I remember calling you Donkey Kong
because it matched your initials.
And, you called me “Ate” (ah-teh) –
big sister in tagalog
because our culture is big on respect,
big on our titles for those older,
but I’m not sure what else.
As your older cousin
I did a poor job, didn’t I?
When I showed that hand, our family magic.
(I didn’t know it was a secret, but
I’ve learnt intentions don’t really matter).
That flashy crystal my mum used to love
to parade around on school day drives and shopping trips,
“Your uncle is addicted to methamphetamines,
Tsk, always asking your grandma for money”.
I laughed the way she did when I casually
mentioned your dad’s time on ice
not knowing how inappropriate until
I saw you blank
…I didn’t know.”
You recounted how he would disappear for months;
no one ever told you, or your brother, anything.
Sometimes he’d show up only to leave.
You thanked me, you finally knew why.
We said we’d meet again
and we waved each other off.
I stared at the sky blurred with periwinkle blue
and delicate white
as I replayed the day on my way home.
I had finally seen you for the first time in years.
My dad messaged me
saying to leave your family alone
as if I had stuffed you all in a box
and shaken the whole goddamn thing.
Your dad took over your phone
telling me he would get me.
How he knew someone who worked at the
Roads and Maritime Service;
he’d get my address.
How I’ll never see you again.
How my father was no angel;
he had done it too.
But, here’s the difference:
Not that he had dabbled in meth
but had smoke shrouding him all the time
or maybe I just didn’t have any expectations.
So, I didn’t care. I always tried not to.
Perhaps our fathers,
being immigrants, were easy enough prey
to the helplessly sweet caress
of a seemingly endless haze,
a glass full
of always happy
or perhaps it was a self-aware hesitation
toward the direction they were running.
I don’t know when it started
but I hate being Filipino.
Everyone is always loud
but not about things that actually matter.
Everyone always cares
but only so they can talk about you later.
Everyone always wants to sing.
Have you noticed at every Filipino party
there is always a karaoke machine?
I spoke to my therapist of my sudden urges to sing,
And he said it was a release: a way to gather oxygen,
and blow out the stale emotions.
Who knows if it’s true –
God? He doesn’t bother me anymore.
Maybe, all of us are a muscle, drumming though
and navigating this mapless, dusty,
copper landscape with song.
Maybe, it’s a shared subconscious trying to clear
and make way for something better than the past.
Or maybe we’re all just so traumatised,
don’t recognise it
and just keep belting tune after tune.
Everything hidden under layers of
of loudness and oily, fatty, delicious, fried food.
You and I, we should be careful,
heart attacks pulse through our family.
It’s the leading cause of death in The Phils
it transverses oceans
and is grasping to find
- 108: DEDICATIONwith L Patterson & L Garcia-Dolnik 107: LIMINALwith B Li 106: OPENwith C SLowe & J Langdon 105: NO THEME 11with E Grills & E Stewart 104: KINwith E Shiosaki 103: AMBLEwith E Gomez and S Gory 102: GAMEwith R Green and J Maxwell 101: NO THEME 10with J Kinsella and J Leanne 100: BROWNFACE with W S Dunn 99: SINGAPOREwith J Ip and A Pang 97 & 98: PROPAGANDAwith M Breeze and S Groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRICAN DIASPORAwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones