So much time has passed—so quickly, but also so slowly. How has it been nine months since the last time we spoke when we decided to put out a socially distanced issue? Fresh in the wake of a world on lockdown, we published rolling submissions, one every day or few days, on Facebook. The idea was to connect the many of us, all similarly locked in by the virus in various time zones and settings and circumstances, through the communal act of scribbling, videoing, painting, playlisting, recording, and embroidering for our individual and collective sanities, to process this strange, incomprehensible time. Coronaspeak—our sudden ‘new normal’ vocabulary of quarantine, SHN, herd immunity, Zoom fatigue, flatten the curve, and PPE gave us the gift of social distancing, a paradoxical, inscrutable phrase that makes so little sense even as it holds so much poetry. And we just couldn’t not invite everyone to write about it.



We OF ZOOS editors have always been together apart, one based in Singapore, one based in New York City, the journal floating in the electronic ether. But even as larger and larger chunks of our lives sublimate online too, the virus reminds us of the inescapable importance of place, of geography. In Singapore, I’ve worn into the contours of my home over the last months, while nonetheless fearlessly making journeys outside to buy groceries or to the clinic, since Singapore has for now reduced local transmission to nearly zero. I can only imagine what it must feel like to live elsewhere, be it Sweden during herd immunity, the US, or China deep in the throes of its lockdown earlier this year. And I cannot fully inhabit the lives of fellow Singaporeans who do not have the luxury of working from home; whose livelihoods are at risk; whose homes are not places of refuge; whose loved ones are sick. Perhaps, then, our issue might also begin to approach these different geographies and materialities and embodiments, even if in small, incomplete ways.



In a way, this has not been just another themed issue like our previous instalments have been, usually drawn up in the spirit of a creative challenge or questioning. The global pandemic, and every medical, environmental, and cultural effect that has come with it, has been our overarching life’s ‘theme’ for the past nine to twelve months, a theme that has both united together and cleaved the world apart. A single thing that brought all of us to our knees, even as it continues to lay bare and push wider the distances that have always existed between us. Where I’m based in the US, I, too, have gotten to know the contours of my apartment a lot better, while nonetheless fearlessly making journeys outside to buy groceries and visit the clinic now and then, since America continues to have no reliable systems to track local transmission and new daily cases of 180,000 (at the time of this writing), in addition to expiring eviction moratoria, violent culture wars, and an overblown health crisis, to pick a few. Despite the obvious disparities in risk of exposure and sociopolitical climate, I like to think we are not too different no matter where we are, that we share similar spaces and frames of mind, that this is something all of us can grasp tightly on to.



The thirty-two submissions we accepted for the issue range widely in theme, style, and genre. We have poems, of course, but also prose, visual art, video, and even audio art. Levi Masuli’s five “Indoor Soundscapes” include playfully anthropological field recordings of interior spaces, to be listened to as you read the accompanying text. As I write this, I’m listening to field recording number IV on loop, a fan, I think, whirring desperately against the heat. I am charmed by Min Lim’s “To Each Our Ordinary Hells”, where a morning routine’s sequences are jammed and splintered, with the poem pausing on an m-dash rather than ending, an interminable breakfast. I am pleased, too, to introduce Soh Yong Xiang’s wry, Arthur Yap-esque poems to the world, with their ants and coordinated streetlights and kueh lapis. Go see Xi Xin’s heartbreaking poem, translated from the Chinese by Ang Shuang. And ko ko thett’s blackly humorous contributions. And Daryl Yam’s novella. I'll pause here for now, and let you into the bedrooms of our new house, each separating wall still thin enough to hear the neighbours’ arguments and phone calls and knocks.



Hello? Are you there?