collaborative generating #10: “whenever I tried to color my tongue Tagalog”

to fly above silence:
collaborative generating #10

Collaborative Manifesto Project: here.

Then I turned around and saw the sky. It was red and all my life was in it. –Jean Rhys, “Wide Sargaso Sea” (via Evangeline Ganaden)

My lola knew I would sound like a bastard child
whenever I tried to color my tongue Tagalog. She mourned
the way I stuttered, how I paused over words that looked
like olds myths. She ran her fingers across my cheeks,
saying, “Here you are. Ikaw ay puti, anak. Ikaw ay puti.”
She frowned.

In the morning, I dig in my soul with a spoon full of rice,
looking for yesterday and yesterday, paper parols dancing.
I force my lola’s hands in mine, asking where my sky was.
Was it here, was it there, where do I stand? Am I of the
brown children or the white, I ask, telling her, please take me there.
She frowned a wave of sorrow, saying our sky was where
the gone things go, tucked away, laid in the folds of yesterday,
yesterday. I see the island and I am a thousand years old,
my lola stands with me, her skin bright like warm coconut milk
mixed with calamansi blood. She sings an old, forgotten kundiman
to my lolo in the woods. He wears a green beret and has a rifle
in his hands. When he sees my lola, his eyes become the Pacific.
He is the myth of the masculine toad, anger lives in his arms.
He sees me and spills ash over the land.

I begin to fade in this island without a sky. When only my hands remain,
my lola takes them, placing them on a rock. She tells me all the things
that I am: I am Ilocano, from Ilocos Sur, my lola is from the mountains,
my lolo is from the sea. I come from a rich farm family, and my great-lolo
died when the Japanese burned his land. The redness from the grass has
become my sky. There was no rain to quench the redness. Everything I am
has become yesterday, yesterday, like the sun goodbying at dusk.

– Made from the words of Paul Ocampo, Monica Hand, Todd Wellman, Rachelle Cruz, Hari Malagayo Alluri, Melissa Morrow, Bushra Rehman, Serena W. Lin, Carol Gomez, Evangeline Ganaden, and Clarissa Rojas.

“Others never see you: they surmise about you from uncertain conjectures; they do not see your nature so much as your artifice. So do not cling to their sentence: cling to your own.” – Michel de Montaigne, On Repenting


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