NTUSU 30th Anniversary Writing Competition Merit Winner: “a blank canvas”

By Mahajan Aanchal

The morning rush of singing birds 

begins with a daily sprint out of the door –

a slung backpack, an untied shoelace

as I jump onto the departing bus. 


Crowds hustle through MRT stations chasing 

an elusive desert mirage,  

we are treasure hunters seeking a piece of paradise –

A treasure with neither shape nor map.


To the left of the station’s exit

a seated painter, a paintbrush, a canvas;

Fine strokes appear on paper,

a butterfly flaps its silent wings.


We are walking in a train coach – a silent empty coach – 

Two chairs, two canvases for you and me. 

Brushstrokes echo in the quiet as  

we the artists, 

sketch paradise… 


What will you paint paradise to be? 


Is it a dream of  

sunlit skyscrapers twinkling like the stars?


Or are you the shy rosebud waiting 

for your distant lover spring? 


Is it the Garden of Eden, lost with a single bite of an apple, 

Or a virtuous lotus blossoming in mud;  


What will you paint for me? 


We are in a train coach, a silent empty coach, 

our finished canvases are ready for display; 

Close your eyes and think, 

of what I’ll see on your canvas 

And here, I will show you mine… 


There’s a portrait of a pen – and its song –

as it scratches poetry on paper next to a  

half-sipped glass of water and sticky notes of 

to-do lists. 

A mother and child smile on the desk corner as 

two hearts echo  

in a photo-framed embrace. 


Paragraphing and indentations have been edited for purposes of digital publishing.

a blank canvas’ is one of the award-winning poems submitted for the NTUSU 30th Anniversary Writing Competition, organised by the Editorial Committee. To read the other entries, check out our website and the latest print issue of U-Insight!