Audrey L. Reyes
An Oral Lore on Family
content warning: implied rape attempt
My surnames are planets in the solar system of my ancestors’ colonizers.
I bind what little I have left of them in the mnemonics of my identity:
He who rules the Wolf of the Rose is royalty.
I repeat it like a mantra in my mother tongue until I feel it to be true—
Siyang nag-hahari sa Lobo ng Rosas ay maharlika.
How do I shed the milk of my skin,
when the sun kisses it but with reservations.
I have so often been mistaken
of another land than my own. I smile out of
politeness when they try to pin down an origin story
with every tongue they know. None of which mine.
In English, I counted to a hundred without fail,
but forgot what came after trenta.
They straightened my tongue to sound out tatlumpu,
but again, I rounded this mouthful to thirty.
My grandmother married a man twelve years her senior,
She talked about the scars on her knees from hiding out
to keep soldiers from taking her body.
I was born a year after the revolution that ousted a dictator.
I grew up microdosing my freedoms within a family
too young in history yet too old in expectations.
When I move around the sun to fulfil another year,
I try to travel the wounds the ancestors of my ancestors
broke open and left for maggots to feast on.
We didn’t inherit family recipes.
Instead, we heirloomed memories of tastes, sounds, and wants.
I’ve visited the tree of kinship
and found myself untied from my histories;
All but a whisper drowned out by a universe of missing details, and so
I cling to stories and gifts that beget lies.
Child of the sun returning
content warning: imagery of death, pain
Except the child is gone, or rather, the children have gone.
To greener pastures, to death beds, to lands that see night in place of Sun.
The child does not return to Inang Bayan. She does not stop them
from fleeing or dying or turning rogue, but She empties Her pockets
and waits to catch them when they return. To Her hands. To Her bosom,
to suckle on the doom, once again. Inang Bayan hopes
there is enough
milk to feed the hungry. But this stress is straddling
on Her lactation. The desperation pulls Her left breast
into fanged mouths that suckle Inang Bayan dry.
This same horror keeps Her right breast from healing. A cracked areola,
eternally split open and bleeding. A volcano spewing out mourning.
Inang Bayan stares off
the distance looking for Her children, wishing them well
in the new lands they’ve pledged to. But the Sun is in Her eyes,
burning them down to the nerve, a cataract borne of sorrow.
Inang Bayan attempts to crawl and catch Her falling children. They do not
do not cry.
They beg, beg, beg. The child is gone.
Or rather, the children perish
thinking Inang Bayan had left them to starve
alone. With the Sun in their eyes, they go back
to foreign lands that don’t quite embrace them,
thinking She has burned down into Earth.
Child of the sun returning is a lyric from the English version of the Philippine National Anthem.
Audrey L. Reyes (she/her) is a Filipino poet, writer, and former early childhood educator whose favorite workplace activity is raising hell. Her work has been featured in several online literary magazines, such as QUINCE Magazine, NECTAR, Anti-Heroin Chic, and has also appeared in anthologies and print issues from Marias at Sampaguitas, Hecate Magazine, superfroot, and Porridge Magazine (forthcoming). She resides in Manila, Philippines.