Our stomachs ripe with rice and lechon,
we walk the quiet house, retire to the bent bed.
Salt and San Miguel coat my tongue.
Your mother, this year’s widow, whispers
prayers in the room across the hall,
preparing to dream in another language.
You fall asleep while I read. Nothing new, this.
But here, thirteen hours ahead of our regular lives,
launched from the patterns we’ve cross-stitched
into our medium-sized American city,
I again see how beautiful you are:
flat on your back, legs crossed at the ankle,
your body laid out on the sunken mattress
as if struck down by an unforgiving wind.
You will not cry for your father. But I will.
I do. At moments like this when you can’t see it.
Your chest rises and falls, higher and deeper
and higher, each breath threatening to float you
up and away from me, out into this province
of copper huts and motorcycles, where
darkness falls early and a low hum radiates
from the long spine of the night. I reach
for your hand and my hand slips on the sheets.
I press my fingers together; I make a bracelet
around your wrist, one more thing you’ll never see.
For my mother-in-law
Here the widow wearing the deceased’s gloves,
scraping ice from the windshield, her hands
inside his hands, not clasped like they were
during the courtship in Cleveland all those
years ago, or on the plane home to the Philippines,
where they first married their pasts over a meal
spread across banana leaves; no, her hands
actually inside his hands, moving his fingers
for him now, returning life to his engineer’s grip,
the thick dark digits so ripe, so healthy then,
not last winter’s wasted casings of bone – last
winter, when he would have done this for her
if he could have risen from the wheeled bed:
chipped the fallen sky apart for her to see.
Jason Nemec’s stories and poems have appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Washington Square, Rattle, Meridian, Nimrod,storySouth, Verse Daily, Tinge, and various other magazines. The above poems are from a forthcoming poetry collection entitled Flies are many in the Philippines. Jason lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he teaches and is at work on a novel.