A spring of a lamb eager to grow, two days old

Her mother refused to milk her I was told

We fed her in baby bottles and called her Kekepo,

   in our village called Kekabu.

Large frogs keep you awake

Lovely kittens tempt you to laugh

   Especially during the postures of prayer.

Fireflies come like postmen

with epistles from the saints.

Other countless fleas and flyers

Moths, dragon–and butter–flies, and praying mantes.

Fish in the pond the cats thought were for them

And a bully of a cat that fathered kittens

   You cannot count with your fingers.

Wild boars as village aggressors

Trails of tigers deep in the forest,

And of eighty wild elephants

   You may meet some along the road

      with ivory eyes against your headlight

Rumour of a sun bear shot dead

Chickens oft-pecking

And chicks go missing  

Now by snakes and now by falcons

   That stand on trees pretending to enjoy the view.

Roosters who tell you angels are visiting

And the friendly Ayam Mutiara always in pairs

   Running around greeting visitors.

Sprouting banana trees,

Sweet jackfruits whose seeds taste like chestnuts.

Forty goats, some sound like men in pain

   And others like dear Kekepo.

Cricket music to dispel silence

When you look up at night you would think

This was perhaps what the Prophet saw

Before the Qur’ān descended as verses

   So must the Qur’ān be studied like we study those lamps  

Shadows cast by the moon each white night

   How many books I’ve read under the moonlight!

Tall trees of countless genera draw the clouds every day

To water the forest – without fail,

clean us and dispel from us رجز الشيطان

Every day without fail

If it is not وابل, then it would be طلّ

Storms draw near like marching armies

   with drums from the distance.

Free water from the flowing river

   That you have to boil before drinking

And the stream runs down the mountain

   Offering itself from the fridge of nature

   Or as a hot spring from the warm earth

What be it, dew on green is a sight

   That quenches your thirst for beauty

Iqbāl said, “In every flower there is God.”

Even in the weed flowers

By the leaf shall ye know the tree

So shall ye know God.

The Twin Peaks of Perak with a deceiving height

and yet green to the eyes as malachite

   speak to you with a voice like descending from heaven.

Colonial rubber trees everywhere

Durian the tyrant king of fruits

Bamboos and coconut trees

   That we can use as we please

Houses of timber like resurrected souls

Who become sad and ill if you part their company,

   For more than three days.

The only garbage is from the cities

Like the scribbling of little rascals

   On your precious paintings.

Dozens of lizards

   (dropping from right above you) on the attap roof

Or between the teeth of the grandmother cat

   Hunted from the distant trees

      each time you run out of whisker-crunchies

They hunt down a squirrel and leave it to the earth

But they lick clean left-over cooking oil in the pan,

Have Durian for dessert and gobble up even the feathers

Of the birds caught in their claws

Like the poor sparrows and other pretty ones

Who come to freely dance in the air

   Afterwards they go sunbathing daydreaming to be lions.

Mole hills here and there

And perhaps a snake hole

But no rats, no pigeons, no crows.

Short grass so the cobra may not stand up to greet you

Otherwise, the ticks can cling on to you for a week.

Dokong come in such abundance

   Reminding us to eat fruits in seasons.

Monkeys, shy as their colour black,

Carrying with them their tails like ropes

Come each shurūq as a family orchestra


And so very few humans

Just so very few.


[This poem was born out of my email exchanges with the late poet Daniel Abdal Hayy Moore, may Allah accept him and have mercy on him, who read one of my poems and commented that it resembled Hugh Selwyn Mauberly. Perhaps he was only encouraging an aspiring young man. I was indeed encouraged. He wrote to me, “Write down and send me what you see around you.” It became a habit. This was born out of my notes from one such moment when I wrote down what I saw around me.