The Story of “Da-Ren” Kelu

This fruitarian microbat lives in the Tree of Life, and only leaves its roost on the first full moon of every leap year. Little more is known of this mythical-mystical bat. On its last sighting, tourists said it now has the tree emblazoned on its tiny lips, in criss-crossing band-aids, as if to offer an eternal apology for its self-imposed seclusion. Sometimes, it manages to speak. When that happens, the utterance sounds something like “différance” in soft and cooing echoes.

The Story Behind “Da-Ren” Kelu

This soft sculpture is created by plush artist Nana Pong of Roomism based on the poem “Koan Catalogue” penned by poet Desmond Kon. This poem’s earlier version was one installment within a chapbook sequence chosen by Mary Jo Bang as one of six finalists in the Noemi Press Poetry Chapbook Award. The poem is reprinted below:

A new catalogue has arrived. It sells everything in even numbers from hampers to visors to worry stones. Da-Ren moves his thumb across the face of the angel carved into his jadeite piece. That was a birthday present from the curator with the cellist.

Da-Ren wrote him a masnavi in return, about a mythic river that had dried up into a periglacial lake. It’s now retrofitted, a parking lot, where the maroon and mango-yellow Volvo resides.

“It comes in other colours, ” Da-Ren recalls the other cellist saying, afraid the chess master wouldn’t like the brown-tinged green.

But Da-Ren sees the tree of life in it like a forest in India and all the bloodstone it can afford, the martyrs within forgotten.

“Take this Caravaggio and follow the splash zone, ” Da-Ren says.

“Reach the foot of the water-logged mountain in Montenegro, and there, a box poem at page bottom, left and right of centre.”

The Storyteller Behind “Da-Ren” Kelu

Desmond Kon has edited more than 10 books and co-produced 3 audio books, several pro bono for non-profit organisations including Sok Sabay Cambodia, Riding for the Disabled Association, and the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre. His work in entertainment and lifestyle journalism at 8 Days magazine took him to Australia, France, Hong Kong and Spain, and saw him writing numerous stories, including features on Madonna, Björk and Morgan Freeman, culminating in the authorship of the limited edition Top Ten TCS Stars for Caldecott Publishing. Trained in Professional Publishing (Books) at Stanford University, with a Master of Theological Studies (World Religions) from Harvard University and Master of Fine Arts (Creative Writing) from the University of Notre Dame, Desmond is the recipient of the Singapore Internationale Grant, awarded to launch at the First Prague International Poetry Festival the anthology For the Love of God, which brought together 35 award-winning religious and literary contributors from across the world. His poetry and prose have appeared in more than 30 literary journals including AGNI, Confrontation, Gulf Coast, Harvard Review, New Orleans Review, Seneca Review, Sonora Review and Versal. Through his Potter Poetics Collection, Desmond has also designed and sculpted ceramic pieces to commemorate Albert Camus’ 50th Anniversary, the Dalai Lama’s 50th Year of Exile, Gerard Manley Hopkins’ 120th Anniversary, Thomas Merton’s 40th Anniversary, Edgar Allan Poe’s Bicentennial, Marguerite Porete’s 700th Anniversary, Swami Abhishiktananda’s 100th Birth Anniversary, Cave Canem’s 10 Years of Service to African American Poets, Grolier Poetry Bookshop’s 80 Years of Service as the Oldest Continuous Poetry Bookstore in the US, and Poet Lore’s 120th Anniversary as the Oldest Continuously Published Poetry Magazine in the US. These works are housed in museums and private collections in India, the UK and the US. With interdisciplinary scholastic interests, Desmond likes to mine the limits of literary experience, to reimagine them in attempting to discover newer forms he then ventures to work in.

For more on Desmond, here is an Urbanwire interview and more of his writing at


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