“For Years, I Believed That” by Conan Tan

Conan Tan


You were my biggest mistake. In the yard,
our second son gave way to a shard
of glass and still, you did nothing. Kept mum.
Knife to air and he was taxing the sum
of his being and still, you let the night sky
slit his throat into a scarf a father’s eye
has to weep itself to sleep with. Tell me, how can
these hands wager a life without seeing the man
his boy would have become? The answer: they
have to. So you’re never coming home. So I’ll replay
the lost reel in my head, forgetting, if only for
a second, about the real loss ten years is still sore
from carrying—that grief is nothing but a debt
of shared skin I wish we had not lost its bet.

Prompt: “This poem was written in response to SingPoWriMo 2022’s Day 1 prompt. The prompt was titled ‘The Beginner’s Luck Prompt’ and asked writers to write a poem committing all the mistakes they made as a new poet. It also featured optional poem bonuses such as the #FortuneFavoursTheBoldBonus which asked writers to include end rhymes, the #YoureSoLuckyBonus which required writers to include a gambling reference, and the #InTheBeginningBonus which asked writers to make the poem an origin story of themselves as a poet. When I first started writing poems at 13, I loved sonnets and ended virtually every poem with an end rhyme. While my writing has changed since then, I wanted to have a good laugh and merge the style I write in now with the incessant rhyming and clichéd images my 13-year-old self used.”

from Rattle #81, Fall 2023
Tribute to Prompt Poems


Conan Tan: “Sometimes, I end up writing about the same theme, which makes poetry repetitive. Writing prompts are great because they provide me with a goal to write toward, but I’m able to filter the prompts through my lens and write something that I might not have written without the prompt. Some of my favourite prompts are form prompts because they expose me to the variety of different poetic forms there are, even the seemingly forgotten ones like the empat perkataan.”

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