Poetry / March 2016 (Issue 31)

On The Flight To Manila

by Kate Rogers

Teresa lends me her pen
for the immigration form.
I thought mine was full
of ink – indigo blue,
varicose as the vein in my left
knee which always swells at
35,000 feet. Teresa tells me,
I'm bringing three flats of Nutella –
my sister can buy it in Luzon
but says it tastes better from the U.S.
Eight tubes of Lays sour cream and onion.
Eight of barbecue flavour...
Seatbelt sign off, the stewardess
stalks past, water
jug her trophy, smile
polished salt water pearls.
Teresa asks me the time.
I show her the full moon face
of my short-sighted teacher watch,
mention the conference at
University Santo Thomas.
Teresa wants me to know,
she is not a Hong Kong domestic
helper who works two
hours away by plane,
but seldom goes home.
Not a woman who tucks in
strangers' children, sleeps
in a closet where there is
only space to lie down on the
narrow bed and clothes are hung
on walls instead of pictures
of saints.   
Teresa's been travelling for 23 hours.
Her son-in-law in Phoenix,
Arizona always runs the air con.
Her Padaba, the nino,[i] starts
school next week – setting her free
to fly home – he catches many colds.
Her daughter is an RN on
permanent night shift
in the isolation ward.
Teresa is returning to her birthplace,
bearing gifts: her prize
the large sausage for her mother
who turns ninety next week.
She lives alone, doesn't eat much,
so neighbours can
plant her paddies. She sells all her
sweet potatoes. When the sun
sets behind the mountains, her mother
walks down to the river to count
star fruits on her trees.
What kind of sausage? I want to know.
The garlic kind, Teresa explains,
with lots of fat...thick
as a farmer's wrist,
a donkey's part. 
Teresa winks:
Ukrainian butcher
in the mall! Always
gives me a good price.
Kolbasa![ii] I yelp.
Tell Teresa about
my trip to the market
by the lake in Toronto
last summer. The gift
for my mother,
who clapped her hands
when  she unwrapped the long
fragrant coil of meat
from wax paper
and shouted,
Horse's cock!
Mother peeled back
the sheath, sawed off chunks,
chewed with her mouth open,
lips shining with grease.
While she ran her tongue
over her teeth red squirrels
shinnied up her bean plants,
the hare leapt over the
chicken wire into the lettuce patch.
Teresa turns in her seat, leans
over to get a good look at my face
as we begin our descent
towards a bright constellation,
Where did you say you are from?

[i] Padaba – beloved; nino – little boy

[ii] Ukrainian garlic sausage

Website © Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2007-2018
ISSN 1999-5032
All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.