The first step to purchasing a new kimono
is to bow, reverent
to an old shopkeeper east of Katong.
You flash official paperwork,
stamped with red hanko ink,
proof you belong in your own country.
The fabric feels light,
but weighs heavy on the shoulders.
You tug at cherry blossoms, smooth the swirls
of white, blood and gold,
the vibrant colours of another people,
our fates entwined by red koshimo string
when invaders were driven from our lands,
those white-skinned devils, hair set aflame
over a hundred years ago.
The old man barks at you in a foreign tongue:
Stop wasting his time, he says,
He’s killed his share of kuso gaijin in the Great War.
You tighten the date jime around your waist,
choking on pride, bowing a hundred times more
along the narrow corridors
wafted with burnt jasmine, mandatory zen
stones raked across royal gardens
much larger than your one-room HDB flat.
You triple check your obi,
the smooth silk whipped at your feet,
your hair put in its proper place
by a pair of kanzashi sticks,
sharpened into the scalp,
convinced you’re almost home.
Ian Goh is a teacher of English Language and Literature based in Singapore. His short fiction has been published in Meat for Tea: The Valley Review and recently awarded the Highly Commended Prize in the Michael Terence Publishing Summer Short Story Competition 2019. He is currently pursuing an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London.