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Image: Trinh Mai, The Stars Will Tell Us, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist. 

7 February 2024

Shorelines Poets Showcase

Explore these shifting, evocative poems from three poets featured in Wasafiri 116: Shorelines: Southeast Asia and the Littoral. If you enjoy these pieces, read more work from the authors in our latest issue, available to order now.  

Bristling with Thorns

Jim Pascual Agustin

In our own time we take to the air,
cling to threadbare soil
where we land. We are beggars
for sunlight and rain,

for blankets of decay. We take
no more than what we need
to thrive beyond measured borders.
Our scent, perhaps too subtle,

or pungent as the ground’s breath.
Our sides, bristling with thorns
minute and defensive.
The petals we stretch from tiny fists

do not excite you enough
to bring us close to where you live.
But we are not wild, just untamed
by your singular will.

Fear to Freedom

Maung Htike Aung

        Fear itself is beauteous. If we’re

brave enough to see and watch
it, fear is so beauteous.
Fearing that he’d get repeatedly
caught up in Samsara Siddhartha
tried to find a state
free from Samsara. He did

       find it then.

Fearing that he’d get repeatedly rejected to enjoy civic rights Martin Luther King tried to fight for a right to dream of the rights. He did

       have it then.

Fearing that he’d get repeatedly oppressed and tortured George Orwell’s Napoleon tried to revolt against the oppressor. He did

       escape then.

‘All is of fear.’ We can have such a say-so,

       can’t we?

Because of fear, thousands and thousands of people survived Because of fear, prey has

       escaped many a time.

When you cannot escape from fear let fear be your strength let fear be a stimulus that urges you to gallop. If we’re   brave enough to see and watch it a part of the road to freedom is

       fear that is so beauteous.


Shirley Camia

The day is a shadow. Long, unbending.

I catch a glimpse of you retreating into yourself, becoming unborn.

Vines sprouting from your limbs, fragile as branches.

Roots cut, the spread of dead stopped at your toes.

It wasn’t always like this.

But this has expunged everything before it.

Water to blistering coal.

There is no sweetness in this hereafter, just endless rounds of ending.

Rags smeared with dried blood. Parched mouth. Bone.

Born in Manila, Jim Pascual Agustin moved to Cape Town in 1994 and married the Canadian-South African woman he met while travelling in the Philippine North.
Maung Htike Aung is a poet, literary translator and educator from Mandalay, Myanmar. He holds an MA in English from Yadanabon University and completed an online literary translation workshop at National Centre for Writing, UK.
Shirley Camia is the Filipina-Canadian author of four poetry collections, including the award-winning Children Shouldn’t Use Knives and Mercy. 
Winter 2023
Wasafiri 116: Shorelines - South East Asia and the Littoral

Wasafiri 116: Shorelines: South East Asia and the Littoral, our special winter issue guest edited by Nazry Bahrawi, Joanne Leow, and the late Y-Dang Troeung, features a range of creative, critical, and artistic work from Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Myanmar and their diasporas, exploring the littoral encounter of existing on the shoreline.

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