Crispin Rodrigues on “Wheatfield with Mynahs” (Singapore)
The poem “Wheatfield with Mynahs” is a response to Vincent van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows, and I was interested in van Gogh’s use of thick impasto as a means of conveying his emotional state as well as to obscure his state of mind. I juxtaposed the familiar wheatfield with the typical Singaporean scene of lalangs and reimagined the crows as mynahs, a common bird found in Singapore. In the poem, I set up a dramatic scene of destruction as the mynahs are attacked by the kite, a common predatory bird found in Singapore. The kite swoops in on the unsuspecting birds and the subsequent action attempts to simulate van Gogh’s painting style, one typified by energy, speed and dynamism. The constant maintenance of the zoomed out perspective sustains the viewer’s engagement as if one was watching van Gogh paint this scene.
Apart from the stylistics, the poem can be read as an analogy for a forum, where the mynahs, being black and thus the ‘boldest’, can be seen as members of the community who are vocal in their opinions, while the sparrows represent the quiet and more compliant sectors of society. The kite that swoops in from above represents the higher-ups in authority and their treatment of such a forum space. It is often the case that more outspoken figures who criticise authority become targets of these authority figures who make an example out of them through harsh punishments. The symbolic slaughter of the mynahs in the poem represents that, where the kite breaks up the forum into a “kerfuffle”.
In the end, the scene becomes a scattered mess with dead mynahs—it is worthwhile to mention that not all the mynahs are killed for food here—implying that the carcasses of these birds represent a reminder of what can or cannot be said. The “leftover conversations” in the second-last line almost becomes a buck that can be passed on to someone else. The concluding line implies that “cats” are attracted to these carcasses, but the relationship between them is unknown. Are the cats scavengers or are they attracted to the conversations? It is intentionally left vague for the reader to come to their own conclusion if the message sustains itself through the cats, or is digested and dissipates with the consumption of the bodies. Depending on how the reader chooses to interpret the conclusion, the ending of the poem can be one of hope or despair.
Crispin Rodrigues is a poet and essayist. His first collection of poetry, Pantomime, was published by Math Paper Press in 2018. His poems, short stories and creative non-fiction has been featured in Kepulauan (2014), A Luxury We Must Afford (2016) and Eunoia Review, among others. He is currently working on his second collection of poetry, slated for publication in 2019.