Mango Poem

Regie Cabico

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 
       and stabbed 
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.

More by Regie Cabico

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.

A Carpapalooza: An American Anthem

I can write about colonialism, Disney, riots 
& inoculations. Centuries of American history 
before me: Pocahontas' bust, Rosa Parks 
arrest records, Elvis Presley meeting Nixon 
but with only an hour to go before recording 
a poem at The National Archives, I'm in 
Starbucks obsessed and struggling 
with the queerest piece of literature 
in the Archives- Eat The Carp. The Bureau 
of Fisheries urges Americans to Eat The Carp. 
This resilient variety of fish that lolled the tea 
gardens of Japan & became the staple 
for gefilte to Jews is 43 million pounds strong 
at the turn of the 20th century. We were coaxed 
to eat carp croquettes, jelly and caviar. Before 
there were Mcnuggets, there was the Carp.
These over-sized gold fish that multiplied 
from Carolina to California with the force 
of horseless carriages pounding through 
our streams. How do I pay homage to this 
tenacious piece of protein that has fortified 
our American bellies. For weeks, I have labored 
over composing haikus to the Carp, Neruda-like 
odes to the Carp. Howl Allen Ginsberg-style 
to the Carp. Sketch a Jackson Pollock splatter 
of concrete poetry all over our marbled 
Carp-ital City to the Carp. I even wanted to write 
something personally ethnic like a Filipino riddle 
to the Carp. Ultimately, this is a Carpe Diem poem 
to the Carp. So I say to you live and roam free 
as the Carp. Seize the Carp! Roast the Carp 
till our appetites are lit into star spangled flames 
leading us into a new dawn of Omega 3's 
& prosperity. Oh Lord, give me Carp & the power 
to forge and be prolific as Carp. Though I can't pay 
my student loans & while I haven't found a husband 
on Plenty of Fish, Scruff, Tinder & OK Cupid. I am 
Ok Carp, Gung Ho Carp, Play The Carp, Watch me 
star in Les Carpelables, the musical: "Carp On High, 
Hear My Prayer..." Carplohoma:  "Carplohoma 
where the carp come sweeping through the plains..."   
Give me Carp crispy-fried in Crisco & well done! 
Oh Lord, serve me a sweltering sausage of Carp 
smeared with a smack of sriracha, a kiss of mayo 
& mustard on a whole wheat bun.

A Queerification

—for Creativity and Crisis at the National Mall

queer me    
shift me    
transgress me  
tell my students i'm gay   
tell chick fil a i'm queer 
tell the new york times i'm straight   
tell the mail man i'm a lesbian  
tell american airlines 
i don't know what my gender is  
like me
liking you
like summer blockbuster armrest dates
armrest cinematic love
elbow to forearm in the dark   
humor me queerly   
fill me with laughter  
make me high with queer gas     
decompress me from centuries of spanish inquisition
& self-righteous judgment
like the blood my blood  
that has mixed w/  the colonizer
& the colonized   
in the extinct & instinct to love 
bust memories of water & heat
& hot & breath
beating skin on skin fluttering   
bruise me into vapors   
bleed me into air   
fly me over sub-saharan africa & asia & antarctica 
explode me from the closet of my fears  
graffiti me out of doubt    
bend me like bamboo  
propose to me  
divorce me  
divide me into your spirit 2 spirit half spirit
& shadow me  w/ fluttering tongues
& caresses  beyond head 
heart chakras  
fist smashing djembes  
between my hesitations   
haiku me into 17 bursts of blossoms & cold saki    
de-ethnicize me   
de-clothe me    
de-gender me in brassieres
& prosthetic genitalias  
burn me on a brazier   
wearing a brassiere   
in bitch braggadocio soprano bass   
magnificat me in vespers
of hallelujah & amen   
libate me in halos
heal me in halls of femmy troubadors   
announcing my hiv status
or your status  
i am not afraid to love you    
implant dialects as if they were lilacs  
in my ear  
medicate me with a lick & a like
i am not afraid to love you  
so demand me      
reclaim me    
queerify me

Related Poems

The Buttonhook

President Roosevelt, touring Ellis Island
in 1906, watched the people from steerage
line up for their six-second physical.

Might not, he wondered aloud, the ungloved handling 
of aliens who were ill infect the healthy?
Yet for years more it was done. I imagine

my grandmother, a girl in that Great Hall’s
polyglot, reverberating vault
more terrible than church, dazed by the stars

and stripes in the vast banner up in front
where the blessed ones had passed through. Then she did too,
to a room like a little chapel, where her mother 

might take Communion. A man in a blue cap
and a blue uniform—a doctor? a policeman?
(Papa would have known, but he had sailed

all alone before them and was waiting 
now in New York; yet wasn’t this New York?)—
a man in a blue cap reached for her mother. 

Without a word (didn’t he speak Italian?)  
he stuck one finger into her mother’s eye,
then turned its lid up with a buttonhook,

the long, curved thing for doing up your boots
when buttons were too many or too small.
You couldn’t be American if you were blind

or going to be blind. That much she understood.
She’d go to school, she’d learn to read and write
and teach her parents. The eye man reached to touch

her own face next; she figured she was ready.
She felt big, like that woman in the sea
holding up not a buttonhook but a torch.