Joseph O. Legaspi and January Gill O’Neil

I was looking up poems on divorce when I found this one. I just like visual imagery of it. Legaspi was born in the Philippines and moved to the US at age twelve. He currently lives in NYC, and works at Columbia University.  In 2004 he cofounded Kundiman, a nonprofit organization serving Asian American poetry.

Joseph O. Legaspi

My Mother’s Suitors
Joseph O. Legaspi, 2017
The moment my mother tells me she’d fallen out of love
with my father, the Santa Ana winds still
for a wingbeat second and the lemon trees
shudder in the backyard, their fruits falling
in a singular hushed thud.
It is a quiet shaking. I sit across
from her at the kitchen table, a man
now, new to shaving. The knowledge
is no revelation to me, not a throbbing secret
made flesh, not a downy egg sac of spiders,
rather, for years, this lovelessness skulks
in our household like mice with bellies full of rice.
How did I earn this disclosure, and why
after a slippery-fingered dinner of sweet pork sausages
and sliced tomatoes swimming in fish sauce?
The Santa Ana resumes its torturous blasting.
My mother then speaks of past suitors:
those who brought her gifts of rose water,
sugar cane, and summer melons; the jetsetters
who promised her the lavish gems of Kona
and Hong Kong; lovers who mastered the rhumba’s
oceanic waves, the tempter’s hipsway of the tango.
It is astonishing what sustains a person,
what we live on, how my mother has blossomed
with age, as she savors her secret history.
I can’t help but envision her by a window,
leaning into the night as her serenading suitors
gather below her, surrounded by sampaguitas,
luminous children in moonlight.

I discovered the next one by looking up poems on eating, and one of the ones it came up with was this gem about one of my favorite Southern foods, okra. It is awesome fried with some cornmeal but is also great in curry. The author was born in Norfolk, Virginia though she now lives in Massachusetts. She is, according to this bio, “the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, O’Neil also serves on the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ board of directors and teaches at Salem State University.”

January Gill O'Neil

In Praise of Okra
January Gill O’Neil, 2009
No one believes in you
like I do. I sit you down on the table
& they overlook you for
fried chicken & grits,
crab cakes & hush puppies,
black-eyed peas & succotash
& sweet potatoes & watermelon.

Your stringy, slippery texture
reminds them of the creature
from the movie Aliens.

But I tell my friends if they don’t like you
they are cheating themselves;
you were brought from Africa
as seeds, hidden in the ears and hair
of slaves.

Nothing was wasted in our kitchens.
We took the unused & the throwaways
& made feasts;
we taught our children
how to survive,
adapt.

So I write this poem
in praise of okra
& the cooks who understood
how to make something out of nothing.
Your fibrous skin
melts in my mouth—
green flecks of flavor,
still tough, unbruised,
part of the fabric of earth.
Soul food.

Advertisements

Uphill Battle

Without going into too many details, the last year has been really hard on me emotionally and I feel like I’m just crawling my way out of a deep dark hole.  At first I thought there was no way out of it, but with a lot of help from friends and family, I am starting to see the daylight again. For the first time in a very long time, I am starting to be happy again, though my journey is far from done. When I saw this this afternoon, I just had to share it. Check out Grant Snider, he does some great illustrations on being a writer and struggling with emotions and motivation.