by Sue Hyon Bae
1703: Singapura offered to British Alexander Hamilton as a gift
—Singapura: 700 Years, National Museum of Singapore
A white English couple, boiled pink
in khaki shorts, takes a photo of me
drinking kopi peng from a plastic baggie.
They must think me a dash
of local flavor, on display
for free, instead of a tourist,
more or less like them, rushing
to finish my drink before the bus comes,
taking in as much as I can
of what this city gives me: this sweet
heavy coffee, the green wind, white spider lilies
growing like weeds, the broad flat canopies
of what Alvin calls raintrees, the spire
of a Hindu temple peeking over the walls
of a Buddhist temple, and, lovingly displayed
at a museum, a broken white and green plate,
the biggest piece cradling the smaller fragments.
I carry the tenderness away with me,
this Korean American, out of place
in both Korea and America; here
no one looks at me as if I don’t belong.
That, too, is a gift.
Sue Hyon Bae grew up in South Korea, Malaysia, and Texas. She is an MFA candidate at Arizona State University and international editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review, and for six weeks in the summer of 2015 co-taught a creative writing workshop at NUS. Her work appears in Minetta Review, Riding Light, Please Hold Magazine, and others.
For details of The Singapore Poetry Contest, see here.