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It Took Us So Long To Get Here

Albert Abonado

December 13

I say we walk to my uncle's home
in the Philippines
, but I should
really say to my father's old home.
I suppose I could say the place
my father was raised except
that doesn't account for all
the concrete and aluminum replaced
since then, the additional plumbing,
the absent water buffalo. I could say
where I no longer cross ditches
or where I once bathed in the rain
or where I watched a pig slaughtered
for the first time.
They gagged the pig
with a large stick shoved down
its throat before slitting its neck open
and afterwards children bounced
a balloon made from its bladder
against their knees and thighs.

January 3

"Which one is he again?" is a question I admit
is probably not the most appropriate response
when offered a position like best man
at a wedding overseas, and, when I consider
the statement now, I should have refrained from asking
right away before I spent some time figuring out
if I really did forget about him like I suspect I did or if he
was just being elusive, but asking anyway was a kind
of confession that didn't require forgiveness, a way to say
without saying so that last year's trip to the Philippines
felt like a stroll through a country full of shades, mostly full
of sun and lightning and the taste of fresh shellfish.
Besides, I needed to know if he had the voice that reminded me
of my favorite sandwich or the one with the very egg-like
personality. I just hoped he wasn't the one who liked
to talk with a mouth full of meat. When I dream
of that one, all I see are teeth.

January 9

Once, because the walls
of the remodeled home
were so thin, the whole
family listened
to my grandmother's urine
hitting the porcelain rim
of the toilet. It wasn't
a steady sound but more
of a trochee or iambic, depending
on where you stood and while
we waited for the sound to dissolve
we thought about the music
it resembled, if a famous singer
like Lea Salonga could pull off
a song to this beat, although we kept
that part to ourselves.

November 23

Despite the surprise I felt finding
my grandfather's coffin in the living room, I thought
the body looked good
if we ignored the heat and the poor
makeup job. Granted,
they kept him sealed behind glass so I couldn't
get close enough to really inspect
the body or hold his wrist, and I wanted
to brush from his collar the stray patch
of powder they used to color his cheeks,
adjust the hue of his lips, but all things considered,
at least he didn't smell, which makes me
feel optimistic since I'll be sleeping
in the room right across from him and the last thing
any of us wants is to sit down
to our meals and be reminded
of a body decomposing in the same room.
I preferred to think of him as someone who got bored
and passed out from watching the episode
of Survivor that's taken six months to get
to the Philippines, who prefers
taking his naps behind thin glass
with a vase full of flowers sitting
on his chest, and because everything
was so good, I didn't think
about the gash in his head. It must
have been like a little moon
escaping his scalp when he slipped
and fell in the bathroom, which according
to one relative, would have never happened
if he had been living in America.

Albert Abonado

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