The story, you think, is around

1 March 2018

the corner, just there, whereto the index
lands. That is, ulilang kawayan1 comes
before you cross the road on your way home, or
your mother is off to mayhaligue
notwithstanding no poles. Barely a fence, muros
to hem in moro, barrio—prisoners
escape only from a game of twos, or threes
in the wake of something in your belly—
entrada, interna. Internar, if right under
your nose is a mile or two to boarding school.
Keep left, and the drugstore is marked zero. Count
to ten—bituka, butiki, botika2. See,
in the outskirts it is also a madhouse. Six
is the hour, and the sinuous route.
Ang ati lumilipat ng ilog kapagka nilangaw na.3
Toward the mountains, downstream: one
heads for the long shot. To orient is not
yet a direction. Nanay4 told you
she never saw the river again. When the nomads
disappear in her stories, the birds
with legs like stilts return. Mantil,
softly, as if you knew. That is not even their name.

  1. Ulilang Kawayan and Mayhaligue are street names in Manila, the Philippines’ capital city. Their translations are ‘orphan bamboo’ and ‘columned’, respectively.
  2. ‘Bituka, butiki, botika’ is a Filipino tongue twister which means ‘intestine, lizard, drugstore.’
  3. The line ‘Ang ati lumilipat ng ilog kapagka nilangaw na’ translates to ‘The Aeta transfers to another river when the flies arrive.’
  4. Nanay is a word that means (and is used to address) a mother. It may also be a term of endearment for a person whom one considers to be like her own mother regardless of actual relationship.

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