holy mary: rachel sipin espanola
SPECIAL ISSUE: PINAY
melissa r. sipin
A wise bird once told me: give up. A wise bird once said: give in. A wise bird once flew high and high and then fell by the limbs, fell because the flap of the wings failed, because the sky said, “No,” because the earth said, “Come,” because the wind said, “Fall.” A wise bird once flew up and up to the great blue and empty sky and met the sun, and the sun said, “Burn.” A wise bird once told me to work hard and fail. A wise bird born of seven thousand islands once worked hard and failed. A wise bird born of seven thousand islands once won all her people’s birdsongs and the birdsongs of beauty, the birdsongs of knowledge, the birdsongs of prayers and oils and power but the wise bird was not a bird but a babaylan instead, she was a black bird a bird who grew within the belly a bird that flew in the lungs a bird who became afraid of calamansi, salt, garlic, charcoal, and coconut stick once the Spanish came, a bird of unborn fetuses and a black long tongue a bird who made your oil burn burn burn she was not a bird but a pig, a dog, a hound, a succulent pig, a bat, a large screeching tik-tik-tik wak-wak-wak hear me—kita ay iwawala, kun akoy mey kakawnan, lalabay ka. No, she was a priestess poet who once swallowed a black bird, a small bird, a tik-tik-tik long tongued bird. The wise priestess poet once called me beautiful, once called me young, once called me dalaga without mercy, once called me a young priestess poet who will never fly or sing or reach the sun or see the stars because my bird wings were too frail, too weak, too young, too undeveloped, too petty, too sad, too rejected. The wise poet took me by the arms and with her violent tongue tried to rip off my wings and I almost fell by the burden of my loneliness. But I flew instead. I did not fly to the sun, I did not fly to the stars, I did not fly, I glided, I struggled, I sang, I remembered why the caged aswang sings. I flew up and up and up to the clouds, over the sun, and straight to the moon. At the moon, I told the blackness I came from dirt and soil and I once met a wise bird a black bird a succulent bat pig woman who told me I would never fly. I told the moon she was wrong. I told the moon she was me.