Exploring Poetry

I have been encouraged by Cordelia Lee to explore my creative side, she has inspired me to use poetry as a form of self-expression. I find that poetry allows me to express myself in a different way. Though I have to admit, it is still a struggle for me to find the words to express myself.   

Recently, I was moved for the first time to submit my poetry for an anthology    http://www.singlitstation.com/thousandcranes.

(Image of poster taken from singlitstation.com)
 The theme and subject matter somewhat speak to me.  The topic of coping with illnesses and death can be a taboo topic and yet all of us will die one day. On the other hand, if we were given a life of immortality without pain and suffering, can we truly live? Will we appreciate our moments in life and the opportunities given to us? Or do we feel empty without a purpose?  Indeed, this is not an easy question to answer.

I felt good after writing the poem. It gave me a different outlet to express my trauma and the experience I went through.

Below is the poem I have written :-

The Gas Explosion

The explosive force flung me backwards,
Pushing me to the ground,
It happened in a few seconds,
Intense heat engulfed all around,
Before my very eyes,
A red plastic dish drainer became shapeless,
Like wax melted to liquid,
Ceramic plates and bowls were rolling,
Smashing themselves to the ground,
Cupboards collapsed and their contents spilling,
As if they were alive,
A huge black hole at the ceiling,
Directly above the stove,
Within seconds,
Darkness landed with eerie silence,
I survived! I can’t believe I am still alive!

Strange colourful patterns above me,
A melodious song in the background,
Never have I beholden,
Such a sight or hear such a sound,
I was floating and flying around,
An impatient voice reminded me,
"Come on, come on, take your responsibility!",
Jolted out of my dreamy state,
A sudden clarity descended,
I need to find my bed!
Swinging down was what I did,
Images were distracting me,
Was that Napoleon?
Did I see Beethoven?
Like a spider swinging on a web,
I hovered and spotted an unoccupied bed,
Slowly lowering myself down,
I felt a gentle "thud",
As I lay on the sheet,
The webs grew thinner and disappeared,
My soul no longer lost.

Opening my heavy lid eyes,
Beeping machines behind me,
Unable to turn even sidewise,
Stiff body weighing a tonne,
Throat dry like the desert,
Opened my mouth but I was voiceless,
Never have I felt so helpless,
“You had 80 percent burn”, my sister said,
Two and a half months have passed,
In a coma medically induced,
Wrapped like a mummy from toe to head.

I nearly died from the explosion,
Also from CRE and MRSA,
Causing sepsis a bloodstream infection,
Doctors didn’t know what to say,
whether I would live,
Or die the next day,
God had shown me mercy,
In this second chance of life
But this was only half the journey,
In this painful process of staying alive.                                    


I love you,
I know the hurt you’ve been through,
The debridement and skin graft surgeries,
Even in coma,
My brain still knew,
Trying to understand the pain,
Manifested through nightmares,
Of imprisonment and torture.

I remember being ambushed at ICU,
Dressing change by 8 to 10 doctors and nurses,
One person at every side of the bed,
Moving fast,
But no matter how quickly they moved,
The stinging sensations were sharp,
Skin felt like ripping,
They removed primary dressing – PAIN,
Cleansed wound area – PAIN,
Reapplying medication – PAIN,
I screamed in anguish,
Again, again and again!

After 4 months,
I remember the excitement,
Of leaving the ICU,
Being lifted from one bed to another,
Bed pushed,
Doors opened,
I am out of here,
Waved my right hand,
Doctors and nurses bade their farewell,
“Goodbye Eileyn. Goodbye!”,
They probably had a party after you left,
That was what my sister said,
Their second longest staying patient,
Whose life they have saved,
As we headed towards the burn ward,
Warm air melted the coldness on my face,
Like being thawed from the fridge,
A sudden foreboding thought appeared,
Am I off to a better place?

Every morning,
Even the toughest of men would scream or cry,
It did not matter,
Whether you have been trained,
In the army, navy or police,
No preparation would have sufficed,
For the pain you would face,
Dressing time indeed a dreaded time,
“The nurses are fierce here”,
Lamented an army patient,
Our screams and pleas for mercy ignored,
If you want to get better the nurses said,
“You must listen to us”,
If strangers didn’t know any better,
They would think it was a torture chamber.

Time passed by,
Patients come and go,
Most stayed for a few days, weeks or months,
The only thing I could do,
Counting the days to get through,
Am I a permanent fixture?
Doomed to be in hospital forever?
“Your skin is fragile,” the specialist said,
Healing takes time,
When will this suffering end?
All my questions left unanswered again.


In my darkest time I learnt,
Patience and resilience are important,
Take one day at a time,
Let go of the past pain,
Be grateful for what you have,
For there are others who have less,
Patients who seemed to be forgotten,
By their family and friends,
Or foreigners who didn’t have money to pay,
For the duration of their stay,
I have seen it all at the burn ward,
The best and the worst in people,
Lessons I learnt from others,
And the inner strength,
I didn’t know I had.

After a year, three months and twenty days,
The official day had arrived,            
The day I was discharged,
Although not fully healed,
It was a joyous occasion,
As the hospital,
Was no longer my home.

Four years after the burn,
I have learnt to live again,
There is life,
There is hope,
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes,
Time to return the favour to others,
Giving support to those in pain,
Helping burn survivors to find meaning again.

                                                  © Eileyn Chua


  1. Eileyn, your writing is powerful because I felt every rip of the bandages you described...

    I quickly drifted back to thinking maybe I should have drank all of the pain cocktail they brought me before dressing changes...Here I thought I could tolerate the pain - I had no idea what I was about to experience... I learned about myself those days back in the Burn ICU. :o)

    1. Hi RichC, thank you for the comment. Hope you are doing ok.


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