(born 1956) is the founder of Poetry Slam in Singapore and Programme Director of a literary arts company teaching poetry and performance in schools. Of Australian Irish descent, he adopted Sikhism in 1989.
He has also published four poetry collections, co-edited a poetry anthology—The Penguin Book of Christmas Poems—and has three spoken word CDs, the latest being Living in the Land of the Durian Eaters. Mooney-Singh also has poems published online at Mindfire, Cezanne’s Carrot, Stylus, Ghazalpage and Quarterly Review of Literature, Singapore (QRLS).
He was a guest at the Austin International Poetry Festival, 2003 and the Hong Kong Writer’s Festival, 2004.
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Ghazal of Belonging
From Bonehead Ghazals
Absurd…this cage…so where do we belong?
In peach-faced lovebird-heaven we belong.
The back-shed father-beatings bred us strong.
Is sin transferred? Don’t let your rage belong.
Another airbus sings above the sea.
The silver bird sends travelers to belong.
A crimson-breasted parrot quits the branch.
It overheard this longing to belong.
The clumsy finger plumbs a self-help book.
Another new-age nerd…can he belong?
A time must come when crisis drops the axe
and hacks your absurd neck that can’t belong.
Now stare with hope at trees beyond the bars
where you and she and the bird on the branch belong.
This ghazal-cage locks up its lyre-birds.
Word by word, break out, Bonehead…belong.
Ghazal of a Rose
From Bonehead Ghazals
I caught my hand on the hedge-thorn rose,
I shed my blood on that dry, drawn rose.
The redhead rose has that Playboy look.
The bee is hooked on the soft-porn rose.
The salt-musk taste—her last chaste rose:
caress the petals of a pre-dawn rose.
In poems these days, anything goes
except Romance with the old-torn rose.
The wedding day is a battlefield
of hybrid cynics and the greenhorn rose.
Roland Barthe re-read the texts
and spawned word-games with the chess-pawn rose.
Deconstruction rips the flower
to cull the schmaltz, the corn, the rose.
Make money, not art, says the plastic rose.
I have no nose for that stillborn rose.
Poetry got divorced from the rose,
yet the New Thing’s still a fresh-worn rose.
Seventy million years of the rose:
fossils lime the time-sworn rose.
Eternal Rambler, Perpetual Hunger
are name-tags for the fresh-lawn rose.
‘A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.’
Let’s rise Bonehead, with the reborn rose.
From Bonehead Ghazals
The whiskey talked big time with water,
the ice made hot-chat chime with water.
Old vapours seeded cloudiness,
the sweat worked up sweet grime with water.
They rock and rolled the boat all night,
he sailed her hull to climb the water.
They lie together, they hold each other,
yet did they slip through time through water?
The guilt’s red kiss is on the collar.
Can one dissolve a crime in water?
A bath is boring without another
so swirl the oil of thyme through water.
The wine is rotten grapes in bottles
when all one wants is lime and water.
Some rain, some tears—who writes this tale
of love-crimes made sublime through water?
These lines are Bonehead’s diving-boards—
some flip flop mono-rhyme with water.
Yogesh Meets Ganesh
Ganesh can be seen as competing with his father for his mother, and Parvati is herself, in some myths, seen as casting a far too admiring look at her own son; on the other hand, one can reasonably view Shiva as opposing the apparently incestuous relationship between his wife and their son.
One night, in the monsoon mist
a sharp fever came to make
Rahul its hostage. No doctor
could heal the cry of my son
like a bird hooked in a net.
I had shunned incense and rites,
flaunted my western silk-ties,
but an elephant remembers
any plea, Mother said, and thus
I went to an alcove of stones
—a navel in the belly
of a Delhi poinsettia-suburb.
Red kum-kum paste thumbed high
—a third eye between the temples,
I had to confess guilt and envy
of my first-born, gate-crasher son.
Our house of war and peace
was a nursery for rivals.
A boy had stolen my place
through suckling and nappies,
while Nina ignored my hands.
Now this infant slipping away
through a father’s fingers
was the real test and I said,
Grant his life. I will give
the 101 sweet ladoos,
I will bow to You, Ganapati.
His trunk of white marble curved
auspiciously to the right.
I launched my simpleton pledge
and returned to the lamps of ghee,
the soggy moths and the dark.
Our vigil had burnt out by dawn.
I did not take any credit
when Rahul coughed up his phlegm
and jiggled a rotund tummy
amidst cackles and smiles
next morning in the hospital.
Instead, I grinned my obeisance
to an elephant-headed universe,
a religion of sweet sugar-balls.