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A quarterly international literary journal

Certificate of Citizenship

/ Poetry /

My mother delivered me

to this land, her ancestral tears

washed me clean after my first cry.

I am the son of tidal waves and love,

bodies crashing under clouded skies.

As a child, I kissed the mango

tree in my backyard, traced fingers

along the moss growing on warm

stone fences. Down to my shoulders,

my hair flew with me wherever:

rocky hills, rice fields, or muddy

streets. The other boys teased me, called

me a girl, called me pretty. Once

the ice cream peddler arrived

with his box of fruit popsicles,

we piled around him, forgave one

another, then looked for a spot

to squat on the street, where our elbows

could rest against our knees. Fingers

turned sweet with the melted cream.

Jimmy, the oldest among them said,

Stop slouching, puff your chest.

He was my first friend. By the time

we heard the call to prayer,

we were already home. I have more

stories to tell, testimonies

of my childhood: like how I got lost

and mistook someone else’s

country for my own.


* “Surat Bukti Kewarganegaraan Republik Indonesia” or “SBKRI” (Republic of Indonesia Certificate of Citizenship) was an identity card denoting citizenship to the country. This “proof” of citizenship was required to enter academia, obtain a passport, register to vote, and get married. Only non-native Indonesians were required to have SBKRI, primarily the Chinese-Indonesians.


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