balikbayan / body

9 December 2020


in the storage area
beyond our kitchen 
boxes often wait
to leave one home for another’s
taped and overwhelmed with the new and old 
pleather girl boots,
men’s polo shirts starched anew, biscuits
destined for manila city
mothers send human-sized containers
bearing gifts of hard-won labour
with as much as their hearts could fit in
to make up for absence. over the distance,
little girls hear their nanang’s quiet voice
for them
each box
 holds infinite longing:
childhoods slip away
as they wonder why other mothers
can afford to work where they are loved,
families stretched thinner by unseen parents
hiring surrogates for

a fraction of their time

 the price of living is

deducted from life itself
so that one body gives
(the other)


succumbing to the years 

endless conveyer belts extend
beyond this hemisphere
their moving inventories carried away
through skies of gunmetal and peerless blue.
the body is a reliquary of home essentials:
new navy dresses
pandan chiffon and january’s pineapple tarts
for a two-room apartment on la trobe st.
daughters conceal tissue boxes
and hopes with price tags still attached,
filled with silent regrets—
young adults seek themselves
though their lips (never) speak of love.
and for us,
each body
is made finite.
bills compound each year
in memories that flicker like lightbulbs
an island with progressive amnesia,
people who become strange
when they no longer
into our lives.

for a handful of plastic marbles—
dreams thrown deep,
deep inside


taking more and more

until both become weightless

*note: a balikbayan box is a care package sent home by Filipino workers overseas.


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