Featured in Colorado Review
Published Spring 2019
Today, I do not think about death, not the brittle
skulls of children or the metal in their blood
that could pass for bullets. I do not think
about the bones of birds or the blackberry
seeds left over in the belly, the time a muscle takes
to go blue from a deflated lung, not the bright jaws
of insects that come for the flesh, the meat.
I do not think of grief as a color
on my aunt’s tongue, her face a country of fires.
I do not think about kissing my grandfather
in his coffin, not the temperature of his lips.
Today, I lose count. I forget about sorrow
and its teeth, about regret and its prickled
skin. I forget how to pray for the dead
I do not have to bury, forget that hymns turn
my mouth into a sun, that terror
can be the same word for skin or brain,
forget that I do not speak Chinese, that I must
correct anyone who asks if I speak Chinese,
must say no, I am afraid I am Filipino,
must say I do not speak Tagalog either.
I do not ask anyone to forgive me
for forgetting and this is the oldest joy.
Let me forget that I cannot hold
the moon to feed it peppers when I want,
that the rain in the trees is not rapture,
is not applause for the rose on my shoes,
that I do not blister and crack
from holiness. Today, I am holy
and when I split my lip on the fist
of my brother that was holy too
and when I kneel in the center
of an empty parking lot I do so grateful
I can taste my blood.
Albert Abonado is the host of the poetry radio show Flour City Yawp and teaches creative writing at SUNY Geneseo. His poems have appeared in Boston Review, the Margins, Zone 3, and others. He is a past NYFA poetry fellow, and lives in Rochester with his wife.