Back home, we eat pig at every holiday, wedding, family gathering—your party
is nothing without it—and we give pig to the neighbors, we give pig
to anyone who wants pig, we even eat pig in intensive care. You can eat
a tender piece of pork belly while your IV drips, washes everything clean.
Even in the mausoleum, there is a marble table for pig, so even the dead
can come eat with their hands. I’d break you off an ear, the crunchiest
part. Back home, you can walk barefoot in the streets, but watch out
for hookworms and for your grandma who disinfects cuts by dripping hot oil
in your open wound. You would have so much family you wouldn’t know
what to do with, and yes, they are all smart, and yes, they would dote on you,
but they would find some way to ask you for money, to ask you for things
that you wouldn’t even think could be given, maybe that bracelet right off
your wrist or those shoes from America or for a few dollars to pay
for a distant cousin’s tuition or medical bills or business scheme.
They will be shameless in their asking. They will call in the middle of the night
when you’re already dying of cancer, and ask you for money, and when you say
you don’t have it as you cough up blood into the pillow, they will ask you to ask
your daughter for a slice of her savings. You will see all the children who can’t afford
the noodles on your unfinished plate, who would take your scraps as treasure.
How you waste. And I’ll want to slap you when you tell me to send your leftovers home.
Back home, there is a temple just for your dead aunt who did nothing but marry rich,
and it has Roman columns as if Cebu were ancient Rome, but it’s not. This is
the third world where priests have golden robes and steal from the poor,
in the name of God, so they can afford a Toyota. You can buy a driver’s license
for a toddler, which is why we’ll push you to go to Europe
because that’s where the educated go, that’s where the better people are,
which is why you’ll be so good at looking for good, as if the bad never touched you.
Allison Albino studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and has an MA in French literature from NYU. Her poems have appeared in the Apeiron Review, Punch Drunk Press, These Fragile Lilacs, and Poetry Northwest. She also has a craft essay published in The Critical Flame. Her poem “Advice From My Immigrant Father” was a finalist for the 2017 Joy Harjo Poetry Award. She was a recipient of the Lucille Clifton Memorial Fellowship from the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and has also received fellowships from The Fine Arts Work Center and Tin House. She was also selected for the AWP Writer-to-Writer mentorship program and has twice been a poetry contributor at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She teaches French at The Dalton School and lives in Harlem.• Photo: David Strefling