tapestry feet: jun-jun sta. ana
SPECIAL ISSUE: PINAY
Objects & Artifacts
I enter the air-conditioned room, a maze of glass cases. Here,
a lace-up dress stretched over a headless bust.
White taffeta layers bloom and cascade like a wedding cake.
Between this statue and myself, I see my ruddy face reflected
in the glass. And which is the ghost: this colonial woman,
headless, eyeless in her eyelet dress, or me, gazing back?
In the adjacent case: grey, tarnished krisses; a bolo; the sharp tips
poke my eyes. A headdress with red and black feathers fans the city
out of me. A rice god, elbows on knees, watches, so far from his domain.
Philippine playing cards sleep in a stack. The top one stares back.
My face is framed by the oval shape surrounding its subject: a sightless
boy, holes for eyes, the rice picker's conical hat. Skin like coffee.
He rides an elegant water buffalo. I imagine myself there.
Was this a real boy modeling for the artist? Flies and mosquitoes hovering,
the kalabaw's tail swatting, back bristling? Sweat behind the boy's ear,
a desire to be witnessed. And the painter, sent to collect the very best,
a mess of putrid sweat gathering under his thick suit, skin crawling
in the heat. Or was the boy a figment, just one like many others?
If I were there:
1904, a souvenir:
Which suit would I become?
Catalog of Objects
1 Beaded bag
2 Beaded necklaces
3 Carved statues of the rice god
1 Set of Filipino playing cards
You walk into the Missouri History museum. You see white everywhere: alabaster casts of women in Victorian dresses, plaster infused with “staff” from the Philippines. Lion heads and the columns of the Palace of Fine Arts. Victorian men and women sit atop elephants, smiling in tall black hats and mustaches and finely pressed jacket, brown men on either side. The placard marked “Labor” shows Africans and Asians bent over to build, to clean, to make the Fair grand.
You dream that night: statues a creepy feel swimming in dark waters I touch warm flesh underwater underfoot find out they’re dead recently dead lots and lots of stairs two six year old boys they want me to follow them the bus is waiting I’m lagging like I don’t want to go the bus is parked above lots of steps it’s really hot moving slow there’s a woman who likes me slippers on slippers off I can’t find mine now a movie theater and behind the theater a shopping market
2 Bontoc Head Hunters
1 Visayan Girl
1 Geisha Girl
1 Esquimaux Family
1 Hoochie Coochie Girl
You see the daguerreotypes of Filipinos, Native Americans, Eskimos, Arabs, and Japanese, assembled in one cluster on the wall. Nearby, you see playing cards of Filipinos and a beaded Bagobo dress behind the glass case. You see your face reflected in the glass.
* Primary source on display at the Missouri History Museum
All poems appear in SOUVENIR (WordTech Editions 2014). The book can be purchased or adopted here.
Aimee Suzara is a Filipino-American poet, playwright, and performer. Her mission is to create, and help others create, poetic and theatrical work about race, gender, and the body to provoke dialogue and social change.