Five Poems

by Cristina Denise Go


 "Twin Shadow" by  Jonathan Reinert  |  ISSUE FIVE

"Twin Shadow" by Jonathan Reinert | ISSUE FIVE


CITY OF LOVE
 

I. Bones

My brother used to giggle,
“Ancestry.com is for
white people,” since our last name
was washed in white brine from the

South China Sea. Salt gives you
root cravings. I can smell it
in the dried fish for breakfast
as Kong-Kong says, Kain na,

while his heart coughs up metal,
a pacemaker fixed by the
cardiologist upstairs in
our family boarding house. 

He shows me our bones outside, 
paper-wrapped in parts—
like meat from the Butcher’s. But
they scatter over the town

in ripped Coca-Cola ads,
those crumpled American
butterflies stamped on pink-turquoise,
red-emerald, purple-orange

Jeepneys, catching tie-dyed dust
on Santo Niño’s gold sclerae.
Their sinews are thick and tissue
strong with rusted scrap silver

sheets scalloped into prisons
and tumors, profuse with deep
red bougainvillea. These
skeletons are fortified 

by stucco, fleshy marble
fountains paid with blood, enough
water to quench a visceral
city like this. When it breathed,

I swear I heard the Saints all
sing, and I knew this earth was
tired, but graced; hungry and full.
He looks at me, his black eyes 

grayed as those green mountains screamed
ghosts and snakes and love and God, 
“This is your first, but not last, 
inheritance.”
 

II. Candles

Ama’s glasses are filled
with my shoulders’ reflections, 

her eldest foreign grandchild, 
but her laugh is tall, growth hormone

free as she slowly steps upstairs
to show me the second house shrine.

She lights plain white candles
in squat Vienna sausage cans

so we can ask Hail Mary,
Full of Grace, could you

also bless the graceless?
I thought I saw a star

on Her blue robe drip down in
waxy prayer to aluminum

rims cupped for the Eucharist,
across three blushed Chinese gods:

My love, may Maria bless
your long, wild prosperous life

mashed-up, raw-beautiful like
crushed halo-halo soup. 

 

III. Menagerie

For Friday dinner, we cross the street to Tita’s.
The simple grandness of her white house is hidden
behind a concrete twelve-foot wall, from which the growls
of muscular guard dogs echo: thieves of children,
of culture, of power beware. Tita’s most prized

Chow-Chow sits near, next to a spinning electric
fan, cooling his lush gold mane as a maid brushes
his fur. He is from Hong Kong, Tita laughs. I ask
to pet him, but they say he is too ferocious. I
can pet their deer outside, they say, after dinner.

I did not realize pancit molo was soup til
we sat down at the polished table (I only
knew bihon and palabok from Mama). It was
the dry season so I wandered to the garden
for fresh air. The maid walks me to bright parakeets—
vivacious birds singing, swooping, preening, their soft

feathers fanned against mischievous sampaguita
climbing their silver cages. I see the spotted
deer, mothers and fawns, but not before we pass
a lonely swan in the pond, her beak pushing pale
water lilies. Why doesn’t she fly? I ask. I 

don’t know my question in Illongo. When we leave,
I look back, watch the wall blend into buzzing street
lamps, pork barbecue, jasmine. We close the doors at
the Shell gas station, listen to the stray cats meow,
scurrying for fish bones, biting at beloved dark. 



JELLYFISH IN BACOLOD
 

It is called the City of
Smiles, he says, with a mouthful 

of melted chocolate, as
our ferry cradles Jurassic

Park III on a green TV—
passengers waiting for more
 
fossils to greet us, relics
of muscled action figures

from Tita’s house in summer,
submerged in silver water.

The ocean licks bendy straws,
karaoke flyers; laps

bottle caps on sandy docks
at Negros. I saw them bob—
    
inky, squashed bottom-down, 
happy-go-lucky smoke clouds

of jellyfish, floating home.
 



Bakunawa
 

I like to think of her as
a sea monstress, not a god,

                                                        who loved those seven moons—men
                                                        only crave women who sway

                                             into their orbit. When she
                                             swallowed them whole, wings splayed

                                                                             against the black, her hard scales
                                                                             flickered green-blue, mocking man-

                                             maimed constellations. I don’t know
                                             if the village’s drumming 


was enough to peel back that
thick membranous fat—see full 

                                                          moon carcasses spill fast from
                                                          her generous belly. But 

                                                                             they say she choked as six orbs
                                                                             rolled from her throat to the night.

                                                                     Her tail slipped into ocean,
                                                                     a happy thief of the last eclipse. 
    
                                           I wonder if those hunters
                                           still dream of carving her head.

                                                                             Who will cry when soft pulses
                                                                              from her bleak, deep fire go out?


MERMAIDS
 

She is no David. Her microcephalic head
is smaller than either of her plump, clumsy breasts.
Her glassy eyes do not even face the sea—
I was twelve and laughed at her disproportionate

curves. It wasn’t her fault her black hair fell in strings
awkwardly parted across rounded, white shoulders
or her fishtail grew into some rock, grounding her
from looking back home. Her stiff body lacks beauty—

a half-assed edifice to parrot sirenas,
brain-changelings from the male imaginary. 
Who knows who made you—a Pinoy Pygmalion
hopeful? You’re famous for your strange marine ugliness,

but it must be lonely—to stare into jungle
with a misshapen torso, thinking of how deep
your teeth could sink into human flesh that teased your
frozen spirit. You have gone hungry too long.
 


I LOVED HOW SOUND BECAME
 

fragile when I crinkled plastic honey-colored
wrapper around that polvoron in my 

hand. It was magical, like soft stain glass
I’d stare at when we prayed the Our Father. I ate

too many sweets that morning, but I wanted to watch
it crumble, feel the white nutty flakes turn into 

sugar dust, careful not to let them scatter to
Lola’s Tide-scented sheets. I couldn’t help it when 

yellow clumps began dribbling from my mouth,  
simmering with warm tears. My cheeks puff from losing

my dessert—it was too much for me to stomach—
Spanish powder, mixed in the motherland’s milk spilled

out on the checkered pink dress. I started scrubbing.
There are worse things to ruin.

I licked my lips, still tasting it sour.


Writer's Bio:

Cristina Denise Go currently lives in Durham, North Carolina. She received her B.A. in English and B.S. in Biology from the University of Florida. She dreams of laing and perfect rainy days.