To Emigrate (Patriarch Parable)
In the old century, the patriarch proclaims, una doctora, no daughter of mine.
Ambition is for the men to wrangle, the bodies of others are out of bounds.
In the old century, the matriarch breathes, big bodied. Storied vessel. Still,
Blood is men’s work, little one. Fixing of bodies too big for such small hands.
In the old century, the patriarch loosens his hands. His eyes see many things,
But he holds his tongue. This is how it has always been in the old country.
In the old century, the matriarch does not utter a word when the daughter
Is taken. Wedlocked young bride, she births. In the old country, this is how it is.
In the new country, the young mother fashions her daughters’ wings. No time
For woe and weeping. She knows her work, now solitary and thankless. She waits.
In the new country, there is mercy, she still prays. The young father rules
His three-bedroom domain. One by one, the daughters’ wingspans grow.
In the new country, outside his four walls, the wild white world is out of bounds.
It clips his tongue. It gelds him. It strips him. It breaks him. He shakes his fists.
In the new country, the father smolders. Putang ina! He roars. His curses boom
In three clipped tongues. The daughters shake their heads and slam their doors.
In the new country, the father dreams of before – la docilidad, ang mahinhin.
One by one, the daughters shrink his dominion. In the new century, girls leave.
In the new country, the mother’s a sainted matriarch. The old father’s emptied.
Body does not abide, tongue and brain adrift. In the new century, this is disease.
To Be a Runaway Daughter, Not the Much-Desired Son
Daughter of sana lalaki na lang iyan, she thinks I’ll get knocked up fast I’ll show her
Daughter of never good enough, she wails, a boy would always be his best
Daughter of the marks she leaves, visible to all, even in church, in confessional, I bear
Daughter of cower and cover, this body loved by other women, she wishes again I were her son instead
Daughter of deleted phone numbers and blocked calls, she blows up my cell phone if only to castigate me
Daughter of flight (Aguila, my grandmother’s name), fourth girl, seventh child, our bodies tire of bearing
To Be Bound
We are not scarred –
Scars tell stories
Of unbound bodies
Healing – proud flesh.
We are wounds, vessels
Bound, together, dark-
Flesh our birthright.
We are beasts, broken.
We are small, darker
Than your binds, opening
Our unmended flesh.
Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of Gravities of Center, Poeta en San Francisco, and Diwata. Her fourth book, To Love as Aswang, is forthcoming in late 2015. She teaches in the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program at University of San Francisco. Find her online at http://barbarajanereyes.com