Four Poems

by Marc Perez

“The Preparation” by  Verna Jayne Zafra-Kasala

“The Preparation” by Verna Jayne Zafra-Kasala


When the Heart Catches Cold

The counsellor suggests surrounding myself
with fragrant flowers to calm the limbic system.

“You’ll feel good,” she says, “and experience
drastic changes in your mood.”

The calligraphy scroll on her wall reminds me
of T’ao Ch’ien who, centuries ago, left the floating world

for gardens and fields to tend and die in—
honeysuckle, wisteria, pine and bamboo groves.

But there is no Spring in this city, so I go
to a dollar store for scents in plastic bottles,

and as if lost in a Cold Mountain mist,
let the vapour spread like a clandestine shroud

in the black mould basement
where I lie naked and alone at night

beside a leafless banyan bonsai that weaves
toward the full moon and bright stars.

A Family Affair


When rain and wind
coalesce in a wintry night
isolation’s sole consolation
is a sip of warm whisky,

while Kusano’s festive
frogs croak chaotically
on the dreary yellowed
pages of a paperback.


My dear father’s bones
different from Nakahara’s—
powder in marble
container, locked in closet,
brought out in nostalgia.


Mother flies to Chieko’s Sky—
though she rides no wind,

though she hears no voice,
though she chants no curse—

as her sunken eyes shed tears,
a man-child scribbles verses.

The Nanny

Your nanny graces my place
daily, around noon, on her break

time from your porticoed
Point Grey mansion.

She flutters noiselessly,
leaving traces of her presence,

scents sprinkled like magic dust
in my gloomy one bedroom basement—

touches of bleach, detergent crystals,
sparkling oven and countertops,  

sweet tea in the fridge and cassava cake,
a steamy pot of rice spiriting away.

On the table, a short note:
“Dear Bunso—Love, Nanay.”


I. Borderlands

fleeing from the country he had escaped to
he did not think snow could be so heavy
that the fanged fields of powder
could be sharper than a tyrant’s machete
slashing fingers and toes as he limped
through forests buried in whiteness
and trudged slowly on the dark faces
of rocks gasping for air
under the shadow of dead stars
he aimed a crystalline fist at the heavens
taunting the gods with a bonfire hunger
defiant biscuit embers that burned brighter
than the written and unwritten laws
of this and that land

II. Seas

the prime minister apologizes
for lives lost in St. Louis
as precious as those in Komagata Maru
or the sunburnt bodies adrift on rubber boats
bloating the Mediterranean
but he has no idea what it means
to be driven into exile
to salvage photographs already saved from fire
have no room for memories
to dock on a shore and not touch the sand
to be turned away again
and again left to be swallowed
by raging tides of men—
to be landless, sleep on waves, buried at sea


Marc Perez is a Filipino immigrant-settler on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. His creative nonfiction and short fiction appear in Ricepaper Magazine and PRISM international 56.3.