“You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad. Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky. Butterflies too are few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful. Still, we take what we can get and make the best of it.”-- Excerpt from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
home is an intangible deity, the way that it’s not the best
place to find myself in is the first language I learn— don’t be too loud
but respond when you need to, whatever you feel will offend your mother
so it’s better if you don’t speak, but your silence offends her too— the validity
of my victimhood is lost somewhere in my privilege. Ma teaches us not to call
her Lola and it’s Nanay instead of Mama and I don’t know when the names started
to elicit a wince instead of a smile. I come to the conclusion that there will always
be some degree of negativity, a calibre of toxicity and something close to
pain that comes from growing up. yes I have come to learn that it’s not supposed
to be this way, I know now that what I have as a structure is all the things I can’t
be, won’t let myself be— toxic, angry, ignorant, aggressive— but this is what I have
and it’s not enough. Here are the parameters of what’s normal and if I was anything
less or anything more the altar becomes a courtroom. this is an unwritten story
of my youth and it was Julian Randall who said now I am gorgeous in all
the languages I mothered and yes, I’m twisting his prose to carve my own definition
the same way I do with my life lines: music and books and poems. I orphan my shame,
I have an arsenal of arguments as to why I’m right, this is what I have and it’s not enough I've heard that the best thing I can do for myself is to let myself live but live is to lie and pretend, to hide my poems about my hurt. I can’t remember who said Let us be better than our lost days. Let them blur into wet paint. I can’t remember who said try to love the questions themselves so I do, I unravel another language that’s filled with shameless jokes and buoyant conversations and shared meals and I pin the blame on my best friends for being responsible at the entirety of my music taste and I know can’t fit everything into one poem but truly— I’ve spent all my stars wishing we shared the same blood. It was Sandra Cisneros who said I want to be like the waves on the sea, like the clouds in the wind, but I’m me. One day I’ll shake the sky like a hundred violins. So maybe I will, I will find better things to write poems about.
Ma slides a bowl of fruit in my direction, in affection or apology, I don’t want to know (guavas, pineapple chunks, grapes, ponkans, siniguelas) and she tells me to eat, and there’s another language when I exchange tea and coffee with Lolo, or when I wake up to a cup of taho in the morning. I remember that my brothers know my language of silence and they have learned to navigate around is and this is the love I deserve and I know I would go to the ends of the earth for my siblings. but this doesn’t erase the pain, I try to remember what I do have and what others don’t even if it’s an unfair thought so I let myself be loved and I sit on a throne of patience and exhaustion and I try and one day it will be enough. I know, I know, I know they care, I know time heals all wounds but time will let them fade away too and it was Blythe Baird who said I’m trying to remember that sometimes people love us in ways that we do not understand how to be loved so maybe I am loved as my grandmother tells me another story of how she raised three girls in the strings of poverty, all of them graduates, I am trying to be still, as Ma smiles at the product of a generation-long sacrifice. I am refraining myself from asking why are we held by the same hands that have never touched the opposite side of the cards? and I tell myself that one day I’ll reclaim the empty pages of my girlhood, I’ll find the courage to be mad while still understanding, I’ll speak two or a dozen languages where I am both forgiven and forgiving. so home right now is Ma’s walls lined with glass figurines, Lolo’s stack of vinyls, and again, I’m sitting in the silence, in her cadence I archive both the bite in her tone and the love that sits somewhere in it. I know that I, too, love them in ways they don’t understand how to be loved.
Zo is a Humanities student and has a love for clouds, poetry and memoirs. They are a big believer in the arts as a language that enables deep human connections. She can be found listening to movie soundtracks or staining her table with calligraphy ink.
notes on the piece:
*the earliest versions of this poem was originally an EngLit project as a reply poem to Rodrigo Sicat’s King Kanakung Pamagtua or In My Old Age.
*Let us be better than our lost days. Let them blur into wet paint. & try to love the questions themselves are from Rhiannon’s McGavin’s Resolution in her book Grocery List Poems & Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet respectively.
*I orphan my shame is reminiscent of and adapted from the language and style of Julian Randall’s The King Is Dead, Long Live the King (where now I am gorgeous in all the languages I mothered is also found)