In Medias Res
“A mother is a story with no beginning.” ~Meghan O’Rourke
Suddenly fried fish appears on my plate beside the jasmine rice,
which moments ago were submerged in cloudy water, dented by my mother’s
Mother of milk and mist and enchanted hands.
Here is someone who bore me, I passed through her like an egg through a serpent.
I’ve never thought her born, until I’ve understood the intricacies of my grandmother.
Shards of stories of burning cities and cave dwellings during wartime.
Being watchful but not seen. History told through silences.
The temporal light reaches towards ever so faintly.
Nasaan ka?, the boy asks. Where are you?
There she is on the plate. Again, when she wakes me in the still-dark morning,
child dumbed into believing he was resurrected in night’s sickle-moon cradle.
She saves the sausage oil.
Pours hot water into bathwater.
She disappears, then, after school, reappears.
When I see her is always a beginning.
She’s a child’s power to divine. She swoops down the glint of my presence. Greek
verses, chorus-sung. Tragedies tidily wrapped up. Oh, to believe in that magic.
Formerly I was not here, then—.
I arrived nearly in the middle of her leafing,
she once a tendril of a girl with a chipped front tooth floating in a lake.
Narrative: a woman falls in love with a man as her son will fall in love
with a man. Until then, the son disappears into sleep.
Mother Houdini, chained to my fever dream.
Unseen is the past where my mother, fitted with a white veil, sat.
Unknowable as a photograph.
after January Gill O’Neil
We slice heads off
the okras, strewn
like mutinous bounty
on the kitchen table,
my sisters and I giddy
with small knives,
helping to feed
the family pods,
Our mother heats
the pan, throws in
the adobo mixture:
of garlic, vinegar,
and soy sauce,
flavorful bay leaf.
simmer and soak
while we gather
the adhesive tops,
stick one each to
as if we’re unicorns,
or on our heads
like fire hydrants.
Multiple caps on
our faces: horns,
spikes, boils as if
our bodies are
diseased, but we
know we’re going
to be fed, will
day. In the future
we’ll learn its name
is derived from
on our plates.
the rice pot puffing
its tympanic lid.
Joseph O. Legaspi is the author of the poetry collections Threshold and Imago, both from CavanKerry Press; and three chapbooks: Postcards (Ghost Bird Press), Aviary, Bestiary (Organic Weapon Arts), and Subways (Thrush Press). Recent works have appeared in POETRY, New England Review, World Literature Today, Best of the Net, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day. He cofounded Kundiman (www.kundiman.org), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature. He resides with his husband in Queens, NY.