going there and coming back, poems and prose by Bernice Chauly

October 3, 2008

My first collection of poetry, published by Rhino Press in 1997


picking fruit                 


when i was a child        

my parents were angels

who fell to earth because

they wanted to love

i was their fruit

ripe for the picking

always in season



then my father died

his angel wings were

carried away

further and further

until they became white foam

and merged with

the ocean spray


i died with you

my young soul screaming

like unripe fruit

in the hands of

the fruit pickers



january first


i remember that afternoon

when we lay

the leaves dropped gently

and left a dappled light

dancing with no shadow


this is beautiful

I can see your soul

and the tune your

spirit dances to


come, my love

let me lick the earth

from your fingers



sweet and  love


when I am with you

I stir

and am reminded

of humid nights

heavy and sweet

as I inhale – deep

the scent of

sandalwood and ambrosia

on skin


I hear you smile

as you enter the

desert sand

and draw

me in





from the golden light

that you came

to which you must now



until you and i

seed of your seed

fruit of my womb

energy-egg into flesh

our love union


until then

child of light

you are free to roam

the realms of nameless souls

and child -spirits


until we meet again

and part no more



Feb 16 1995

8.20 pm



            an extended political fart that occurred in the early afternoon


Piss on practical committees, cohorts are inept, as sarcasm, expeditions to Egypt, King Tut was too optimistic, My

Fabulle, “who put that genital in my rum?” satisfied? “who me?” we’re such frigid rascals, two listless women and

homosexual monkeys who suck on their mother’s milk for the capitalists – “ ooh mommy, give me that, oh forsaken

godly supper, ooh, to taste the fresh trickle in my mouth makes my tongue, you, the master, said with nihilistic truths,

anarchism farts you in the face, pricks are noble friends, the voices of the socialist gods milk the cows to sleep, their

teeth aren’t as appropriate as Caesar’s remarks.







your body is racked by the pains,

the coarse, viscous streams of viruses

in their prime,

penetrating your resistance,

weakening you into deep slumber


i am your nurse, mother-like,

inducing you to a slow, steady health

and I think of what I am lacking –

your touch, your kiss upon my worried brow

and I think of what I want –

not expecting, not questioning,

because you are

once again



again, I remind myself,

perhaps my dominance,

my brash, fearless assumptions

are diminishing you


i cry into oblivion,

recalling a moment of union

when we embraced

lips locked, eye to third eye

heart and groin

searing a blinding infusion of blue orbs

tantrik thankas, minuscule buddhas, smiling

all culminating

breeding a fearless energy




I will give you myself

regardless of who I am

and who I am not

to heal and to love

to greet the woman only you have known


in return,

give me your pain,

your illness, your foul breath

(still thriving on the energy of

your semen-seed, of blood and water)

and I will heal you

as you lie in silence

and I

in my dominance. 






your handsome face

now worn and weary

lined with irreconcilable grief

your hands callused and thick

always smelling of sweet chappati

your breasts heavy and sobbing continuously

cradling the head of your son

trying to wrench one last breath

from his cold lips


your cries are lost

in the sea

of flowers sweet spiraling

heady incense

and the luminous veils

of grieving

punjabi women



a mere act


i am considering

why we seek to speak and write


eminently expecting to rise to

great heights

to be remembered


why so desire immortality?

why try?


when every second, every breath

every step forward

is profound

as most profundities are gone

as soon as they come

blinding revelations

each better than the last

each a crisp snowflake

that melts

on your eager tongue.





it was in the fall

in the prime of our essence

you were the sun

I was the moon


the night was magic  intense

we whirled like dervishes


spinning webs

silvery and wet


we hungered in the silence

of the river

our dancesong of love

the branches swayed  swooned

between breaths

exchanging souls


it was the night

we walked

on the edge of the four worlds

it was the night

I died in your arms

and emerged anew


in the exquisite

phantom light



 playing  with one’s mind




prism of flowing emotion

inducing vision, perpetual motion

unrefining distances

reflecting over dualistic natures

condemning life to structure and conformity


In pleasing oneself, must one please another?


for those who wish only to please

superior minds, pillars of perpetual wisdom

for those lovers of the myth and of the past

imprisoning arrows of poisoned wisdom

defying systematic traditions

altruistic memoirs of time and places


I choose to surround myself

in a fluid orb of colourful scents

flavours for each mind

O, Lady of the Roses

your oracle for unlearning

mitigating forces of a solitary mission

for one who has chosen

each learning to fit in

adapting to demands

exposing potholes of a dual nature

unrecognizable self-portions

perhaps a third mind

omniscient, invisible

enclosed in sublime nothingness

perfect, within

a cryptic light 








voices drawl like stone on paper

permeating this arid room

letters formed in the mind

rising in each esophagus

spilling forth

speech, we call it



grunting and nasal

sweet and sublime

gushing, glutinous like

damp moonbeams, sinewy

fluid, curt like pistol shots

releasing word molecules


word collisions in the air

converging, air containing

this is language spoken by millions

over thousands of years

living world created by words


human beings leaving invisible tokens

deviations, levitations

rising into the air, higher and higher

word layers, molecules thick

word rainbows, fraudulent

immersing yet containing


Do words die?



La Luna

Moon hovers behind you, draws life

ocean, hair, smile, sweet longing

scent of dew on skin

breaking waves

Neptune’s deafness grinds to a halt

backwash, you can feel it clearly

it’s right here

sea, unburdened sorrow lifts, drifts

deciphers the wind

talking is a sign, unreadable

she drags a hiss between teeth

tides noisy gritty breath






hovers between the neck of the sand

it forms a sound of joy, scrubby sand

leaves the leaves with salt

the season is late, the flowers in the garden rot

a newt slides under

it speaks , it is not

the eye or ear? clear as the laughter of a fairy

spouting rhyme and rune

comely impenetrable wall of death

she sees how it works

brine and gall to blind you

growl of mortar and bricks

surge of multiple ringing





hovers , flashes against the edge of the red wind

arc of the sea, eyes dance in empty sockets

ears repeat the monotony of speech

oar of the sea





hovers, gathers a bounty

tosses her arms, arc of fluid motion

her hair strings of moonbeams

mouth that speaks no wrong

rise to leave, feet sink in sand

dead man meets man and woman

in the early hours of ecstasy

there is no place for the luxury of sin

change, struggle

moon is also the sea, seen world of dreams

mortals wishing, struggling to define

between the sea

and I

am at the edge of

the garden






brews a storm of voices

behind you

draws life.



 Montreal Massacred

Yes   you

Monsieur Lepine

cold-blooded murderer

decided to play god

armed with your deadly toy

ruthless coward  you

aimed at the objects of your

hatred  you

severed the life

of not one

but fourteen

in their prime


shattered their dreams

shattered our dreams

of a vision supreme




Yes   you

Monsieur Lepine

took your life   you

let your blood flow

mingle with theirs


contaminating the innocence

of those delicate petals

fresh   unbroken  unplucked

now crushed

by the wrath

of your


(in memory of 14 women who were shot dead in Montreal December 6 1989) 



regurgitation  on a day when I was out walking

i am clinging to the effervescent

desire of loneliness, the blue incandescence

swirl of emotions, tenderly slaving across my skin


undaunting, unrelinquishing

this monumental figure of a silent yearning

this colossus befits my becoming nature


the will compels

I am to be my own master of fears

to be this is human

to succumb to the lowly plight of death

the voices of the children are lost in the breeze

in placating a woman moaning in grief

for all the lost souls who were deceived



I grasp this congested fluid

I move away from the frenzied collision

of souls





For both our weaknesses, the distinct human truth that lies in you and I

Does my love, love me?



I saw you smiling, eye between shining center, colliding emotion

building a slow ascension into your heaven

I saw you crush your meagre disabilities for a slow liberation

I saw you turn the other way, in shame and dissolution

I saw you hide your demonic light, radiating in it’s twin shadow

I saw you descend into the cursed hell of fire and tallow

            As I write what dreams refuse to let me see

            who we really are – a myth shrouded in a cloud of conspiracy



I saw your lips descend and claim the uncoiling essence

A thousand loving thrusts of truth poised an ready to strike

I saw you seek abandonment in the flesh of the divine tree

I saw the golden orb surround us, laughing in glee

I saw you bask in the love of our making, confiding, reminiscing

I saw you shatter the barriers of cunning, absorbing

            Claiming your unwanton reality, hovering in ambiguity

            Touch uncovering, unflinching, layer after layer



I saw the phantoms rise, unrelenting thoughts writhe

I saw you depart into oblivion, love unforgotten

Unreality depicting personality

I saw the other clasp you like a broken feather

Advancement toward power and mockery

I saw the other touch me like a rose on a sword

Subtle precision, deadly in matter and force

Essential sorrow dwells and thrives

I saw the dying surge until the angel came to greet you

Embracing a raging penury, pleasures of a bitter grace

I saw the wonder of words breathing distinctly, silently

I saw the gaiety of ecstasy stealth upon a weeping tree


I saw you beckon the one who lives, yet alone

I saw your wise frown, weary keeper  leading thy grave to thee

I saw you teach majesty, touching radiance and anger

I saw you hold conversation with the mind

I saw your intuition flow into logic, a cry for humanity

            The one that lies in each other –

            Divine ability to kill and bring to life

            Thus we are three, living within a laughter of reality


I saw you embrace the other and merge together

recoiling in the smell

of Alchemy.



In Dreams I See Beauty

In stark light

I see the beauty of a creator

within me


Curious scenes glistening

imposing dilemmas of many minds

fluid incongruity


Striking a contrast

similarities of nature

light bodies merge and separate


The avenger comes, initiator

stepping into a dream

frightful demon within

inducing madness likened to a lunar scorn

distorting reality


Clutching each fibre

extroverted yet secluded

bringing me closer, at a distance still

(orbit spiraling , reaching into nothing

deceptive maneuver, risky flight)

opposing winds

opposing minds

opposing tides


Ignoring persuasion, recognizing manipulation

storing pain, exhibiting happiness

numb to everything


Consider me – my alter ego – doppelganger

contrasting my will, the sword that severs

illusion from reality

offering the comforts of a mother’s womb


Take me to another universe

connected by a singular silver thread

to earth my solitary bed


In dreams I am bathed in orbs of glowing colour

creatures of the id surround me

they speak in waves of matter


In celebration of my womanhood

recalling a process of living and dying


In celebration of a dream

goddess and woman embrace lovingly.




 The Hanged Man

I shuddered , asking

“Does the future exist here?”

brazen eyes flashing, slithering smile

throwing me into the pit

where everything is of sin –

the world engulfed in it’s own flames

seeing the chronic disease that

racks the human mind –

mother of all inventions

touching the death and decay of it all,



I shuddered,

the room changed

and we were entwined in a lair

of spinning, luminous threads

of grey, silver and green




serpentine, serpentine

you were saying that I am going through

what others never do

that perhaps I will die knowing

who I was

because of this 



the mirror cracked

I watched

my face splintered into pieces

and yes,

I held my still heart in my hand

and sliced it this way and that

three times

it emerged fresh and whole as before

envisioning the visage of intelligence

bringing no more fear

but realization of the price

the price

for loving you




The problem of persuasion that lies in the human heart is only foretold…

tumultuous ocean lies bereft

of all thought and emotion

stay clear of impending doubt

beam your way

past the fog

that keeps you tied down

light hearted frown

smooth the waves

silken and shine

beach your fears

tie the anchor down




suppress the dreamer

you will overcome

ease the fliers that

cool the breeze

seek the diamonds

thru the leaves

to answer the problem

of persuasion that lies

in one’s liberation





An Answer to Matter

I felt a surge arising

after passion rekindling

piercing gaze , engulfing matter and spirit

invincible war unwilling to abate




       a rose choking on its own thorns

       a wrenching grip that’s too tight to relinquish

       staying afloat and watching the sun rise

       setting sail for an impossible voyage

       a pressure that builds to a distant height


This is the answer to Matter

God is a pressure                     



I think about my vulnerability

an open wound, a scarlet thorn

drawing this life to answer this call

denying the scent of a benign nature

cowering beneath a shroud of rapture



      a nation with an invisible army

      a knight still radiant without a sword

      thunder of crushing rock and sulphur

      watching a fortress crumble with age

     observing a sage diminish with haste


This is the answer to Matter

God is a pressure



I dreamed a serpent fell from the sky

and separated into the twelve beasts of creation

standing in one line, each touched my eye

striving to uncover a secret configuration

unrelenting  in the greeting of another nation



      another who usurps a present leader

      an arrow that strikes against a burning sky

      bridges crossing, sttempting to unite

      a raven watching an eagle in flight


This is the answer to Matter

God is a pressure




I saw eight pedestals converging

and each revealing the petals of each path

motioning a steady momentum till time for merging

marring a hasty retreat before the aftermath


However light, however heavy

However weak, however strong

However it is, however it chooses to be



This is the answer to Matter

God is a pressure                                                        




An Uncursed Cry

Models of negation

We rise to this occasion

to seek an uncover this

unyielding opposition

Hail! Fury! Fly! Death and Resignation

to complete deliberation


Ignore this perforated sheet of time

freely speak this mind

the centuries of oppression

relied on divine conception –

the dichotomy of Eve and Mary?


Picture in your mind’s eye

the notion of this archaic equation

Dance! Alive!

see Her shine

see yourself shine in glorification

rise up and shine to this

redundant disfiguration


Sweet, oh sweeter still

the enduring chase of timeless oblivion

if Eve did err, “twas for knowledge and discretion”

who? being framed by God’s deliberation

religion was only an example of this manifestation

Hail! Fury! Fly! Death and Resignation


Oh! let me be cruel

love still and be so kind

thrust this sword into the fire of time

consume this heart’s inhibition

motion still, heart’s a plunder

wield this sword of power

to unchain this “error of nature”


Seek not and deny this endless procrastination

slither and shine in the serpent’s eye

airy phantoms rise

unbind the corsets that shield our precision

rise up and confront this blatant manipulation


Oh Rise!

this beauteous nature

define this sublime causation

light on shadow, verse in mind’s meadow

sing forth the essence, the illumination

pursue the winds of the east

where eagles fly and follow

renew this age-old illusion

forget the temptation

create another time and endless adoration

seek the light, vision the shadow

deny not

today or tomorrow

sisters unite!

dwell not in sorrow

it’s time to envision

divine love, divine nature


to ease in a new tide –

a notion of our own creation



14 Leech Street

I dreamt

of finding beads, ancient and worn

in the suitcases

belonging to my grandmother


I dreamt

of climbing the old staircase

coated with multiple layers

of emulsion paint

of climbing the stairs

no longer there


I  dream

of dusty memory boxes

vials and tubes of

coloured secrets

old clothes and books

among the days and nights

of cobwebs strung in

silent endlessness



I watch

my smile decay

wither into the dust

filtered by the longing

of those unfulfilled memories

of a Chinese childhood 



2 malay poems

                        kesepian suasana

                        impian malam



                        kehidupan melampau

                        menjadi kebiasaan

                        berdosalah engkau

                        orang tidak bermoral tinggi

                        sudikah engkau  hidup begini?

                        tidak menghiraukan


                        bangsa dan negara?



                        tetapi saya

                        manusia sendiri

                        dengan identiti

                        tidak menghiraukan

                        tidak mengurung diri

                        dengan yang begitu dan begini




                        dengan imej-imej

                        layu dan sepi

                        impian siang



                        menara kebiasaan


                        yang sungguh







                        merentas desa



                        makin diiringi

                        suara azan

                        sungguh mencabarkan

                        hati sanubari

                        yang belum




                        suara Allah

                        didengari dari

                        semua sudut instituisi

                        suara yang

                        mencurah zakat

                        manusia ini


                        gelombang pengalaman




                        membayar hutang




                        merentas desa





                        yang belum





At Impressions after the Van Gogh movie



I am thinking

of flinging

this almost empty coffee cup of

putrid coffee

onto a painting – yes

the trashy Northern Lights

comprised of

blue, yellow , white streaks

and watch the ceramic

splinter – white



In the midst of their chess game

once again

I am spectator to

the battle of egos



I will run berserk into the kitchen

grab a knife – the one that cuts the lettuce for the salads

crumbling green bits still sticking to it

whirl and twirl it around

screaming and

chopping air


I will roll my eyes

make a fool of myself

shattering the mindless states

of these transient fools

who sit

and drink and


but never drain the

endless coffee cup

while I sit and

scream and watch

the shattering of minds





when you were seven

your world erupted into the war

cursing your generation

you saw the crowds

the crazed, mesmerized glints of

Nazi boots echoing the alleys of Bonn

you saw Hitler and was bewitched

by his fatal attraction

you saw the persecution

in the flames that raged your homeland


when your parents died , you were alone

now, you are still alone


your life has been haunted by the ghosts

of the past, faces of children you once knew

of those wounded, of your husband you nursed back to life

who died . of the son who was struck dead by lighting

and the one who does not acknowledge you


you spend your days in the room that smells of dog-hair

dusty books and paintings, you read Rilke again and again

you have no friends, only the world that is out to get you

as I listen to you ramble in German, the lush, guttural music

that I love as I listen to your silence, your loneliness, your despair


you shared your life with me over a plate of broccoli and cauliflower

drenched in sour cream, crouched in your corner, you shake your head

over and over again as the memories, the pain drift through your eyes, misty

hands squeezed tight as if in prayer 



sweet and low


half haunted by the light of our love’s evening

I wait like the last customer of the night

standing in my shadow 

hungry again

as you emerge from the depths

of the street


come, my love

let me lick the earth

from your fingers  




with your swift hand

your lightning strokes

upon this canvas



with your swift

surgeon’s cut

scalpel scent of

grey hospital walls




you left

you left me

to retrace the paths

of your loneliness

to answer to despair

to consort with the ghostly

memories of your smile

to live, to die

to let the devil in you






discovering you’re imperfect

minds blended into one why not feel different

because I refuse to transcend this state of mind

blended into a huge cauldron of steaming emotions

sweat brow upon this present reality he is so far away from me

I want to draw him closer to touch soul on my soul


ushers in a new dawn

coming home from school

to find her within her tiger’s eyes so shine

and look in between the tides usurp the throne of wonder

why I ponder soft past intermingling like tiny moonbeams

of light on shadow what do you want from me

ability to claw at the sky? home for the blind? set me free


to mind ambivalence within his ego

turbulent dreamer of sanguine and sublime

overcome like leaves sweeping forth

to blend in with the endless coming forth

let’s make up our minds

why do you say what you don’t mean

your perniciousness baffles me

you are like a bug on a tree strong

wanting to be alone at night

love has left me behind


you are

so blind




turbulent winds breathe in the tide

you mock me with your devious smile

resounding earth pound and fly

your mastery blinds the eye

seek the dreamer in your mind’s smile

soothe away the pain

change the way the wind

blowing  cast  light  to guide

instinct right rule like a

chain of roses

lush and kind to me

he thrust his sword

turn away!

anger looms from behind  – no

refuse to end

swooping down from the cliffs of time

mask shield your disguise

you mock

ask for my endless throes

of majestic abundance

to light and shine

pave a rocky climb

mountain shine

shadow soar above this

seething pool of

mad anguish

gust to


this fool 






Thinnest of Strings.




Time passed. No one really sees him these days. He lives within the confines of his books and his emotions. He has chosen to overlook the tides and winds of change that have affected us all. The persistent realities of harsh, bitter fate.

Where did we go wrong?

“For the Divine Cause”, we said

“You’re just a fucking kid” he said

“You read too much shit

  You talk too much shit

  You’re full of shit”, I said

He tripped over his ego many times. It amazed me sometimes with his brilliance, his genius. We played a game of manipulating life through its many guises and forms.

You twisted me like a guitar string.

Your nude pictures baffled me. You invited prostitutes to your apartment to pose for you. You drew your erect penis.

You were my teacher. And yes, I was in love with you.





He liked sex.

“The light that shines from within,” he said.

Why are they all goddam musicians?
“You’re on a fucking ego trip,” he said

“I’m here for the experience”

“Then it’s not worth it is it?”

Your aquiline nose has grown. Your face is caked with lines of cynicism and bitterness.

Ha! Mockery is blissful.

I was ravished. You weren’t my teacher.





A year passed.

He still wears his spandex tights. He made me swear to secrecy once. We did a ritual in his room – everyone called it the economy suite.

“Never tell anyone”, he said.

Strength is in Silence.

He was reading a lot of Franz Bardon. It was a strange time in his life. He scrubbed his body till his pores gleamed.

He rolled his eyes eight times deosil in a basin of water.

He was too nice to be mean, too practical to be irresponsible, too smart to lay down his values for useless dreams. We were friends after all.

And so they were three.


I read what I did.

We were self- elected instruments of God. Consider the possibility that God is Dog spelt backwards?

Creativity can be really destructive. Sensitivity is essential. Compassion was lacking. Cowards.

It died.

We were words. Our meanings changed. 


And the leaves of the trees will bring the nations together…




Memories persist

in this quiet abode

oblique – metaphysique

we boldly speak

and sigh




I think


it is not yet


to die





Let us live suddenly!

Suck the green from life

Move away from muted shadows

Cast energy into light




petaling street


steal away

past the teeming crowds

faces, different smiles

wizened faces of souls

past the shophouses

that have withstood

wars ,facades

of warm finesse



past the grueling heat

haunted emotions

the tides

worn upon

these paths



I pass

insistent fruit sellers

clothes merchants

food vendors, gurkhas

on hot soggy nights

sliding past

strangers from afar


smelling the scent

of the street

musky and sweet

underneath it all


the city sleeps




You’re a Ham


let me wear

my silks and make up

paint my nails

Gothic red

make my entry

like a lady

let me lose my head

O Lady Lady

2 Responses to “going there and coming back, poems and prose by Bernice Chauly”

  1. […] going there and coming back, poems and prose by Bernice Chauly Posted by bernicechauly Filed in poetry, prose, reviews Tagged: going there and coming back, […]

  2. tracy Says:

    hi bernice!
    i would like to ask your permission if I can use your poem as my material for teaching literature soon?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: