Poems to share

Kayumanggi

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.

Romalyn Ante

Romalyn Ante was born in 1989 in Lipa Batangas, Philippines. She was 16 years old when her mother – a nurse in the NHS – brought the family to the UK. Her debut pamphlet, Rice & Rain, won the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet 2018. She is the winner of the Poetry London Clore Prize 2018; joint-winner of the Manchester Poetry Prize 2017, and the recipient of the Platinum Poetry in Creative Future Literary Awards 2017. She currently lives in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, where she works as a registered nurse and psychotherapist.