly high and soar, happily up there with the Lord.