Memories of the Philippines (a poem)

This poem comes from a conversation that I had tonight with dear friends, she is from Iceland and he’s from the Philippines. Listening to memories of a childhood spent picking mangoes and swimming in the warm sea was poetry in and of itself. Memories of what grew in Iceland and Montana were remarkably similar and un-poetic: Rhubarb and crab-apples don’t lend themselves quite as nicely to verse.

Memories of the Philippines

It was too hot to water

the vegetables until after five-o-clock

the sun would burn tender leaves and the heat

was too much for a small boy

carrying buckets of water, pulled from

the well which teemed with frogs.

Siesta time was at two, and a boy could lie

quietly beside his mother, waiting until her breath

turned even, heavy with sleep and then slip

quietly, softly, from her side

to roam the deserted streets. Some days we

would steal fruit, which hung on every tree…

star apples, custard apples, mango, papaya

coconut and jackfruit

the sticky evidence of which was erased

with a swim in the warm sea.

Papaya trees grow fast, so fast that

they can be planted as a fence

and the green fruit is eaten like a vegetable.

Strip the green fan from a papaya leaf and use

the hollow center as a straw

(for breathing under water, they will

never see you coming).

Banana flowers are good to eat,

squash flowers and vine flower.

The blossoms of the Ylang Ylang tree

are golden cascades, so aromatic

that they are often found pressed

between the pages of Bibles,

a fragrance pleasing to the Lord.


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