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some people in our village are dying quick
reason for this; Ubagabi.
they said they were chopping woods,
in the forest when the uncanny bird appeared.
the bird circled around in the air and fixed
them a target gaze, then came hurtling down towards them.
they saw its
bird body and old woman's head,
and they immediately knew what it is.
they took to their heels but the bird was faster. It hit them in the
back with a thud. they spoke about the searing pain that manifested
in them like it was a stone that was catapulted against their back.
the pain subdued in moments, however, like nothing happened. but
that wasn’t a relief. anyone who Ubagabi hitted
at anywhere in the body,
would live only three years longer
from that time on.
the recounting of Ubagabi’s origin was a popular one;
it tells of long ago
in our village,
how there was a very poor old woman.
to survive, she begged for alms,
but no one was willing to spare anything.
so she did the only thing she could, to
make ends meet. she resorted to stealing oils
from shrines and people’s home,
and then went on to sell them in some outlying marketplace.
oil stealing was a great crime.
oil was a difficult and expensive commodity to make.
it requires skill, efforts, and hardwork to extract it from tea seeds.
the tea seeds themselves were rare.
it would take pain to find them.
eventually the old woman was caught
and from then on, she was mistreated all around the village
and everyone would shout “oil thief” on her
every time she entered into their sight.
the old woman’s shame was so great she
wasn’t able to live with it.
she went to the river and drowned herself in it.
such deaths were the unclean kind.
so rather than dying properly and passing on to the afterlife,
she was turned into a supernatural monster—one we have come to nickname Ubagabi.
she’s grew so spiteful that she wasn’t willing to spare anyone of
her supernatural curse.
she only appears on occasions
and it’s only in the forests.
lot of people don’t want to near the forests
but there’s no way around it.
the woods earned from the forest is essential
for cooking … and other stuffs
people still come to the forests, but their only hope is that
Ubagabi doesn't appear to them.
people hope they won’t be so unlucky.
I had hoped that too,
on the day I went to the forest to chop woods,
that I could light up to heat myself,
against the cold atmosphere of the cold season.
all of a sudden,
I saw a black bird alight on a tall tree branch.
I thought nothing of it,
until I looked upon the upper part of its body and saw that it was
the way they had described it.
Its hag head was unfitting and big for its bird frame.
the eyes from the hag’s head gave me a soul-crushing gaze
I felt the need to avert my eyes,
but I was frozed up; every part of me was unresponsive.
I wanted to sprint away
fast as I could.
but I was reminded Ubagabi would caught up to me
and make a hit on my body,
a hit that would initiate the curse.
nonetheless, I couldn’t do anything.
I just remained there, our eyes interlocked.
Ubagabi acted first; swooping down from the branch,
propelling towards me.
I acted second, mere moments,
as Ubagabi was about to hit me.
Abura sashi, I shouted. Oil thief!
Ubagabi vanished into thin air,
and no one saw her again. Ever since.
her shame at being called out
as a thief is too much to bear even in death,
[Editor’s Note: Publication of this poem was made possible by a gift from Mary Soon Lee during our annual Kickstarter.]