Brown woman at Safety Beach, Victoria, in June

Consider wild weeds in winter. Shriveled yellow
buds opening on a promise of sun, already sinking

into ground you cannot recognize: its too–old rock,
scent of heat crushed out of its veins. Remember

gouging what you knew of beauty into your arm
during farewells to anito, so you could keep the red

when your hymns wouldn’t fit through airport gates.
Remember: dati. Salt scabbing your hands. Ocean a song

as you sucked all the incandescence out of sea urchin
briny fluids consecrating your tongue. Baptism. Life.

The tao’s names for what follows blood. Remember
smoke at dawn, the grimy towers of the city, your claws

in rotting wood. This is all you have left. On your skin,
the red has long surrendered to pale centipedes

persuading the tao to avert their gaze, polite cheeks
stretching. What do they see through eyes too small

to witness trampling? Futile dandelion. Sand–sheared stone.
The pit of the sea. They’d dream of you if they could:

dragon, they’d call you, dragon; lizards skitter
down your throat, twin tongues aflame. Call up those skeletons,

their lumbering shapes rising out of hillsides sown
with massacre’s thirsty grass. It doesn’t matter. Drought

has made its kingdom here. You go down to the sea
but its waters will not take your heat, refuse the fire

you scrape into the sand. Only glass answers you.
And a clump of weeds, watching your mouth open: yes

swallow, scream, no sea–throated choir will hurl
salt–starred music back when your wings unfurl, hissing

the swaddled rhyme your sisters sent. Turn your back to the water.
Aswang, you call. Aswang. What’s that, the highway answers,

laughing. Listen, if you could break its asphalt spine,
what catastrophe would you visit upon this land?

Huwag. Shake sand from your scales. Count the grains that remain,
sticking to palms lined with the alphabets of not–belonging:

bagoong, patis, truest vinegar. Remember lato bursting
onto your tongue. Salt–sweet curse of storm: habang tag–init.

Red, carved into your bone. Kapatid, atin pa rin
ang sangkalawakan. Kapatid—Consider how the weeds

bury their hair in dead soil, pin their yellow heads
to winter’s dried–up breast. Later, boneless in bed

you will not dream of dragons. In your mind,
a bright red blooms. Look up into the throat of sky.

Light opens for us
still.

M Sereno

M Sereno is a Filipina illustrator, writer, and resident scribe of the queer Asian SFFH Illuminati. Forged in the fires of Mount Doom Metro Manila, she now lives in regional Australia with her partner, their Pomeranians, and a cat who thinks she’s a koala. Visit her writing site at http://awitin.likhain.net or follow her on Twitter at @likhain.

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