White Grass

Defense

Mariel Alonzo

Whereas he would measure a banana’s sweet

like a baby learning tightness. Whereas his finger so full

of mining my eyes of sleep yet I never spilt a tear.


Whereas he’d tuck those spider webs perfectly intact

away from my rip, a length as far as his arm would deep

inside the carabao’s anus to reach and carry over


his chest a cradle’s worth of shit. Whereas sometimes

after he’d been freed, I’d see him try this on himself

but he could only go wrist-deep, and he would breathe


yes breathe. Whereas he sewed me a veil from old

mosquito nets and pretended to send me off, his heart-

beating louder than the carabao’s hooves. Where-


as beneath his bed a yellow Star margarine tub kept

spring rolls of money held by a rubber band, a bouquet

which one day would scent my hand. Whereas, it was I


who bit the bitter litter of ex-presidents as uncle

taught me how to tell time by his hip’s tick-tock. Whereas

I lied, and father rocked his knees close to the devil


as he pieced the archipelago of hundred-peso bills

together. The missing lip in Republika ng Pilipinas, split-

lipped Mayon volcanoes and crippled whale sharks


forgiven. Whereas he moonlighted and in the high

tide caught a rare fish without a hook, repaid my uncle’s

patience. Whereas long hairs began to itch, eggs


glittering like dew in the cogon grass, and father

would plow through with a fine-toothed comb barely

letting a dandruff fall. Whereas he had to lay the lice,


both fat and young, on a thumbnail and grind it with

his other one. Whereas I wouldn’t peek afraid to find

more than my blood on his hands. Whereas I lied,


and he’d buy medicine from a pharmacy three towns

down, while I palmed my curved drumhead, wondering

how loud a beat would have to be to drown


the tiny rhyme inside, its hymn I couldn’t break instead

danced with each kick. Whereas I couldn’t pick up my legs

fast enough to outrun his fists, made firewood out of


the crate in his brother’s chest. Whereas with the blade

of his hand swept his nephew’s spilt powdered milk back

into its tin can. Whereas he would pour his wrists


into the warm mold of a handcuff willingly and while

he gave himself into the police station’s aisle, told me

of the pressed flowers hidden under his bed. Whereas


I would trust my teeth and let another boy shed the

hacienda between my thighs, his cry as long as his grand-

father’s sentence. Whereas, he would choke the cold from


prison bars without ripping a rusted flake, dip his arm

sometimes in between. The gold caking him I smear

away as he reaches into everywhere to hold me here.


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