Did red smoke from the sacking of Cina Bahru mean the fires were done? The wind understood the dialect but was a poor translator.

    A pat on the bosom, perfumed, and Fragrant Jade reentered the casino with verve. This time, he thought, I won't be mistaken for Rafflesian.

    Come, come, the world belongs to the unhappy few as much as the sated many, protested the ageing partisan, raising his scotch to the mirror.

    Poetry? It is language patterned not to depict but to inflict. But I may be mistaken, reflected the Comptroller of Voluntary Contributions.

    No one knows what were the last words exchanged between Maestro Haziz and his beloved. At first he could not imagine silence. Then he could.

    My nose hairs are grey, wept the unwed Prince of Shan. Downhill, it was Fall.

    'Couldn't refresh feed', the display warned. Let him starve, thought Nurse Bey, the old despot was good for nothing but haiku.

    It's like a trance, the composer confessed, I skip tea, forget sleep, walk into chairs... Have you tried opium, or marriage, Dr Qi ventured.

    The Department says it's infectious, likely terminal, Mr Fang said sadly, shielding his last child from the sight of her scribbling brother.

    Strategic ambiguity has served us well before, the Ambassador cautioned, but this time the rabbits are quite restless.

    There must be a better way to do this, Ah Hua opined, disentangling leeches from her husband's trombone.

    It's been a long night, said Inspector Hamed, pinching the bridge of his nose. Put this one in the closet with the other orphans.

    Order was eventually restored when Li was invited to tea by the relevant authorities. Sadly, history would document this episode as fiction.

    "If you have any dead, leave them in the market square before six am," the radio advised. "Mother will need new socks," Little Tim observed.

    The Foreman's instructions were unequivocal. Crows are to be sauted. Pigeons, boiled. Leave the blardy mynahs; the tourists can have them.

    No, please, not in the garden, cried Jade Blossom, shielding her most vulnerable petals from Squirrel's molestations.

    Mozart, vodka, and two geckos, he gestured to the stewardess. Four hours to kill before Mars. Little was Prof Wu to know they’d be his last.

    You can’t hide behind those gazelles forever, barked Commander Koh over the din of the stampede. He unleashed the flying hyenas.

    I can't divert public funds just because your pet raven has had a vision, the Health Minister said kindly. Tell me, do you keep parrots?

    Reincarnation? Indeed an option, but hideously expensive, Judge Lau and his mistress discovered to their belated dismay.

    Dr Xu regarded the mewling orchidae with a practiced eye. She'll live, he decided. As for the eggs, mayonnaise as usual.

    Kiss me, gasped Madam Dinah. First, spit out your gerbil, Sir Isa whispered patiently.

    My work here is done, sighed the last surviving Senior Assistant Deputy Minister Without Portfolio (Designate) as the PRAGMATIC left orbit.

    We do not serve unripe cephalopods here, the bartender stated flatly. Try New Geylang, or one of the other red light planets.

    "We cannot even be certain we are real," mused the walrus to the sentient rhubarb. "How then can we speak of the sublime?"

    We have too many things, she wailed. How will we fit in two more sculptures? They settled for the bronze sabretooth. The marriage was saved.

    New rules stipulating that contributors must eat rejected poems have led to a marked decrease in half-baked sonnets, the Arts Tsar reported.

    When Mr Chan and his wife made love, the whole house shook. Loud roars perturbed the neighbours. We need a new mammoth, muttered Mrs Chan.

    Floor manager Lu took far too long to declare for the new regime. All her children were named Amos.

    Gentlemen, zombification is now hard science, enthused the labcoat. Just in time for the pageant, breathed a relieved Chief of Rituals.

    Who writes this stuff, puzzled Lead Bagpiper Lee at the opening performance of the Third Concerto with Four Corgis And A Bird of Paradise.

    What goes around, comes around, sighed Bishop Tay, disarming his would-be assassin, whose accomplice had made off with the sacred boomerang.

    Rumour of Premier Zhao's demise prove unfounded when she appeared at the Ball, having merely been delayed by the premature birth of an asp.

    Flash floods are one thing, bragged the dashing Commissioner of Sewers to the besotted nuns. An infestation of kangaroos is quite another.

    At the eighteenth hour, Lady Ma failed to fix her gaze on the royal carp in the prescribed manner. This led to the fall of the Yang dynasty.

    Again, insisted a perspiring Mistress Indra, after they had run out of fresh chinchillas.

    At ease, General Sim waved to his bodyguards, when he saw the familiar elephant beckoning from the boudoir.

    Stand straight and keep your lips tight as always. No one will be able to see the strings, Doc Ong assured his client before the coronation.

    Assigned to patrol the old subway, Sgt Arif was thankful for the range of his new blaster, and the absence of his late, trigger-happy wife.

    Shhh, said Master Wu to his promising but indiscreet apprentice. Stay silent, look stern, and you may keep your remaining teeth this time.

    Duke Long's imposter was not unmasked despite his conspicuous penchant for sweet dates and a tendency to smile too much. Until the flooding.

     "Poisoned!" wept Stella, as her lover gaped in numb horror at the freshly applied contraceptive.

    It was determined that Mrs Wong could not after all sell her boy for a sack of rice. Human life is worth a bit more than that, the court ruled.

    "Erotic fiction," Minister Kwan said, when she indicated her shoulder. "Politics," when she pointed at her lips.

    "So you will not leave tracks," Corporal Lim said kindly, bandaging the child's bleeding stumps. Outside, the snow came slowly to a stop.

    For the first time, Madam Lee wondered if two pulse salads sufficed to atone for her crimes. Across the street, pigeons pecked at a gateau.

    I’m tired of being the even one out, explained Miss Tan, brandishing her dripping, freshly detached fourth limb.

    Page 8 notes a rare absence of marriage announcements. Still, long term nuptials remain above average, as the newspaper's calculations show.

    For attempting to set a Dublin stage on fire, Mary Leigh & Glady Evans were sentenced to 5 years' penal servitude. They were suffragettes.

    “Love,” Abbess Ang decided, concluding her list of things to give up for Lent.

    I’m perfectly fine, insisted Uncle Gabriel, picking up the wings he’d dropped behind him.

    “Indeed, I perform marriages for free. Divorces however cost an arm & a leg,” drawled the Cardinal-Surgeon, raising his sanctified scalpel.

    How did the ageing Courtesan Imsha retain her famous charms? In truth: fine tea, rambling stories, curtains and an accomplished gloved fist.

    Shame was averted after Mrs Ho indicated the well-placed tattoo which read in her native dialect: “Do not love me; I am a terrible person.”

    He dreamt of wings sprouting from the broad plane of his shoulders, but could not learn, in the small space of his slumber, how to work them .

    Now the only sounds he registers resemble the drumming of sudden rain on broken skulls.

23 July 2012   04:20 hours
debriefing { } twitter haiku (for George Szirtes)