Before Your Arrival
the ones who brought your father here, come. Bring
with them whole almonds, dried berries & clementines
wrapped in cloth. Their clothes & smart shoes too.
They come looking for the place I've taken your father.
Looking for the New York City that could rival home.
Your Abba loves the East Village, its graffiti, trash
& all the languages on all the streets. On 14th & 1st,
we visit the Phillipines. Elvie's Turo Turo.
But this trip, he wants to see more. So,
we travel to Little Philippines, Queens, 69th
off the 7 train, off the 7 the whole of Queens
opens wide for us. Travel agents & whole-
sale, send anything back for cheap, travel
for cheap, return, return. We buy OK
magazines by the handful for gossip
Tagalog with English subtitles, glossy
photos, Pacquiao, his chiseled grin, everywhere.
And we eat. Krystal's where they serve
marinated pork belly, sinigang na baboy,
kare-kare, pancit bihon, & lumpiang sariwa,
I listen close to it all. Deep fried ruffle fat,
poolee noodles with shrimp, milkfish.
Your Abba fake orders pork blood stew
but I am sure I would eat anything here
because this is how much I trust the two
who brought your father up in the world.
We eat sing-sing & pork in tamarind soup.
This is how to say snack in Tagalog: Merienda,
Merienda is snack. This is how to say ice-cream
in Tagalog: halo-halo, halo-halo
is ice-cream. This is how to leave your country.
Don't look back. You will only see the islands
melting away. Halo-halo. This is how to say snack in tagalog.
Merienda. This is how to feel of one place & of one more.
Back home, we sit, get caught up. I read
about mansions in Manila, how to make millions,
facelifts & silken hair, red lips, muscles & beauty.
In Tagalog, I muddle through, while your Abba
laughs, translates, translations get muddled too.
This is how to raise a baby in two places at once, & how
it feels to live and move in two worlds. At once.
Used by permission.
Ellen Hagan is a writer, performer, and educator. Her poetry and essays have appeared in literary journals, magazines, and anthologies, including her most recent publications in: Spaces Between Us, and She Walks in Beauty, edited by Caroline Kennedy. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2004 and 2008. She has received grants from The Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts, The Kentucky Foundation for Women, and held residencies at The Hopscotch House and Louisiana ArtWorks. Ellen holds a MFA in Fiction from The New School University in New York. A proud Kentucky writer, she is member of the Affrilachian Poets, Conjwomen, and co-founder of the girlstory collective. Crowned, her debut collection of poems was published by Sawyer House Press in 2010.
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