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which in Ilocano can mean great-
grandmother or God—

I return your grandson to where you are buried.
It was his wish. This is my first
prayer in decades.


His body had given most of its warmth
by midnight. His left hand had interlocked
mine, folded us nonreligious men
into an embrace.


Decades ago, you held a young boy’s hand
on your way to Laoag City Market.

Stalls of fresh and dried fish. Heaps of mangoes, in greens,
dusty yellows. You reached for but felt an empty grip.

A policeman found the boy minutes later. A shaman,
a monk, a priest, and a poet are still pouring over
his soul.

Apo. Ag-yaman kami.
Ik-kan na kami ti gracia. Apo—

is a rough, very rough, translation of God
help me find the right words to pray.


Cornell Pineda was born in Ilocos Norte, Philippines. His family emigrated to Astoria, New York in 1993, where he currently lives as a full-time poet. During the day, he moonlights as a product manager in the finance industry.

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