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Feb 2016
i.

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 ****

and their clothes on their muddy
mortar-stained backs

and the japanese

iii.

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

iv.

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:

“pa,”
“ma,”

v.

it is not cowboys that give us our names.
Jedd Ong
Written by
Jedd Ong
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