Remember the myth – the night you lifted your arm
to the light, adoring the kayumanggi-gleam of your skin –
how God moulded people from clay. He was hasty once,
not firing the first clump of clay-men long enough,
then careless for burning the next batch. Turn your back
on the brash-blinking tarmac, on the next-door lad
on a narra ladder who festoons festive lights, and yells
with a lancet-sharp snigger, Ang itim! You’re ugly!
If a shadow of a teak tree spills and pins you at your feet,
remember darkness is neither the absence of light
nor the abundance of shades. Might as well let bygones
be bygones – the bucket that bobbed in a brimming tub
and you, the ugly duckling who scrubbed and scrubbed.
Go ahead – trail that next-door boy and mock his body
glazed in sewage sludge after a ladder fall. Soon,
a whistle pulls you to a bench. The breeze persuades
a hanging lantern. Memorise your mother’s story
of God’s endurance, and learn that on his third try
he gaped at the last batch of clay people
and was satisfied.
© Romalyn Ante, from Antiemetic for Homesickness (Chatto & Windus, £10.00)