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POETRY

Reinarethna Selvaraju

Ingat ka ha!

My Lola sits on the steps of her bahay kubo.
Her Waray accent coats her words
as she tries to carry a conversation with me;
in English of course. 

According to her, 
I’m no longer this tall but I’m now THIS tall.
She says to me “dalagang-dalaga ka na” 
then asks if the man on my effbee is my boyfriend.
Her face flushes as she giggles 
before pulling me into a hug. 

Her home still smells of soil and evaporated rain,
the grace of god ventilates through the rooms. 

 

I’ve never grasped the weight of simbang gabi
so we hold hands round the table
and Lola starts to say grace;
I peek to see if she’s done 
then say “amen” split seconds late.

This year I gave her a hearing aid, 
so I don’t have to yell on the phone when I call her. 
I haven’t seen her in seven full years 
but she’s still the only person that calls me “Ina”. 

On the mornings that I wake up to her, 
she greets me with “gud mornen beyoutipull” 
then asks me when my first swig of “long neck” will be.  
She calls it “long neck”, I call it “brandy”.
Once in the morning, a few times too many at night, 
her skin glows when she cackles; 
she is glowy regardless. 

She holds me in her arms as I leave for the airport. 
She’s warmer this time and her hands are duller than I remember.
She leaves tears in my hands,
I leave my heart in hers. 

Hardly ever on the same wavelength,
she reminds me that I’m still part of her
between broken confused words
tongue-tangled in accents;
Stay safe till I see you again.

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