To hold this peace

For Nasudi Francine, for saying that she cannot hold her tears

To hold this alien peace
you know is to look out the window
of her seven year-old soul.

She is your daughter
born of summer rains you did not see
and the fierce storms you read
in the papers, their wrath
yours as well for having left your country
too soon and not lingering but raging past
ships and seas that were cold
to your leaving. 

You left her, this one-year old
in between saying yes and no
and now at seven she tells you,
Come home to sing your lullaby 
so I can watch you tone down
your throat with the music
of your exile's longing, 
that one longing
that I know as well. 

She tells you of a quick repartee
you cannot take to heart:

I do not understand why each time
I say goodbye, the phone line cracks
and a lighting strikes my voice
and a thunder grips my fear
and my tears I cannot help
but let them roll. 

You tell me to put down 
the receiver first, father,
in that daily ritual of saying hello
and then the words grow warm
and I cannot let you go. 
I cannot, father,
I cannot put down the receiver
first. You do.
My arms would lose
all the strength
my small fingers that almost 
do not remember you
would grow numb with the thought
of not knowing you so.
I do not have the memory
of your guttural Ilokano voice,
your R's rolled and unrolled
depending on your rage or 
which message of repeated
absences imprisons you so
as you write with those hands
that do not tire of words
many I never saw. 
You tell me to keep 
on with my fairy tale books,
visit the countries 
in the geographies of their hopes
and in the Disneyland of my mind
I forget you are months 
and miles away.
Each day you speak to me
I would make you promise, again
and again: for us to go cross-country
in our dreams even as I lay awake
waiting for your coming
back into our midst.
Such fatherly absence 
coming in the quick
but we try to understand
why children like us
in this republic manned 
by thieves
would have to let go
of fathers and mothers
before we go to sleep with our fears.
We pray to the guardian angel,
and they are more now:
Exorcize, exorcize 
o guardian angel,
the reasons for our grief
in this homeland of our sorrowful birth.
Bring back, bring back
our fathers and mothers 
and the poetry of our relief.

You look at the receiver
and its promise of a redeemer
and the words you send grow warmer
as they grow colder. 

A. Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI/Jan 30/09 

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