Dirty Shoes ||| Duende

I kicked a soccer ball in Malaysia.
They put me out of kindergarten
In Kuala Lumpur, 1965, with
Aunties praying over me in relays,
“Save this wild child.”
Forty-five years pass,
Aunties, those alive, unstoppable, still praying,
As I sit in California reading email
And a primary school classmate,

Now in Australia, is telling me we had
Dirty shoes back then, from kicking stones,
With our mothers mourning in a circle
Over ragamuffin daughters, what to do?
Emigration. Send them off
to Europe, America, Australia.
Tell your friends, ‘Daughter is
Doing Well. Overseas.’ Nobody can
See her shoes.

Girls practicing soccer near my American home,
Are as grubby and sticky as any boys,
Ponytails everywhere, bobbing, the only sign
They’re actually girls; liberated–
Nothing to do with jobs or voting–
Our Kuala Lumpur mothers were right
About emigration; benefits of overseas life,
Freedom to get dirty. That’s what.
Running, shouting. Playing.


Shymala Dason is a 1st-generation Indian-Malaysian immigrant. Her writing has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, The Margins, Hyphen, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, et al. She’s a former NASA tech who enjoys editing spec-fic novels and helping techs with communication skills. Her recently completed novel deals with immigrant race issues in the early dotcom and the aftermath of 9/11. She is a finalist for the 2015 Flannery O’Connor Award.

Dirty Shoes” originally appeared in Duende, Issue 3, Fall 2015.