Poems About A Philippine Childhood

Fire in Marlboro Country

I catch a glint
in your eye that
unnerves me,
as if to challenge.
This is how I know
you’re the one.
All dark brown stunning,
silky mane
and proud stance.
Today there is
only you. Tomorrow
is Easter and
today, I ride.
I am eleven years old.
I motion to you
with a slight
head nod,
come over
then mount you.
Reins firmly
held in my left hand,
leather straps
in right, I click
tongue to inner
cheek, get up
on my haunches,
nudge you
with the heel
of my right foot
and we are off.

We are beautiful
brown hair blowing
in the wind,
we are
rhythm of
gallop, we are
gorgeous dance
of brute force
and balletic gait.
We are break
away from the trail,
we are abandon.
We are thrill and
We are
my girl gasps
and your beastly
breath. We are mist
on this cool summer
morning.  We are
speed, unflappable

Nothing can
touch us.
Not the skinny
trail, not the
ravine to
our right, not
the rocks
slipping from
under your
hooves, not
the screams
of the pack we’ve
left behind. Not
the cloud of
dust, not the
other on the
leaves latching
on to your
tail. Not even
the sunbeams
can catch
our skins.

Only you
can touch me,
anoint me
wild child,
Only I can
touch you,
anoint you
wise man.
On this ride,
on a trail called
Marlboro Country,
I find fire.

The Shallow Well
What is a woman to do
when the husband
she will not leave
is no longer hers?
What is a man to do
when he loves his children
but cannot live
with their mother?
Dear love,
some days
you are not that
deep or complicated.
Once you’re gone,
you’re gone.
Do you take
the blueprints
with you?
All that’s left
is cataloged in
and a pile
of post-it notes.
After you left our
home, we hankered
for you, fingers
for crumbs in
the cookie jar,
thirsty for
drops of
you in the
I called for
you in whispers
and all I found
was the salt.

In A Garden

On a Wednesday after school, five children play hide
and seek in Nana's garden. She is The It who chases her cousins
under the mango tree, around the pool, over the bikes.

On a Wednesday after school, Camille leaps from underneath
the avocado tree. The It lunges toward the ledge, hands gripping
stones. The fingers of her right hand slip, and everyone hears a snap.

On a Wednesday after school, the running stops.
Five cousins are scared. Scared the swollen right hand is broken
forever. Scared to play hide and go seek again.

On a Wednesday after school, an 8 year-old runs
to her Mama, cradling her broken wing, her right
hand a throbbing hide and go seek betrayal

On a Wednesday after school, a mother wraps a girl
in a blanket, whizzes her off in a green station wagon
to a hospital where purple popsicle sticks make the pain go away.

On a Wednesday after school, our garden is scared.
A stone ledge fears it has injured a girl beyond repair.
An avocado tree worries it will never be a hiding place again.

On a Wednesday in a garden, deep in the night
Willows are weeping for fear that children's feet will
never run on grass, or climb trees again.

On a Wednesday in a garden, deep in the night
little brown birds croon for a broken wing
on a girl who played hide and seek with her cousins

On a Wednesday in a garden, deep in the night
earthworms stop their digging to comfort
an avocado tree's lonely branches

On a Wednesday in a garden, deep in the night
bats cannot fly for the sorrow of a garden, her stone
ledge, lush grass, tall trees and their broken promises

On a Wednesday in a garden, deep in the night
leaves hear a stirring from a bedroom window
and a flashlight makes beams on the grass

On a Wednesday in a garden, deep in the night
bare feet graze sad grass, cold fingers touch
lonely branches as a girl wishes upon a star