Real Courage

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.



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