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)

This poem is also highly commended for the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2020 and published in The Forward Book of Poetry 2021.