I kicked a soccer ball in Malaysia.
They put me out of kindergarten
In Kuala Lumpur, 1965, with
Aunties praying over me in relays,
“Save this wild child.”
Forty-five years pass,
Aunties, those alive, unstoppable, still praying,
As I sit in California reading email
And a primary school classmate,

Now in Australia, is telling me we had
Dirty shoes back then, from kicking stones,
With our mothers mourning in a circle
Over ragamuffin daughters, what to do?
Emigration. Send them off
to Europe, America, Australia.
Tell your friends, ‘Daughter is
Doing Well. Overseas.’ Nobody can
See her shoes.

Girls practicing soccer near my American home,
Are as grubby and sticky as any boys,
Ponytails everywhere, bobbing, the only sign
They’re actually girls; liberated–
Nothing to do with jobs or voting–
Our Kuala Lumpur mothers were right
About emigration; benefits of overseas life,
Freedom to get dirty. That’s what.
Running, shouting. Playing.



"Having lived half my life in one country and half in another, there is a continual background process of evaluating that choice. This poem came out of an afternoon where I took a walk by a field where a girls' soccer team was practicing and then was on the phone indulging in a bout of reminiscence with a childhood friend."

Shymala Dason is a Malaysian expat. Her writing has appeared in The Massachusetts ReviewSwarthmore Literary Review, and the Asian American Writers' Workshop Topography of War. She is a Bennington College alumna as well as a former NASA consultant. Her short story collection was shortlisted for the 2015 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.