Jenny C. Lares Oct 10, 2008 15:57:23 GMT 2
Post by thepoetslizard on Oct 10, 2008 15:57:23 GMT 2
jenny c. lares arrived in the US when she was seven and grew up in Bel Air, Maryland surprisingly surrounded by a large Filipino/Filipino American community. Although she has been writing poems, short stories, and skits since 3rd grade, she only began to share her poetry on stage since 2005. jenny has performed at the 2005 and 2007 APIA Spoken Word & Poetry Summits, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)—DC Chapter’s Creative Explosion Show, George Mason University, Oberlin College, and University of Michigan. In addition to writing, she has organized with college students through her work with the National Asian American Student Conference (NAASCon), where she planned the 2nd national conference at Northwestern University, and most recently was the Asian/Pacific American Community Coordinator at Oberlin College. She self-published her first chapbook, (re)genesis) in 2007. She blogs at jaela.wordpress.com
"Lessons from Mother"
Mother, do you remember
when Ate got her period
you sat us down
told us to wash our face with the water
we used to scrub off the first stain of womanhood.
To keep our skin clear and pimple free.
You told us to jump from the third step on the stairs
to shorten our period from five days to three.
Ate was 11. I was 8.
You told us we couldn’t date until we were 18.
Slapped me every time I sat down with my legs open.
Followed me if I ever walked out of a room with a boy.
When the first boy pinned me against the wall
the alcohol drenching the air between us
his hands exploring my body
his groans growing deeper and rhythmic
as he pressed harder and I stood still
unable to make sense of these tingling sensations
with only the stories from friends blending
with lectures from health class and Encyclopedia Britannica
telling me what it’s supposed to feel like
telling me that I’m supposed to like it
telling me that it should make me feel good
where were your lessons then?
If my vagina hurt, I was to tell you.
If I ever skipped a month, I was to tell you.
But you never told me how to love my body
to respect it
to shower with my eyes open because I should not be afraid to look
To know every inch, every wrinkle, every mole—
to explore it before someone else comes to claim it first.
Through violence or manipulation.
Either way an invasion without consent.
You never told me that I am worth more
than what’s between my thighs.
That I should not apologize
for being loud
for having thoughts
for disagreeing with Father
whenever he states that washing dishes is women’s work.
You rarely say anything to contradict him
(to his face).
It makes me wonder if you ever realized
your own voice or even wanted to.
If Inay taught you the same lessons you told me.
If there is nothing more to share.
Somewhere along the way
meanings were lost
in these superstitions passed from mother to daughter.
Our silence our only language
as I search for the words to say
for your stories
for more than a sentence definition of womanhood.
"love & politics"
We lie in bed together
legs tangled, breathing synchronized
as the fireworks display of misdirected patriotism
captures America’s imaginations
and suspends common sense
while bombs cascade across the midnight sky
like falling stars illuminating darker nations.
On the other side of the globe
our relatives pray for the next people power revolution
waiting for a new president for a new day.
In the morning we’ll struggle in 501(c)3 communities
bare our souls to funders
and drink liquor with whoever’s down with the movement
drowning qualms in gin and tonics and Sam Adams beer.
In the morning we’ll wrestle with our privilege
question our intentions
and admit some defeat.
But tonight we’re enveloped in the righteous ideals
of college days organizing
fueled by young interpretations of the contributions of
Gabriela sisters and Bonifacio brothers
characterized by protests and conferences
and the fight for Asian American Studies.
Tonight we fall into each other in earnest
like students first discovering the injustices of the world
and hastily creating ways to change it
staying up all night making posters for rallies
talking it up
about the fucked up policies of the current administration
the difference between rap and hip hop
and featured articles in Colorlines magazine.
Tonight we take turns on top
your hands cradling the arch of my back
me relinquishing the guards
and letting you hold me
We make up for yet another dinner date turned meeting
where we exchanged tasks and not touches across the table.
Tonight I forgive your inaction
when you failed to call out a friend
who cracked a joke about all the vaginas he’s tasted.
Tonight, like some other nights, I make excuses
rationalize in my head that decolonizing minds is a life long process
and that you’re trying
I know you don’t want to say it
but you think my expectations are too high sometimes
I count more red flags than green
I have a tendency to take control
I equate vulnerability with loss of power
and I don’t quite trust you.
But the world extends beyond this bedroom
despite our efforts to separate it
and the dim lights confuse distinctions
between who we are and who we choose to show.
But I’m working through all of this, with you
as we lie here in bed
legs tangled, breathing synchronized
waiting for morning.
You left two weeks before I was born
had no part in naming me
only signed your name on my birth certificate
because technically, you weren’t married yet
and immigration officials weren’t supposed to know
two daughters were waiting to see their father
the youngest longing to be lifted into the air by you
the way her uncles did
how she called every man and boy she met
some version of dad, daddy, tatay
in search of you
how she looked for your singkit eyes and Kastila nose in her own face
proof that you couldn’t deny her existence.
When you first saw her, gently kissed her cheek
welcomed her to America
she stared back blankly, yet calmly sat down on your lap.
I can imagine the smile you must’ve had on your face
to finally hold the daughter you never held as a baby
whose first word, first step, first birthday
who now can’t distinguish your face from uncles, cousins, neighbors
the pseudo-fathers she accumulated over seven years.
You were beaming with pride.
The family was finally complete.
No more letters and tape recordings of
I miss you, I love you, when are you coming back
evidence of long distance love affairs.
Your decade long promise was fulfilled.
Yet how awkward it must have been to introduce
cereal and fresh milk to children
who survived on pandesal, Nido, and Ovaltine
to explain the mechanics of flushing toilets and showerheads
to assure us that we’ll never run out of toothpaste
and I won’t have to brush my teeth with salt anymore.
How awkward it must have been to affirm your place as our father
when women raised us in your absence.
The distance never really undone by the flight across oceans.
The decisions never really regretted but understood.
The little girl, twenty-four years later, still in search of your singkit eyes.