Shy Princess

a child's 
stubby pointer
crest of sand 
beneath the nails
reaching
stroking
soft as 
mango flesh

but putri malu 
is coy 
her feathered 
leaf recoils 
tight as a fist
and the tiny 
flower maid
curtsies
apologetically

on the beach
the softest wave
curls greenly under
hunching
and afraid

the warm ocean breeze
whispers
"too shy. too shy."



I grew up on a small island in the Indonesian archipelago. The beach near our house was quiet with waves like small grey-green speed humps, shuffling into shore. As you walked along the sandy path to the beach, a small feathery plant nodded on your right. If you touched it, the leaves curled away. It was known as putri malu which is Indonesian for “shy princess”. The photo above is not putri malu (taken on a walk with the dog here in Australia) but the flower is similar. I learned from Google that the real name for putri malu is mimosa pudica.

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