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poetry by Shelby Millarez Meyers


The doctor split

my mother’s pregnant husk

and heaved the drupe apart.

I poured out as a milky white stream. A pool

of gata at her swollen feet.

I solidified, fermented

nata de coco.

I began to look solid.

Maayong aga.


Worse than the raccoon that rolled its dying corpse under the trailer,

my mother cooked daing na bangus outside on a hotplate

to protect my American father from the stench.

For breakfast she would squat in dirt

and turn fossil in frying pan.

She fed me words

rolled in jasmine rice

and pressed into bangus.

25 pesos lang!


Speak English, they say.


When she talks,

when she parts her lips and speaks into the phone

I see

tide past her teeth.

The long, strong arms of the paraw sailboats steadying themselves

on the waves,

crashing along the soft palate.

They must rest along the sugary sand when she is quiet.

A fisherman’s song –

salty fish dried on a tin roof

swimming metallic in halved calamansi and soy sauce.


To the God back home –

to the homeless god

nesting in the O of the Hollywood sign.

She prays twice.


Speak English, they say.


Please God, someone give

the child the Heimlich,

she is choking on

fish bones.

She sweats acidic. She spits small seeds like copperhead

BB pellets. A small, foreign machine.

Susmaryjosep, she coughs up blood!

Red and thick like shrimp paste.

She isn’t brown like you, let her have a chance.


They say:

I own your throat

and your collar bones.

Speak English, speak English.


I speak English. She says.


Well then, don’t speak.


Shelby Millarez Meyers

Born in Negros Occidental, Philippines, Shelby Millarez Meyers immigrated to America when she was a young child. She is currently studying Humanities at New College of Florida. You can find her on twitter @ ShelbyMillarez. 

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