What if the stars you see at midnight
are your body parts scattered? Here lies

Orion your right shoulder Betelgeuse
bright blistering red giant shining the webs

of your toes and fingers? Our bodies glow
depending on what war ended, on what year

you ask us—the war ended on our skin
-care kits, chinese firecrackers, cathedrals

bombed during World War II. People
forget this: We are birthed

from one mouth to another. Gunpowder
on our throats. This country is built

not from the ashes of trees but of ghosts.
The sky is a spitting image of September

in Davao of 2016. The belly of the night is full
of factory smoke, enough to blanket our faces

and kiss the dead goodnight. The fog lifts,
and we see it—the sea splitting on the horizon

where a boat swerved around the Julian Felipe
Reef and another, again, another boat

not of our own as if canine, as if packs
of wolves on the loose. Immediately, I run

my fingers through my keyboard and Google says:
Spratly Islands is Kapuluan ng Kalayaan

in Tagalog but also Quần đảo Trường Sa in Vietnamese
and Nánshā Qúndǎo in Chinese, Location: South China Sea.

Yes, you heard it right. It’s as if the translation is just
a translation without claim, without holding

the water, the seaweeds, the whales, the gods
buried underneath—where my face is my face

until I forget that it’s mine. I imagine
in this dark abyss of my ancestry—the corals

as if they were my ancestors’ spirits:
all the names I can’t recall because they do

not matter now as if sunken ships, as if forgotten
treasures, as if sand dunes. How would I know

when I’m empty and quiet like breath?
But unlike them, I pretend that I can speak

for the dead. This language—in this way—pull
these teeth out of my body—all the carcass

left in my mouth whenever I say:
Gusto kitang mahalin nang walang bahid at may hustisya.

See: gusto (fr. gusto), See: hustisya (fr. justicia)

but SEE: I can’t greet you without remembering
the tongue is once a slave whenever I say kumusta


Author’s Notes:

Gusto kitang mahalin nang walang bahid at may hustisya.

English translation: I want to love you without remorse and with justice


gusto is from the Spanish word gusto

hustisya from justicia

kumusta (how are you? or hello in English) came from como estas