Time does strange things to perspective – the telescoping effect of looking back over past family gatherings turns them from separate events into a sweep of generational history, with everything always the same, and yet constantly changing. Janelle Marie Salanga takes us through multiple points of view, showing how many ways there are to see.
by Janelle Marie Salanga
Raja looks like a cat, no longer the tiger of my imagination.
When I close my eyes
I picture nights perfectly preserved,
pressure dressed as well-intentioned titas—
the future looms in their mouths
as they chatter blithely in Tagalog
as if hindi ko intindihan,
(but really every word sounds like the sun
sweltering in the middle of Santacruzan)
and sweaty hands pressed to made-up foreheads,
foundation smudging against blessings,
age revealed and paid respect,
as all the titas and titos cluster around
a sixty-inch plasma TV,
while the kids gather around slowly shrinking screens as the years recede.
Golden brown lechon, the summer king of the winter feast,
sits presiding over trays bursting with lumpia and pancit and tinola
until his power slowly seeps into ziploc bags
along with his subjects,
all to be cooked for tomorrow’s ba-on, kain ka na, anak!
Leaning against this artificially ferocious beast
with roars of cotton,
I see the ghosts of my past selves