the banana plant
her hand and the embodiment of being left behind, her hand beneath the soil, the weight of leaves and dirt. what to make it hold. what the word “held” even means. terrifying secrets buried in the yard. why must her love be the reason behind a swishing sword? you are not a witch, your breathless prayers are not magic.
the volcano ladies
one of them was very angry. there was violence. can you hear the word “slope” without thinking of a woman’s breast? do you first consider lava, or ash? what is being buried in this tale? whose body equates to praise?
kissed the villager. wanted to marry him, was tempted to slap him. lay with him: the farmer, the farmhand, the priest, the barrio mayor. her hair seemed endless in their fingers. her skin was nut brown. her curves could evoke groans, like the hull of a boat. wherever she lay even the earth wanted her.
despite everything, mother loved her. loved her even through the lazy days and the fact that she would not rise for the smallest thing. she knew this from the creases on mother’s face, the glimmering tear multiplied a hundred times; the fractured way the wooden spoon dropped from the old woman’s trembling hand.
because she is lovely they name her dawn. of course she must fall in love with a man nearly gored by a wild pig. but once they’ve sworn eternal love he must leave her, and she must stand by the window and wait. of course her last words must be you promised. of course she dies of loneliness, still whispering. as expected the flowers on her grave smell sweet.
but you weren’t there, they tell her. you didn’t see his egg–white eyes, the foam on the corners of his mouth. the way he scratched his throat and took too long to die. you say your fingers can remove the poison, but we shall never again hunger for sweet things.
I don’t know this story. I expect she wore a crown, and death was involved.
ensconcing corals. bombed but never burnt. that net, these islands, hemming us in. explain the fist, now fin. these gradients of blue. did she speak of home in bubbles? did the story ever mention her thighs? where was she swimming to—thrashing in the water, yet still so graceful?
and what is so wrong, she hissed, crouched on her knees with her hands over her face, with being shy, with choosing loneliness? what is so wrong with crying?
so many Marias, lined up, sisters and wives, nubile, underage, stooped, and pregnant, with skinned knees, without breasts, round–eyed pebbles in sunburnt faces, undulating in a sea of thick black hair. this isn’t my story, she wept. she was wearing a torn saya, palm fronds, a recycled dress from Divisoria; she was wearing nothing at all. I could not say what her smile meant. her fingers were cold as they brushed my lips and tipped my head upright. now you go, anak, she said.
© 2016 by Isabel Yap