the poem has a beginning exactly as you’d expect it: pa in sweatshirt, ma with purse; the funny thing is i never used to call them those names: “pa,” “ma,” always found them too cowboy-ish, too un-me, un-like
us: who held chopsticks before dinner time and shared stories of how grandpa came over from china.
ii. (at the dinner table)
there is no symbolism here. there has been none for a while now. this household eats and eats in quiet. my grandmother is a poet but their books all burned down
back in ’45 when mao stormed into fujian and all her uncles could eloquent on was that “the communists were coming!” “the communists were coming!” and instead of poems took with them their children, and their gold to pawn
and their clothes on their muddy mortar-stained backs
and the japanese
my grandfather now comes twice a week to the hospital for chemotherapy. it is a nice hospital. good view of the cleanest part of our *****
city. there are lights and white folks now. two things my dad said did not used to be there. they
used to be spanish. they tilled our rice fields and spent the money on living rooms with lots and lots of space to sleep. we on the other hand, worked. he claims.
your grandfather and his grandfather and i
awake every sunday morning at precisely 8:30. made to go down to the temple in kalesas and told to fetch the office paper for noontime reading. see we weren’t spoiled: grew
up just next to the pasig river which back in the 70s did not smell as bad as sin only sweatshirts
and the sweat we soaked them in we reeled along steamed fish heads and chopsticks for picking at them with and bowls of rice we never really ate with spoons.
v. (back at the dinner table)
i listen to my mom and dad sweat profusely in the evening heat only we can have here he in his sweatshirt and she with her golden purse,
preparing to leave - a wedding party awaits - an jacket draped over his shirt just like grandfather used to do it in a sense, but gripping the chopsticks delicately for all us to see: