photograph (circa 1989)
Refugee camp in the Philippines.
I sit, flanked by mother and aunt: my saviors.
Here, they are young again,
their bodies smooth and unscarred
beneath the white garments illuminating
from the shack’s interior.
No. This is not a metaphor
for angels—but there are halo shards
locked in their mouths. Do not believe
the light in their eyes, the grins stretched
so wide, there is no room for joy.
Do not say our names. These faces
cannot belong to the ruin they became.
Do not say our names as this flame grows
from the edge of the photo, the women’s smiles
peeling into grimaces, the boy spreading
into black smudge, filaments of fire
dissolving into wind. No, do not say our names.
Let us burn quietly into the lives
we never were.