The father was distraught when the end
of the meal was not accompanied
by a dish of oranges of sighs of satiation.
The family quietly escorted him form the room
with their eyes.
This was a new formality:
they had never paid heed to table refinements
believing, at the table, all are equal;
and not unusual, it is: pass this,
give me that. One jokes the table to refill
a glass, another runs to answer the phone.
Now, without such happening,
everyone sat as quietly as
members of a new, dumb society
speaking much with frowns and crosses.
The father is lifted out of the range of vision.
The children, grown up and now in-grown
with an astute sense of civility
(yesterday, one made a report on an unlicensed dog)
discussed the heavy debt which the father,
sitting on a chair at some fierce mahjong table,
had accrued. It was referred to, unspoken,
as synonymous with shame and injustice
but related mainly to: who will pay?
The father is now out of his job
but the children are earning
but it was the father who squandered
and the children have to suffer
therefore the father, at his game,
had thrown away the son’s new car
the daughter’s intended trip to Cambodia.
The new car is now in one of the winner’s
pocket, the tourist’s discovery of Cambodia
belongs now to another,
and so there’s damn little justice in this world.
By Arthur Yap (1967)