The Lover's Inventory by Cyril Wong

Cyril Wong’s The Lover’s Inventory lists a miscellany of love’s discarded objects – a too-heavy ring, a disappeared cup of Milo, an erased video – describing through the detritus of spent physical encounters the slicked up, sweaty and occasionally sickened sensorium of intensities frequently found by Cyril in the entanglements ‘binding us together/ to the here and now’. The erotic in these entanglements is crucial, to sustain in Cyril’s ‘alternative vision for a self-fulfilling life’ an ‘echo of a possibility’ for the profane and the impure, without which the present is fixed as a dogmatic repetition of a permanently unchangeable past, a ‘narrow book’ that proscribes lives differently lived as prohibitions by which the lawful and the dutiful abide. Cyril is at his bluntest when puncturing the fantasy of dwelling on the straight and narrow, preferring deception to wearing a lover’s gift of a shirt, or wearing another’s ring detested for the weight of its elemental symbolisation of ritualised, and public, commitment.

If there exists any faithfulness at all it is to ‘unprofound’ truths, scaffolding a sexual frankness with elaborate feeling – ‘a cosmos of ecstasy’ – that on occasion rises to the baroque sonorities of a cathedral, yet is most bracing, spiritual even, when these truths press harder on, extending the view from the touch between two human bodies to the connectedness between all things living and nonliving. Love’s object begins in this inventory as the silhouette of the male figure, filling out with ‘mountain and inexhaustible sky’, and ‘jagged hoops of galaxies’, as Cyril pursues ‘the long wave connecting with more/ waves’, that dream of an ‘unbounded energy’ banal enough to escape observation, yet a common enough matter to avail to anyone its substance, its contradictions, as well as its epistemology. Those familiar with Cyril’s extensive writings will know the extent of this pursuit as a preoccupation seen in other collections, its fullest appearance being Satori Blues, first published in 2011 and recently reissued.

Though the Inventory’s skyward interstellar reach might lead us to assume in this poetry an ambivalent yet legible direction towards transcending the harrowing impermanence of bodily desire, what is more lucid are love’s objections to any transcendence that risks ‘the silent punishment of desire’. There are real risks – of a disguised cop eager for entrapment, of infection that lands lovers ‘in the back row of the Communicable Diseases Centre’, of addiction, even death – but the one that Cyril risks to emphasise to us is to find in ‘ordinary time’, in things as ordinary as lube and song and Hokusai’s much-seen print – the prospect of that definitive affection waiting ‘on the final card’.


by Jason Wee