Of Colored, Dignified Tongues Conference:

things i learned from home
&
where did you get
all those english from?
(an excerpt)

Janice Sapigao


things i learned from home

how forgetting grows inexcusable
how lying and dishonesty are different and the way she raised me is proof
how the past does not stand behind you
how you and your ancestors wake up together
how our lives are busy with those that don’t love us back
how fire turns orange turns red turns blue turns numb
how the difference between privacy and quiet is misconstrued
how sleeping is a refused path of healing
how questions are tricks but tools
how miracles don’t need me
how blessings don’t feel good
how hard loneliness blames companionship
how the moment of falling walls is the moment theirs go up
how evasion is a swagger tactic
how joy slips past laughter
how it takes repetition to find truth
how love is tortured by interrogation
how absence pangs a shadow
how secrets are the fibers of woman
how the right place is the pond in the palm of your hands
how scars look like on the inside
how tragedy chooses to challenge you


Image: Janice Sapigao

Image: Janice Sapigao

Where Did You Get All Those English From?
(an excerpt)

On nights that I couldn’t sleep, I looked around at our room. From our bed in the middle of the room, I’d stare at our closet door, with a busy rack that Ma used to hold all of our winter jackets. Then, my eyes would wander over to the mirror and bureau that held mine and Rocky’s school uniform clothes, Ma’s jewelry and her bills and paperwork. Of all the eight drawers in the bureau, Rocky and I each had one to ourselves. It was one of the only places where we could put whatever we wanted. My drawer was on the top right. It was at just the right height for me. My drawer had notebooks, Babysitter’s Club books, sticker albums, my diaries and anything I ever got from Sanrio. My Ma let me put my jewelry holder on the counter because it didn’t fit in my drawer. I loved my drawer and I loved all of the things I had inside of it. It was the one drawer that my Ma didn’t ever open or organize for me. It was all mine. 
  
Next to the T.V. was another set of drawers for more of mine and Rocky’s clothes. Our regular clothes for play and sleep were kept in there. Ma kept her clothes neatly folded in piles on the cardboard mats in the closet. Next to the set of drawers was a pile of boxes from our old apartment. I think Ma meant to unpack them, but we rarely found the time to do it. 
 
Before I fell asleep, I always prayed because Ma told me to. At first, I didn’t know how to pray. Ma said to just think and direct my thoughts at God. I would often stare at the ceiling wondering how it got textured. But there were times when I thought things that I didn’t want him to know, so I made sure to only think up to him by thinking in letter format. All of my prayers began (and still do to this day) with “Dear God, it’s me Magdalena…” and I always made sure to end with the same signature, “Sincerely, Magdalena.” I asked God for good things. I prayed that he would keep what was left of my family together. I told him to watch over Doddy, wherever in heaven he was, because I thought God still overlooked people from a cloud even in heaven. I asked for things that would make me sleep easier on nights to come. When listing off individual people in my life took too long, I asked him to watch over all of the people in our new house and I asked him to keep us together “for days, weeks, months and years to come” in the event that I would fall asleep before praying, or that I would fall asleep without waking. I didn’t want him to give us death anymore. Frankly, I thought God owed us for taking Doddy. God really must have unthinkable grace to have the balls to do what he did. Ma and Untee Glo told me that God needed Doddy. But so did I. I needed him so that he could meet my kids when they would be my age. I needed him so that he could find me when I fell sick on first days of school like I did earlier that year.  And since I didn’t have any say in the matter, I thought God owed me. He owed me enough to leave my family alone and to leave my Ma with me. So I prayed every night just to remind him that he couldn’t take her.


Janice Sapigao participated in the Of Colored, Dignified Tongues: Writing Conference in Spring 2013 as a featured reader. Janice is a Pinay poet, writer and educator born and raised in San Jose, CA. Her work has been published in {m}aganda Magazine, In Motion Magazine’s “100 Poems of Solidarity for Haiti”, the Urban Confustions Journal, Stone Highway Review, TropMag.com and Words Apart Mag, among others. She earned her M.F.A. in Critical Studies/Writing at CalArts and enjoys playing with stuffed animals, drinking green tea, running and cooking. She lives in the Bay Area and teaches at Skyline College and San Jose City College.