A Brief History of Toa Payoh

they say
there is no history
made in Toa Payoh,
that Economy, Polity, State
are major tenants
in Significance's estate

but this being,
whose amniotic fluids,
swamp and swill,
were channelled seaward
through monsoon drains,
instant rivers,
was once a brave new world
of giant pigeonholes sky looking,
rigid under morning sun,
a pioneer in its time,
so should not earliness and vision
receive, as in Sentosa’s museum,
decorum, grace
and privilege of place?

the pride and self-sufficiency
of early settlers
town centre, bus terminal, the first SEAP Games,
the emporium’s sacks of fragrant rice,
children’s playgrounds, the garden’s lake and town,
the Queen’s lookout
excite no more
and the children of Toa Payoh
are the mothers and fathers
of Woodlands, Pasir Ris,
distant orbits of the new satellites
this town delivered so fast,
labour pains
now claim a second strike:
this time, cranes and the wrecker’s ball
strip the old town
colonise once more
this, one of Modernisation’s
first ports of call

in our History's eye,
growth is so swift
rebirth also
gets short shrift

by Koh Buck Song
from A Brief History of Toa Payoh and Other Poems (1992)


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