bicol express, manhattan stop

cycles_deleon

The saddest line of the night, apologies to Neruda, is this: I don’t miss home anymore.

I think about home sometimes, usually during the ungodly hour of the night when souls are at their most fragile. And when I think of home, I think of the past, of memories lived and now cherished, of regrets nurtured but now tempered. I have learned to nod terms with my old self, apologies to Didion, and I am now at peace with my decision.

I don’t miss home anymore, but I still call it as it is — home, and always will be.


bicol express, manhattan stop
Marie Bismonte

no geographical coordinate can pinpoint
a word that embodies a concept:

home is not a location, remembered in distant lands.
nor is it a journey from the road to Mayon,

where all beginnings take root invoked in sepia,
nor an arrival of an express train to the Upper East Side

in Manhattan, people ask me what i am.
all answers lead nowhere

in my head, i am neither a citizen or a national
but a transient between memories, moving through

post-it-notes and found postcards
to forgetting what cannot be remembered.

home is not a word.
it is a language of the sense:

an approximation of ingredients
to create the right mnemonic

in the pan, bicol express simmers—
the steam of bagoong and gata rising

to a smell abhorred by neighbors
who call it too ethnic, but to me it is

decoding the landmarks of my past,
the sili burning tracks

on my esophagus, a combination of words
that defies expression—

my tongue incapable of speech
as it recalls the taste tugging at my throat:

the loss of what cannot be recovered in
each meal, the comfort that makes my eyes water.


The poem above was published in the the anthology Crowns and Oranges: Works by Young Philippine Poets (2009), edited by Cirilo F. Bautista and Ken Ishikawa.

The featured image is Cycles by Dawani de Leon

8 thoughts on “bicol express, manhattan stop”

      1. Aw, thank you, Jolens! I never knew it’s actually possible to order directly from the publisher. It’s awesome. Will try this soon. Do you have other poetry books by Filipinos that you’d recommend? 😊

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      2. If you can’t find a copy of a book you’ve always wanted to read, you can also try contacting the author directly. Some Filipino authors recognize the need to democratize access to literature, so they send PDF copies of their works to readers who reach out.

        And are you looking for Filipino poetry in English? I recommend “Darks Hours” and “elsewhere held and lingered” by Conchitina Cruz.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Whoa, that’s too cool! (I like the way you used “democratize,” by the way.) I’l definitely try reaching out to them.

        I don’t know many Filipino poets so Chonchitina Cruz is a start. I’ll look for her books. Salamat ng marami! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Luh Bikolano ka, rAdish? Whuuut. Ayoko sumagot in Bikol, baka tawanan mo Bikol ko e. Haha. At oo nga ano, mukha ngang laing. It’s hard to unsee, now that you mention it haha.

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