this charms the buried light of stars –
this deflects bullets – this unblooms a war –

In some Filipino clans, parents pass down to each child an agimat, an amulet or charm, in the hope its magic will protect and empower them. In a world of daily pain and loss, Romalyn Ante’s second collection asks how do we keep safe what we hold most dear? At the dawn of the pandemic, the poet – a practising nurse in the NHS – is thrown onto the frontlines of the war against COVID-19, and finds herself questioning what it means to fight, and what it takes to heal.

Past conflicts swim into the now: when the poet falls in love with a man of Japanese heritage, it forces a reckoning with her family’s suffering under Japan’s brutal wartime occupation of the Philippines. Elsewhere, we meet the irrepressible, many-breasted goddess Mebuyan, the poet’s alter ego. In Philippine myth, Mebuyan nurses the spirits of departed children in the underworld, but here she watches over young people in crisis – a girl who can’t stop cutting herself, a teenager who has leapt from a railway viaduct. These are poems of strength and solace – they quiver with heart, feeling a way toward hope.


  • 'Romalyn Ante's mesmeric new collection is deeply rooted in the dualities of life, cultural identity, and the profound interplay of personal and communal experience. Vivid, lyrical, and always surprising, it is a testament to those who navigate the complex legacies of history toward healing and resilience. It is both a balm and a call to action, reminding us of the transformative power of bearing witness.'
    Nathan Filer

About the author

Romalyn Ante

Romalyn Ante FRSL is a Filipino-British poet, essayist, and editor. She was born and bred in Lipa, Philippines. She was 16 years old when her mother – a nurse in the NHS – brought the family to the UK. Her debut collection, Antiemetic for Homesickness (Chatto, 2020), was shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize and longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. She is the co-founding editor of harana poetry, a magazine for poets who write in English as a second or parallel language. She was awarded the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship in 2021-2022, sits on the editorial board for Poetry London magazine, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in the West Midlands where she works as a registered NHS nurse and psychotherapist, specialising in the mental healthcare of young people.
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