The Bruised Ones

by Mark Dimaisip


The bruised ones are the sweetest, perfect
for smoothies. The blackest, almost rotten,
make the finest breads. Top dollar wisdom

from a Filipino mother: Overripe bananas
are first-rate. She raised me in a museum
of leftover buttons and coloured paper caskets.

Here, faucets never run out of rubber bands.
Oyster shells on my bedside lamp once broken
chandeliers. Pre-loved garments contoured

into plushies and mittens. Mosaic baseboards.
Collage walls. Origami ceilings. Morning
tablea is brewed with a side of life lessons:

When left with earthy fruits, bury everything
in sweetness. Pulot. Arnibal. Kalamay. Asukar.
Add sago. Pour condensada. Sprinkle pinipig.

Tropical summers crystalise with saging con yelo.
Every spoonful, a fruity winter candy-land kilig.
My mother prepares it with a seasonal script.

When she serves them, she quips, Ice love you!
Since moving out, a monthly request from home:
disposable glass bottles and plastic containers.

Arts and crafts era, I outgrew; but I still collect
so she could create. Kindness is best gifted
when handmade. Every time I visit, we overrun

the clothesline with her washed one-use bags.
I dust off our homemade paper maches. I fight
fruit flies, while sniffing out our next matamis.


Mark Dimaisip: I wanted to write about the things we sweep under the rug. As Filipinos, we normally tip-toe around difficult conversations, talking only about the brighter side, always sugar-coating a bad situation. This poem started at that attempt but the abundance of sweet imagery pulled it in another direction. As I followed the sound, I ended up writing about kindness and creativity and acceptance.

The ancestral home I grew up in in Passi, Iloilo is pretty much the house I described in the poem. Arts and crafts for furniture. Rubber bands on every tap. Almost everyone in the family is thrifty, a hoarder, and good at making do with available things. We would buy almost expired fruit (and even meat) at the market because it was cheaper, and then use condiments and other available ingredients to mask the lack of freshness.

As a kid, I wasn’t aware that this was because we couldn’t afford top-shelf produce. Money (or lack thereof) was never discussed. I was surrounded by people who celebrated whenever they got a bargain. We built tables, chairs and beds using trees felled during storms. We used magazines and newspapers to decorate the home, and recycled old clothes as toys. We pointed to what we had made with our hands and said: Look! This is beautiful.

Before I became a teenager, I moved to Manila and got immersed in a throwaway lifestyle. Money doesn’t just buy things, it also buys convenience. Whenever I visit Iloilo, there is still an overt clash of philosophies. While our elders take pride in raising professionals, they get a little offended when we give them material things. Their joy is unmatched whenever they make things from scratch.

Published: Tuesday 2 November 2021


Mark Dimaisip is a Filipino poet based in Manila. His works have appeared in Strange Horizons, Human Parts, The Brasilia Review, among other publications. He has spoken word tracks in Bigkas Pilipinas, and has performed on stages such as The Cultural Center of the Philippines, Muzium Nelayan Tanjung Balau, and Aliwal Arts Center in Singapore. Visit his website for more information.

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