“Songs about Girls” by Euginia Tan


You watch her sleep.
Her mouth is half open and
Her lashes flutter, very faintly
Like the wings of a hummingbird.

You daren’t move.
If you stir in the sheets
You might miss the tempo
Of her breath.

In. Out. In. Out.
There is a lock of hair
Curling down her temple.
There is a freckle on the bridge of her nose.

Outside there are stars.
There is a street where a lone car
Zooms past. A tree hides
A furtive bench. A shadow of a branch is cast.

Outside there is the moon.
There is a ditch, cloaked in the black
Of the night where two cats watch.
Their tails coiled under their paws.

Outside the galaxies merge
To form chances, and time is confused
With fate and coincidences.
You think about this.

You think about all this
And much more. The drapes
Cover much of what you will need to face.
Tomorrow. Now it will suffice

To just watch her sleep.


She walks!
This creature from the story book
Of enchanted witches and evil warlocks,
She walks.

You tail her from behind.
You want to let her take more
Steps before you spring forth and
Anticipate her gasp of surprise.

She says hello to a neighbour.
She is in a long skirt and
It billows out; in accordance with her hair.
Her shoes do not seem to touch the ground.

She is friends with the wind.
You can feel the playful breeze
Skimming her skin and as you follow
Steadily, the air changes its scent.

It matches hers. She is crossing the road.
She is standing at the traffic light
Which is not yet red. Yet cars are slowing
Down to catch a glimpse of her.

She is not aware.
She is listening to a tune in her head
And she is awkwardly singing it out
Shyly. She lets the unfinished note trail.

She could walk all day and
Never realize you were behind.
You too, could walk all day
Pulled by a string on the folds of her sleeves.

You hasten your pace.


“Good Morning.”

She grins. She is always
Cracking a grin.
You are brushing your teeth
But you are looking at her reflection
In the mirror. She is talking
About breakfast.
“Yes, about breakfast…?”
You feel the froth of toothpaste
Gather in your mouth.
Her voice is still croaky
From last night’s grains left behind by
The sandman. There is crust on her eyes.
You gargle. You look up quickly
After the water has been spat into
The sink, afraid to miss her
Taking off her pajamas but
She is still standing erect.
In your tee shirt, too big for her
Firm waist – but hanging snugly
On the broad frame of her shoulders.
You are suddenly aware of the
Silence in the air.
She is waiting for an answer to her
Her head is tiled to the left
As she leans against the door frame.
Her limbs are long. Gangly.
You recall how they wrapped around you
Like vines on a fence.
You feel a thrill course through your
Body. You tense. You remember her calves
Taut in her heels. You
Think of her ankles. How they upheld
Her feet, in pointe.
Her toes, painted gold.
The satin texture of her thigh on your hand.
You touch her there.

You lean in to touch her there and
Kiss her forehead.
“Good morning,” you answer.
She places her face
On your chest
Still waiting
For your answer.


You find time to catch your breath.
The day has been long and
You wonder why the morning
Was so painful without her.

You think of how excruciating it is
To face the rest of the hours alone.
You adjust your wedding band
Then you call her on the telephone.

You think of her tucking into lunch
As she says hello with her mouth full.
You know it cannot be salad. You
Wonder if it is spaghetti. Some kind of noodle.

You twist your head side by side
Hearing two cracks in the neck.
While you stretch your back
The phone is still at your ear.

You let yourself be guided by
The ramblings of the girl you love most
Her voice is in your head even
As you hang up.

When you start the car
You know where it is you are headed to.
You know the table she is seated at.
She is one for routine. You know

Even before you reach her side
You know she is sitting cross-legged.
She is reading while she eats.
She is hunched forward.

As you drive you think about what she has ordered.
You will ask her but you know
That she has lost herself in the pages
Of the novel. You have studied her
Just as she is transfixed
Her very limited span of concentration
Upon each page. She does not know what lunch was.
Any more than you.

You are getting out of the car.
You let the hunger pangs mesh into
A growl. Your hand is on your stomach
As you enter. Your eyes find her at the
Quietest corner.
There she is, reading.
She does not look up as she says,
“You are late.”

Her food is untouched.
As you sit down, you are about
To tell her she should have started first.
Only to have to swallow your words
As you hear your wife telling you,
“I decided to wait.”


You return home
To face the face you left
On the frame of your desk
And in an obscure slot in your wallet
The same face you left
On the wall of your hostel
Where spiders spun webs and
You faced the harshest, longest
Winters alone.
Staring at the tacked photograph
On your wall.

It is the face you have left
In an envelope where
A birthday card nestles inside.
The same cheeks
You pinched. The same face
You have left now,
Every morning as you venture out to make a living,
Waving at you
With a hand rested on her expanding belly.
It has been six months.
Soon there will be more faces
To add to more photographs.
Small cherubic replicas of her.
You wish your sons would come
To resemble a bit of you, but
You know deep down, they will
Turn out as beautiful
As their mother. Just as how
You take after your own.

You look forward every day
Returning home to this face.
You look forward to it all as she places your hand
On her belly and you feel
A sharp kick.
You feign surprise. (Or do you?)
She is giggling just as she did
Ten years ago
When you were a boy, admiring.
And always, waiting.
She is giggling just as she did
When you were a boy, kneeling.
Asking for her hand. Still waiting.

You waited all eternity
But you never had to.
From the start, her answer had been
(and still is)

You are dancing with your child
Between the both of you.
Her face is aglow with the proud
New sense of impending motherhood.
It is the same face
You dreamed of every night
As you thought of how best it would be
To ask her to marry you.
It is the same face
You held on to
When the seasons and
The lectures of wizened old men
Proved too merciless to bear.
It is this same face
You have yearned for
When the war was long
And the smell of death seemed to linger
Dangerously near.

But you are here now
With the creation of life
Balanced precariously between the
Space of your torso and hers.
You are here now and
Nothing else matters.

You return home from work every day
To face the face you imprinted
On the surface of your malleable heart.
Hers was the only constant.

All manner of songs about girls
Have been sung.
Yet you stuck to the same tune
All these years. You suppose
She was a one-hit wonder.
Perhaps a classic.
Either way,
You have subscribed to the same station
With the same deejay
With the same frequency.
Only one song has been requested
By you
All these years. You have only asked for her.


Happy New Year.
You make a toast.
You clink your glass against hers.
You down your wine and
As she swirls hers, taking small sips
You wonder how it was that
You were once so afraid
To ask her to be yours.
You reminisce about all the times
You asked for powers
To think of a more impressive line
Other than
Be Mine.
Oh well. Auld Lang Syne.

Profile: Euginia Tan

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