Geylang Methodist Chinese Church, Singapore, 1985
This cloth, a dirty pink, threadbare:
ropes of terry-white stripe its breadth
like the cane-marks across my calves.
Along the top, in slow, uneven threads,
my name appeared. A tilted C, yawning
to meet H. Next, the O: a wobbly
hard-boiled egg. My mother wasn’t made
for sewing. The TV flickered in the dark.
A slide of N, followed by the curl of G,
a relief of space, then solid E I L E E
and finally the N. Chain stitch, they called it.
She hadn’t done it in years. A face-washer
for the bathroom of my kindergarten.
My friends showed me theirs: perfect script
in quiet lavenders and blues. I pretended
I’d forgotten mine and wiped my hands
on my skirt. Before I left, my teacher found
my washer in the bottom of my bag. She took it
to a gap on the rail. I saw my name: bright red,
in my mother’s shaky embroidery, hanging
from a hook, pretending to be like the others.