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Windmills

for M. Heeremans

 

Windmills, with their latticed, sweeping arms,

hand-painted onto miniature porcelain clogs.

 

The child I was wore them proudly, in still-tender

earlobes pierced on a twelfth birthday. The blue and white

 

of Delft, borrowed from China’s Ming dynasty.

From a distance, the earrings looked like silvered pearls.

 

Our shophouse in Singapore was narrow and deep,

its width a hand-me-down decree from the Dutch colonials

 

in Melaka. Sambal is a popular ingredient for sandwiches

in Holland. My friend cooks a beef rendang her mother

 

taught her to make in their home outside Amsterdam.

Tau gay is our odd, shared word for beansprouts.

 

The earrings nestle now in a wind-up jewellery box

that plays ‘My Favourite Things’. A Dutch seafarer gave up

 

his name to the Tasman. The lowlands: fertile, flooded plains.

The arms of the windmills turning: the days are passing strange.

Go to Eileen Chong's profile to read more poems