Mother fetches the fruit from the mango grove
behind closed bamboo.
Rips its paper-leather cover during midday recess,
before English class, describes their dance
peaches plums cantaloupes before my first-world
eyes. When the sun blazed on the dust,
she let the mellifluous fluids
fall on her assignment books.
Where the mangos were first planted, mother,
an infant, hid under gravel
swaddled by Lola, my grandmother,
after my mother’s aunt and uncle
were tied to the trunk
by the Japanese. Mother and daughter living off
fallen mangos, the pits planted in darkness,
before I was born.
We left the Philippines
for California dodging
U.S. Customs with the forbidden fruit,
thinking who’d deprive mother of her mangos.
Head down, my father denies that we have perishable
foods, waving passports in the still air,
motioning for us
to proceed towards the terminal.
Behind a long line of travelers,
my sisters surround mother
like shoji screens as she hides the newspaper-covered
fruit between her legs. Mangos sleeping
in the hammock of her skirt, a brilliant batik
billowing from the motion
of airline caddies pushing suitcases
on metal carts.
We walk around mother
forming a crucifix where she was center.
On the plane as we cross time zones, mom unwraps
her ripe mangos, the ones from the tree Lola planted
before she gave birth to my mother,
the daughter that left home to be a nurse
in the States,
who’d marry a Filipino navy man
and have three children of her own. Mother eating
the fruit whose juices rain
over deserts and cornfields.
In a Legendary Light
I walk with simple people
who wish me to believe that I am not an instant...
I lock the door and hear a knock. An angel peeks
from the corner of a mirage...
says my mother is the gardenia
a nurse planted in her breast pocket
My father's a secret gauze, crinkling,
the day I breathed...
I don't thank Fate, nor count my muses
but give thanks to mathematics,
the number 7's breathless proportions.
When I was a model, I spoke as a model.
When I was an actress, I spoke as a girl
enamored by sunless rooms and yellow bars of spotlights.
(If the camera won't love you, who will?)
My nose was crooked like a long bridal veil
plink, plink, plink, I got married.
I knelt at the tabernacle of chaos.
plink plink, plink, I got married
and mistook vodka for water.
A gallon of sleeping pills and I dream of Neptune.
Playboy parts scattered like bones on glassy paper.
A centerfold, the portable trap of my vulgar self.
I pretended to be a baby chick locked to what its eye first seizes.
a quiet blonde shell without a libretto
whose skirt flutters in wild pentameters&emdash;
a GI's obscene flag.
I consider myself a missionary to the suburbs,
like McDonald's or a really long rope.
A dimestore magic trick in legendary light.
"May Day May Day" cries the tabloids,
the lack-luster pages of my weekly planner.
Housewives want to be me
but I'm only a glass bottle poised in a publicity still.
I'm just a woman. Bewildering June.
Norma Jean. Lightheaded and I have strange dreams.