Pulau Ubin

by Judith Huang

it cannot be denied
that the fields and forests
have their minds –
after all, morning dew
does mix with earth,
and they are fields of rain.


and the hens and cockerels,

they have to defecate somewhere.


it is also true that

such simple happiness here

is often found in thatched houses

(that burn easily),

down algae-choked wells,

and could well be boxed up and kept

in cement villages, complete with running water


besides, the sands you step on

are blackened with industrial oil and ugly mangrove,

the shards of glass make them dangerous,

they chip wounds away,

meld blood too close


imported sand would do better,

it is silken, white,

the way this sand could never be


yes, all this is true. besides,

these sampans are small, and

the salt sea stings its passengers

too freely…..


Today, Pulau Ubin will be given a “facelift”.

They will mould her into something

prettier, remove the mud fromher sand


Today, I return to the mainland,

leaving two small mounds of sand

on the concrete pavement


*Pulau Ubin is an island off the shore of the Singapore mainland, and contains one of the last surviving rustic attap-hut villages, or kumpungs. It has recently been earmarked by the government for redevelopment into a theme-park-like tourist attraction.

**sampans are the small boats that are used to ferry the infrequent visitors of the island.