Nathaniel Chew

I am saying it:

this poem is about loss

and still

it will read at a slant–

metaphor for:

social distance

death (duh)



not all who wander


the gloaming realization that writing does not happen                          out of time

the trouble with deixis:                fat fingers

W.V. Quine on radical translation: the linguist says gavagai and means rabbit

the subject says gavagai and means first-rabbit-of-the-warm-waxing-moon

or dewlap-yet-undetached-from-rabbit

or rabbit-which-means-plenty-and-draws-teeth-from-afar

or run

and means herself                                                         to escape the subject position

I want to say                                        subject                               is self-conscious word choice

the poet recalling:

colonial science


intersubjectivity (George Butte: “subjects are both: a body…and a mirroring of other bodies”)

but to say so would be to say                                every other word in the poem

is not self-conscious

is not also subject

(is not also linguist)

the trouble with fingers:                            they’re never not pointing

digitalization as metaphor for poem

which would not be                       poem                       were it able to speak


without world nudging                                “there”                            “there”

“consider incompleteness as a verb”

—Anne Carson

allez, talk to you later

—my grandmother who never hangs up after a call

and maybe has a point

about loss:

as tether

as openending

as precondition for poeming her into quotation

sans voice sans sway sans constellation

of all her losts

her no longer object positions

consider poem as lossness

entropy as tense

a verb both mean and run


The line attributed to Quine is adapted from his book Word and Object, in which he argues for a naturalization of epistemology and for linguistic behaviorism.

The quote attributed to Butte is from his book I Know That You Know That I Know on narrating subjects in literature, but also in life.

The quote attributed to Carson is from Plainwater. The extended segment goes: “Consider incompleteness as a verb. Every verb has a tense, it must take place in time. Yet there are ways to elude these laws. The Greek verb system includes a tense called ‘aorist’ (which means ‘unbounded’ or ‘timeless’) to capture the aspect of action in which, for example, a man at noon runs directly on top of his own shadow.”

The quote attributed to my grandmother is a recurring speech act.

About the Author

Nathaniel Chew (he/him) is a writer and library human living in Singapore. His collection featherweight won the 2019 Golden Point Award for Poetry in English, and his writing is published and forthcoming in anthologies by Gaudy Boy, Longbarrow Press, Math Paper Press, Poetry School, and in ArtsEquator, Pareidolia Literary, Practice, Research & Tangential Activities, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, et al.