There are few places worth committing
to memory—one: the New York skyline,
two: the traffic on EDSA, three: the horizon
in which we never meet: the sun, the sky,
the sliver of water between us. Tell me where you are
and I’ll tell you what you are: an immigrant in NYC
is a foreigner in Manila, neither one belonging. In
or Out—perhaps there’s a place we can call home,
but right now there’s just this, an in-between,
an in-articulate space for vignettes: where you left your shoes
the other day, the missing umbrella stranded in the rain,
the heart you broke. It remains vague—
not there, not ours. A hello meant to say hindi, I don’t care anymore.
A goodbye meant to say oo, I’m coming home soon.
Words meant to prompt emotion, reaction, but what else?
A Filipino welcomes with hands tied, a farewell with
a blank gaze: I know and I’ve heard. Americans do it differently,
say, point-blank, what you don’t want said, say
we always have an ulterior motive—mine, as a Filipina living
in America, my heart on sleeve, my self hidden within—
all I wanted to say: hello and goodbye at the same time.
I still don’t know the difference. With you
I don’t know what I am, only who I am. When I return
this is what happens—I say we are in NYC and EDSA
simultaneously. Both colonized-colonizers, yet neither.
I am the ocean’s white sea foam; perlas ng silanganan.
You are a hero, a myth, a shadowy figure.
I am the mango heart left beating in your hands.
“Midway” is from The Sea That Beckoned (Platypus Press, 2019).