This poem is taken from Stand 223, 17(3) September - November 2019.

Ng Yi-Sheng Poem
Field Notes on Southeast Asian Urban Zoodemographics

Weretigers love the cubicle jungle. The blinded light of skyscraper windows serves to hide the stripes of their ties, the bloodstained flesh tones of their lipstick. They lurk behind servers, filing cabinets, photocopiers; in lift lobbies and staff pantries. Their nails are immaculate; their prey never sees them pounce. Their primary habitat is HR and upper management, but they have planted colonies in all levels of the corporate biota. They bask in air-conditioning, and preen their waxen whiskers. They must look pretty for financial photoshoots.

Wereelephants once worked warehouses, bearing crates as coolie labour. Their great strength and dignity earned respect among their peers. They soon found inroads into new careers: now they transport goods as truckers, captain busloads of commuters, load carousels with airport baggage. True, their memories are endless: moodily, at coffeeshops, they will pick their ears and teeth, recalling freedom. But a few have earned their pilots’ licences. How about that now, they trumpet in their pride. We never did dream that an elephant could fly.

Werecivets are baristas. They are furrier than usual, and sport tattoos beneath their rolled-up shirtsleeves and their aprons. They wear designer specs. They diddle cream in lattecinos with the same artistic focus as when hawker uncles pour teh tarik. Sometimes they consume their coffee beans unroasted. Their superiors don’t complain, for they do not miss the balance. Indeed, their customers report a subtle richness to their subsequent espressos. They read crime novels on their frequent bathroom breaks.

Weremousedeer live online. Trickstering, huckstering, are far easier in cyberspace, where no-one sees their beady eyes, their skinny legs, their baby fangs. Some sell extortion scams, some write fake anti-virus software, some summon Internet brigades for or against their rajas. Some dwell on the right side of the law: they are employed by listed tech firms, and make zillions based on data farming, prospects of ad revenue. But at night they gobble durians as they joke on Reddit forums. They are no one’s silly minions but their own.

Werecrocodiles seem harmless. They resemble floating ciphers in our sea of citizens, clothed in preppy polo Ts, clutching handbags. They are generally religious. They believe that prayer quells their sinful urges to steal children off the riverbanks, rip their bodies limb from limb. They are convinced all others share this same affliction, and therefore compose impassioned letters to the Forum, demanding that the public’s morals be policed. Lawmakers heed their tears and thus adjust their policies. Law enforcers wonder why kids still go missing.

Werecarabao simply suffer. They are people of the ricefields, and did not choose the mighty city; it engulfed them. They still labour, pushing cleaning carts, staffing canteen stalls. They do not speak. Their heads are hunched as if beneath the weight of horns. They would make perfect housewives, were they not so sad. The city scorns them. The city needs their meat and milk. They are depressing. They are essential.

Weremonkeys do not know they are weremonkeys. They see and do, have seen and done so long they cannot trace the seam between their mask and skin. They have intelligence, but their liberty of thought is much curtailed, because they live in highrise packs. Their lives are not so bad: they steal and scavenge, but they also groom and play. And when the moon glows, they wreak mischief, go bananas. They throw around their poop, get drunk and climb a fitness corner. They see evil, hear it, speak it. They dance with demons, dalangs, gods. Sometimes, one may even write a poem.
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