is born in times of desperate necessity,
given shape by a growing ambition
and substance by opportunity.
Grandfather grew to young adulthood
in Ilocos Norte, Philippines, then a
U.S. Commonwealth territory
his youth tempted by just how far he
might go, reminded of a territorial power,
a past imperialism, and by
the echo of his father–bent and creased
by unforgiving years of hard farming
sinking into winter–
the portal to a different grace coming in the
form of a contract offered by the
Hawaii Sugar Plantation Association.
Grandfather’s calloused palms convincingly
seals the transpacific passage for himself,
his young bride and toddler son.
Crossing the tides of the Pacific,
grandmother’s oval face pales with a pulse
blooming strong in the swell of her belly.
Five of eleven children are birthed at home–
Kawela Camp, Haina Camp and Overend Camp,
delivery overseen by the
same doctor who tends the plantation’s mules.
Every child born a thief of time and of scarce
Even as grandmother supplements
meager meals with vegetables grown in her
garden, the color of hunger drains wearily
from grandfather’s face, and with it,
his individuality. In an illuminating moment, he
tells a neighbor of the impossibility of return to the
Philippines–to see a brother he never met
and his father, bones long cold in his grave. His own
spawn, like the equatorial sun, drop fast,
mature quickly, speaking the language of America.
Home–abundant with the syllables of sound
–the silence of his Filipino mother’s voice.