Angelina Bong on “Crystal Tears” (Malaysia)
Sunlight streamed into my room, green buds in caterpillar shapes decorated the view outside my window. Ladybirds crept onto my windowsill, slowly making their way to the ondol heated floor. Sipping tea infused with fresh magnolia petals plucked from the tree outside the orange house I called home for two months, I stared into the mountains. It was no longer grey and sombre like when I first arrived. Spring was emerging, inviting me for a walk.
It started raining but I decided to go ahead. My heart was a little heavy at the sight of all the white petals from the magnolia tree fallen and soiled on the ground during the downpour. Meandering through the paths in the Maeji-ri village, my transparent umbrella was dotted with clear raindrops that looked like pearl glasses. I kept looking up, imagining them as crystal tears from the sky. Bees flew everywhere, cradling pollen as if they were the most precious gems. Wild flower buds in white, pink, lavender and yellow had sprouted, some stretching their petals. I was fascinated as it was a sight so rare to a tropical girl like me, who never truly experienced the change of a season, where everything is mostly green, humid and hot. I tried to choose my favourite flower but I could not. None was more beautiful than the other.
I was reminded of children blossoming close to puberty and ready to face life’s challenges, exuding natural beauty and innocence. Somehow, I recalled what a Korean friend once told me. Her parents gave her an eye job when she was twelve, which was considered a normal present. In fact, the number of people going under the knife to achieve their desired beauty is escalating globally these days. I grew up in a society where Caucasian and Pan Asian features were more favoured than Asian ones. I did not like my round face, small single-lid eyes and ‘not so sharp’ nose. I am a photocopy of my late maternal grandmother. I never met her as she had long gone before I was born but everyone who knew her told me she was a beautiful soul, kind, generous and gracious. The more I learnt about her, the more I felt she represented true beauty, inside out. Now, I am proud to be a resemblance of her, the face of my heritage.
My mind raced to all the flora and fauna in the world. What if they were dissatisfied with how they looked and tried to be something else? Mutilate their feathers, chop off their rhino beaks or bleed themselves to be redder and louder than their pale petals? Would not an entire species go extinct? The rain finally dwindled but there were still droplets hanging on branches, like crystal tears, precious and fragile but quick to evaporate. My heart broke thinking of how some of us never realise our true beauty until it is too late. The heavens must be crying too.
Angelina Bong is a Malaysian poet and visual artist with a background in Fashion. She has read and performed in South Korea, Malaysia, South Africa, Botswana, UK, Australia, India and Egypt. Some of her poems have been translated into Korean, Malayalam, Japanese, French, Arabic and Malay. She is published online and in print including several poetry festival anthologies. Her first solo Art & Poetry exhibition abroad was held after completing a 7 weeks writing-art residency in Toji Cultural Foundation, South Korea in April 2018. She chirps on Twitter and Instagram at @swakgel