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  • Writer's pictureLammergeier Staff

Two Poems | Narisma

My Cousin’s Wake

We step out of the car, and her son grins, says,

wala na ang mama ko The stillness is deafening

There is only so much you can love because loving something

means giving a part of yourself to it

All bone and hands and heaving and heaving

The lamay fills the tiny shantytown courtyard

There is a grief to this, too Her family couldn’t afford to buy

a church But I know they’re trying — there are flowers,

and the ribboned kabaong, and the candles,

their little lights like love left in the backdoor, running its

palms across the screen mesh, begging to be let in

The doctor said her body couldn’t take it anymore

the deficiency the drugs the drying dusk

I think of my grandmother and her voice like honey in ginger tea

All warmth and want and whisper

Stay stay stay The men are playing cards again

and we do the best we can I wish my cousin got to see the orchids

fill the garden again, like parchment swallowed whole by

blots of violet ink The summer eats itself away and I think about how

believing in something means hoping it won’t be gone

by morning This is the reason we wait for old love

At my aunt’s house, we lie curled on the floor

It is dark, but not suffocating We even laugh,

like ice on velvet I hear my sister breathing and watch her

breath form in that muddy blackness: warm, alive

Tagalog translation:

Wala na ang mama ko — my mother is gone

Lamay — funeral wake

Kabaong — casket

My Journalism Professor Says The Two Things People Care Most About Are Fear And Sex

And I think about that time you dove off

The pier where my people used to shoot down

Planes from the sky; your arms bereft of flight

Like the gorgeous pigeons my lola once watched bleed

To death from the clothesline. There is nothing left

But empty artillery and teeth that grew from everything

We once held dear. My older sister lost her

Virginity in the back of a dormitory in Beijing.

When she gathered the guts to return home, we

Found her mottled with bite marks, each one spelling

Out the name of God. I loved you this way too,

With your hands circling my face and your broken

Mitsubishi Adventure. Just as the Israelites were

Exiled to wilderness, so am I from my mother’s

House. This terror is the only reason we’ve learned

To survive. But even my sister knows that surviving

Is not the same thing as living. Yesterday in class,

We listened to two black holes collide. What do

You need interferometry for? Place your ear against my

Chest. Tell me you don’t hear the world ending.

Narisma is a writer and artist from the Philippines. His work has appeared in Body Without Organs, Atticus Review, and Oyster River Pages, among others. He is currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Find him on Instagram at _narisma_.



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