Sunday, March 23, 2014


I grab my knitting bag and sit in a chair next to Mom.
She’s dying, the doctor had said. So who isn’t, she had said in reply.
I take the needles and the scarf out of the  bag, the scarf still a fragment,
both connected to the yarn like an umbilical cord.
I resume where I had left off.
You’re always knitting, Mom says. Who’s that one for?
I shrug and say I haven’t decided.
But I don’t look up so I don’t lose my place.
Because when I lose my place, I make mistakes.
Then I have to rip and I swear, my scarf gets even shorter
Than when I started. Like I’m unknitting more than I’m knitting.
And I'm already a slow knitter  to begin with. 
I’ve seen a scarf being knitted so fast, 
it  looked like it was coming out of a printer.
But me,  I don’t want to knit faster than I can think.
Besides, I have more scarves than I know what to do with.
I’ve gifted some but kept most. People say good job.
But they just see the scarves, not  the poems woven in the stitches.

They said he was alive, she says. All those years.
And they tell me now?

I rest my needles on my lap. I am silent as yarn,
looking in her direction where she sits on the sofa, lengthwise,
facing her garden with a grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Your grandfather, she said.

She feels her head with her hand as if to make sure
Her beanie is on right. She wears beanies.
She doesn’t like the way her hair had thinned.
Her eighty years are showing in grey.
Her hair is stern and isn’t to be told what to do.

By now, he’s really dead. 
Or he’d be past a hundred.

All these years she prayed for the repose of his soul. 
And had taken pride in being told she looked like him.
I don’t know if she’s more angry for being duped.
Or of being ripped so far back, feeling undone.
But you can’t tell the dead to correct their mistakes
Nor the dying to move on.
So I went back to my stitching. 
Ripping, soon after, upon finding a mistake.
Ripping to a good stitch from which to resume
until my scarf was no longer than a stanza.
I figured I might as well start over.
So I ripped all the way down to a loop.

Friday, July 19, 2013


When my Apu was still alive, 
her presence in the house
was royal, like the moon
that graced the night with wisdom
just by being there
And when she spoke, her words were
Like a breeze that tousled my hair
In fondness.
I couldn't always remember details of what she said
But I liked hearing her say anything.
And when she hummed, I
Stopped my thoughts to listen instead to her kundiman, a love song.
And now and then she would kiss my head.
She smelled of soap.
Her wrinkled fingers rubbed her eyes and then yawned aloud
And thanked God.
For what in particular, I didn't know.
Her eyelids drooped low which made her
Look like she was always sad
And when she looked out
It was as if something far had caught her eye
And then she closed her eyes as she murmured something
just between her and God.
At that point my eyes would cease seeing, too.
When I left, she  let me be happy for leaving
while she wept, and I thought nothing of it.
I wish I had told her how much I loved her.
She carried my mother inside her.
Taught my mother what she in turn taught me
Which I now teach my children
And when I look at them
I couldn't help but
Thank God that the order of  things
was the way it was.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I have this drawer that catches all
Once in a while i think of cleaning it out
I would always find unidentified keys in it
Because i couldn’t throw away a key
Or rubber bands
The ones that cuddled asparagus
So they could stand up.
I must have kept these
thinking that there would be
a need to bundle things later
like these pencils rolling up and down
if I pull the drawer farther out
it tips a little
and screws, nails, gluesticks come waterfalling
to the front
and I think I ought to
just pluck the thing
from its frame
and pour its contents out
into a waste bin
but I don’t. I don’t know why.
same thing with my heart.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


He sharpens his razor
on a stone and then raises the blade
as if to cut the throat
of the man sitting in
the chair already caped
He’s actually a gentle man,
This barber.
Could have been thirty
Or fifty.
When you’re ten it’s hard to tell.
They’re all old.
He was quiet and polite
and shy but does acknowledge
passersby who say hello.
My brother went to him
For haircuts
Until he was big enough
To be embarrassed
It was an old people shop
where talk was light
didn't get any deeper
than the weather
market prices
the last flood
the next typhoon
but not politics
or they could end up missing.
His little shop was open.
No floor. Just ground.
He had a little bench on the side
For people who wait
With just a left and right wall,
His front of his house for a back wall
No front wall.
Closing time just meant
taking his razor upstairs
til opening
which meant
whenever the first customer arrived.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Extra Buttons

I remember when we had to darn and patch for as long
As the material held the stitches
Now things become disposable when a button is missing
Even if blouses
and anything equipped with buttons
always came with extras in a little plastic pouch
Nobody remembers where they’ve put them
Until the blouse is gone.

The Scent of My Childhood

Back then it was an indulgence to wear ready-made dresses
Or dresses made of fabric-store-bought material
We wore those on Christmas.
One time the old lady ironing our clothes
Ruined my special dress
It wasn’t her fault
She wasn’t educated to know
That a hot iron would melt chiffon.
Besides, she was deaf
she probably didn’t hear my Grandmother tell her
not to melt my dress.
And she was poor. Poorer than us
That was why we hired her, to help her out
And to let my grandmother rest from washing feed sacks.
Back then, going to the seamstress
to be measured for a dress was just half the treat
and the other half was picking my sack
Even after a few washes they still bore the smell of feed
But mixed with soap it was sweet.

Old Clothes

I try to remember where I got what and why
it might have been the buttons on one
how closely planted they were
no gaps in between that open up
like a coinpurse when I slouched
and most I liked where they dropped down for coverage
modesty was forced on me
it would be different if I were a marilyn monroe.
But no matter, I can’t get too sentimental
Or I’d be stuck again with clothes I’ll never wear
but then I can’t be too hasty
because I might wish I hadn't given away
that sweater that would go perfectly
with those jeans
but when going through old clothes
plain i don’t like it anymore
Is enough to put it in the bag.
It isn’t such a thoughtless sorting.
Not like doing laundry.
Laundry, provided it’s not a sock,
always comes back.