The Bud Light crystallizing in the freezer
Hides high above a child’s reach

The Uncles table sits in the backyard of my mother’s house parties
The beer and barbecue footnote their good time

I go to greet them like daughter, like niece, like good girl,
They say. Like grown woman now, they say.

At what age did uncles stop seeing me as a little girl
Since when did they dress up my growth with their pick-up lines?

Each word sharpening a knife of bedside manner
Each nervous laugh covering up the names of women who don’t stay

Oh you’re a teacher now? They repeat with bedroom eyes
Teach me, they say. To my classroom, they say, I want to come.

The pork belly on the table I used to draw on as a kid
Curls in the cold air, sausage cackling char on the grill

Flatlining my red lips I paint for myself
My voice a fire extinguisher

Against all the family men who pretend family means
Things I can get away with

A myth of fragility trapping too many girls
Forced to call mercy

Each beer sip    a squeal silenced
Each man still a swine on the spit

Silhouette

After Robert Minervini’s “Improvised Garden II (Water Street)”

more and more of my friends
are becoming parents or partners
to plants

i have lived long and short enough
to remember the homegirls who
danced non-stop until three a.m.
the moon a parabola to our party
i’ve grown up enough
to see them sing their favorite slow songs
to herbs and succulents on their windowsills
in homes they sowed from dreams

the same sister who once dug a heel into
a man’s oblique now steals thyme with me
off of suburban bushes after brunch
in my neighborhood

when a friend locked herself out—
the same person who loses wallets &
laptop chargers & saves my broken earrings
with a hot-glue gun in her backpack—
this pinay macguyver
has me breaking into her house at night
where we be tiptoeing over her
forest of planted avocado jars
into her dark room to find warmth

the one whose living room and bedroom
once resembled a flea market  
or a super fly thrift store
and sometimes ikea—
the one who let me stay
she pays full price for potters &
vases—pronounced with the short
& therefore expensive ‘a’ sound

one womxn named her garden
“grown and sexy”
bringing new meaning
to the phrase garden hoe.

another who tops burritos with
white sauce dots like queen anne’s lace
also commits the crime of eating
one half at a time, you know, meal planning
with a sweet tooth, she drinks all of her horchata
& knows how
my family loves orchids &
she brings me them for my birthday
or any other tuesday
just because.

my mentee once congratulated me with
mint & basil & lavender & rosemary—
sweet aromas gifted when i
was leaving a job that left me to rot
for another that was not  an office
with no windows, no green

the women in my life reroot
over oceans & provinces & planes to cultivate
a geography of trunks & limbs
reminding me that to decompose
is the chance to live again

my mother’s rose bushes open wide this spring
in her backyard without her
my mother’s body is buried in a plot
of other bodies without mine
isn’t a cemetery a garden
of all we’ve loved?

and isn’t a garden full
of already dead things?
those who bury their beloved
put the gentlest parts
of themselves into soil
my mother is a seed
    the first woman i cannot unplant
       cannot pull or twist back into my hands
her orchids bloom reaching
how delicately the petals hang off
their stakes like gold, glass bangles on wrists
against disco lights   against the ambiance of a food truck menu
like lip gloss    how bougainvillea spill onto sidewalks
like how the sun stays lit
during an eclipse

the flowers in my garden grow lively
& loving & hungry from pods & cinderblocks
my friends are florists
they water & cry & bloom & sleep
from loss & clay & unfolded laundry
sometimes we grow tired & tough
sometimes you have to open a cactus   to cut
pieces off so we don’t grow stuck

arranging the flowers
in my garden
is a lattice
a life lesson
on how
to grow
up.

There Will Be No Funeral

in loving memory of Concepcion Cruz Agullana

Everywhere is a cemetery,

and there will be no funeral.      on either side of the Pacific Ocean.

            No one will give last rites to my lola,    No guessing nurse will call my name or hers

I will have heard no doctor’s steely voice                             There’ll be no waiting room

to call her ‘the body.’             Over the body.      There will be no priest

            swinging a pendulum of incense         no prayers      no rosaries       there’s no money

                        No undertaker will proclaim her life                       There’ll be no glass plate     covering

her wooden casket.           There will be no casket   it’s too expensive              There will be no party

no lumpia            no noodles for no life long enough

                           No black attire               No hands clasping tissue or other hands

‘The body’ will not be seen          There will be my grandma in an urn–a tiny basket

            her curled body that lilted into the afterlife        after dementia   twenty years after grandpa

                                                  there’s no room for every  body

there’s no house for everybody to come in and stay    no room for sorrows    There will be no placeholder no

land     no candles        no water         no six-foot empty         she will be unmarked

                                                            my lola, an unnamed earthquake

           No one will hear her long name how it stretches a sunset   if my lola dies and no one sees   is

she still my lola?  is a canyon a series of cliffs?   there’s no place in the apartment for what rituals

maybe they will send her to the Philippines my grandma is a maybe                   and we are not they

         did you know                                                                                  when airlines carry the deceased

          they are called passengers

    they travel in their coffins        passengers in seats     are called        existing passengers

this small poem the only eulogy            where we’ll put my grandma     her existence laid to rest in a

poem

                      in this non-ilokano language                  a killer              rows and rows of dirt

money doesn’t grow                        maybe someone there       will bury her

                 how will i carry her     when only darkness has the space?

where will we put my grandma when we can’t afford our grief?