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Two Poems by Adrian De Leon

once, / before the stars & stripes, / we traced stripes across / the stars to steer us / home.

Philippine Studies

On a fresh week for rage, my father scattered 
open garbage cans across my bedroom floor.

I had dreamed that I was back in Taguig sifting through 
sheet metal in the alley behind the quail egg stand;

a rusty corrugated corner pierced a bag of rancid chicken
before my eyes opened to the same stinging stench.

Years before, leather lashed at my flesh, & I reveried
bloody-knuckled ways to forgive each crack; instead,

I supposed that it was the rattan of alabaster nuns
beating out my native indolence through the Father’s wrist,

or the hooks whipping welts on the spine of Christ,
burning raw repentance into clotting, dirt-dyed skin.

When the lashes stopped, new punishments seemed 
to froth from his mind’s most creative grottoes:

guilt-gilded yard work for the parish I never asked for,
polos y servicios for the upkeep of the pastor indoors;

or this morning, kitchen compost dispersed like us 
across my floor: the burden of smelling the homeland.

Later that week, we gathered written scraps of property 
around the dining table to stitch into my parents’ will. 

I inherited his freckles, but couldn’t distinguish 
which came from Father & which came from Sun.


once, barangay
glided through
crystal waters
of the pasig river,
where reeds
shuddered in their wake.
where shanty shores
now stilt, warriors once
waded amidst archi-
pelagic fish. once,
pasig churched from
the same breaths that stretched
these sails. once,
before the stars & stripes,
we traced stripes across
the stars to steer us