Fire in the Village of Water

Houses were burning on the morning of May 28, 2013, in Artex Compound, Barangay Panghulo, Malabon City. It was around 9 a.m.: breakfast smells still lingered in the air, sounds of daytime TV drifted outside open windows, and the children were sent to school just two hours ago.  In fact, the day unfolded calmly: no different from any other morning in the village. Corazon Bascon, 66, was at the water pump near the main gate, filling plastic containers with water when she saw the cloud of gray smoke, rising darkly above the roofs of Pasilio B, where her house was located. Continue reading

Prime real estate

These days all I can think about
is if I fog up
your head,

fill it with thoughts
about me. You said

I am too occupied
with myself. In love. 

I said no,

it’s not true. The truth is
the prime real estate –
my head – is occupied by you.

I said “prime real estate”
like it’s an expensive
place to live in.

But it’s not quite ready for occupancy:

My head is an empty room
with un-curtained windows.

A boy asked me once
where the “prime real estate” of my body is.
My eyebrows, I joked.

I thought about you, already
there, your shadow stuck
to the walls.

yet to arrive at the door.

Note: I wrote this poem while stuck in Manila traffic. A boy really did send me a text asking me where the “prime real estate of my body” is :/ This should have been my reply — a poem for someone else.

The Drunken Picnic at Thac Ba Lake

“Một! Hai! Ba!”

We chorused before draining our shot glasses together.

My father and I joined my mother and her coworkers’ picnic in Thac Ba Lake when we went to North Vietnam last November. On a cold Thursday morning, we piled into a boat and travelled to a little island in Thac Ba, where, hours later, we would all get tipsy from drinking too much rice wine. Continue reading