(For Nasudi, 6, on her graduation day. One day, she will read this. Or so I hope.)
You linger on and on with your thoughts
of home, and your dream of a reunion
filled with stories goes home. It is Sunday
where you are, and far away are days
keeping tract of your absence in years.
And you are counting.
A daughter, the youngest, is about
to graduate from her alphabets
with ribbons on her child's chest
and in between laughter and remembering,
she tries her best to speak classroom English:
'By the way, father,' she says, to break the silence
'by the way,' and her child's singsong
voice gets into your aching heart.
Tempus fugit, you say, with your Latin
rusting in your head, her English billowing
in the Marikina wind. You can only hope
that her Ilokano will come close to her studied accent
and the other languages of her ancestors:
Mandarin and Cantonese from her great grandfather's
from her mother's side, Pangasinan and Spanish
from her great grandmother's from her father's side,
and the endless love of parents
from her brother who brings her Dunkin Donuts
from her sister who sews rag clothes
for her Barbie dolls gone naked
in the early summer heat.
She shrieks with joy,
her laughter trailing so in the breeze
the ridges of mountains spill out.
'Will you come for my graduation?'
she asks, and the exile in your heart
cries out in pain. Does she ever know
the distance between longing
and sadness and the inability
to bridge them? You have forgotten
how to say the word 'no' with your absence
in ceremonies such as this.
The homeland, unhearing as it is,
will never come to know your exile's small griefs.
In moments like these, you can only
depend on Sunday sacraments:
with your lonely fingers thinking
of the healing power of touching
absences, you bead your prayers
for the best days ahead.
A Solver Agcaoili