poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

July 15, 2013

POEMS: Litany, In Memory of Aiyana Jones & Trayvon Martin

Here are two spoken word poems: the first one is a draft that I wrote the morning after the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, the second one I wrote two years ago.

 

Litany VIII, In Memory of Aiyana Jones and Trayvon Martin

© by Emily P. Lawsin

*

A fellow writer once said that

poems should not just be a list

re-telling events, because that

treads on the territory of

journalism, or gossip rags.

But when you live in a place where

bulldozers routinely tear down

homes with elderly crouched inside,

*

mass destruction is considered

normal, and Black children are shot

after reality TV

crews and SWAT teams ignore dolls and

tricycles in the yard and hurl

flash-bang grenades through front windows,

you search for news reports, hoping

none of your suspicions bear truth.

*

You pause to pray and remember:

*

1929: Fermin Tobera (Watsonville, California).

1955: Emmett Till (Money, Mississippi).

1963: Medgar Evers (Jackson, Mississippi).

1982: Vincent Chin (Highland Park, Michigan).

2006: Fong Lee (Minneapolis, Minnesota).

2006: Chon Buri Xiong (Warren, Michigan).

2009: Oscar Grant (Oakland, California).

2010: Aiyana Jones (Detroit, Michigan).

2010: John T. Williams (Seattle, Washington).

2012: Trayvon Martin (Sanford, Florida).

2013: Rodrigo Abad Diaz (Lilburn, Georgia).

*

These names: just a fraction of a

list of lament. What do they share

in common? Their killers walked free,

only one convicted, but not

until 31 years later.

The story of our nation, stained

by the brown blood of our children,

shot or beaten to death as they

*

rode their bike home, or as they laid

cradled in their beds fast asleep,

or simply walking down the street,

ambushed by bullets, baseball bats,

buried, but never forgotten.

As mothers, what do we say to

our children facing these assaults?

How do we protect them before

*

History repeats itself

Again?

 

 

July 14, 2013

Emily P. Lawsin lives in the metro Detroit area.

 * * *

*

A Litany, To Little White Liars

© by Emily P. Lawsin

 

are you not aware that

our ancestors won revolutions

against centuries of colonial rule

do you not realize that

your people cut our tongues

erased our languages and burned our villages

are you not aware that

we descend from warriors

who fought for this country’s freedom in their sacred homelands

do you not realize that

our parents were held captive as innocent citizens

separated for years in horse stables then behind barbed wire

are you not aware that

our mothers stuffed pillows up their skirts

fleeing to charred hills so your army would not rape them

do you not realize that

our fathers suffered beatings and delirium

in death marches through deserts, yet still survived?

*

THEN LET THIS SERVE AS FAIR WARNING:

*

we know what revolution is

because our ancestors gave birth to it.

*

we taste it in the scars in our mouths

every time we swallow.

*

the poison you bombed our homelands with

seeps out of our blood as daily reminders

*

and we will not rest until the nightmares of sirens

echoed in your voice stops ringing in our ears.

*

Ann Arbor, May 12, 2011

 www.emilylawsin.com

* * *

 

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April 12, 2013

POEM: “Salmon Run” (in 6 incomplete Tweets) #NaPoWriMo Day 12

April 8, 2013

POEMS + Excerpts from Miscarriage V: Lost in Translation, 2003. [NaPoWriMo Day 8]

2003

September 19, 2012

My Favorite Blair Poems and Songs: Happy 45th Birthday Blair (RIP)

I am thinking of my brotherfriend, the late David Blair, on what would have been his 45th Birthday. Here are some of his poems and songs that I love and listen to the most. I feel so thankful for all the gifts that he shared with our family and the world. 

http://www.thebestphotographerindetroit.com/davidblair

Blair, 2006. Photo by David Lewinski.

Excerpt from “Behind the Garage” Poem

by David Blair, 2002 National Poetry Slam

. . . I know people think I’m crazy

Because I dare to believe

That stars can fall into my cereal bowl

And mingle with the milk swirls.

And I know it’s irrational to

Throw crayons at God

And ask him to color the sky purple.

Yet, I remember the time that I did,

And the next morning I awoke to royalty skyward

To a majestic landscape of fantastic above.

And I remember later that evening

Finding the ladders tucked away behind the garage

Strewn amongst thousands of Crayola boxes all missing violets.

Does my memory serve me correctly or was there none of this?

Am I mad?

I won’t be angry.

It’s just that you’ve been dead for so long now

But I still wake up from dreams of you running through fields of flowers

The sound of one hundred acoustic guitars strumming and picking a beautiful music.

Today, I heard a music that could make the snow shine,

That could make the dead leaves claw a path through the lawn away from me.

Today I saw the beautiful shadow of a bird soar across a concrete wall,

Was that you?

 ~by Blair

* * *

Blair’s performance of “Behind the Garage”  helped the Detroit Slam Team win the National Poetry Slam in 2002. Coach Aurora Harris said she told him that the opera singing would be a good addition, that it would blow everyone’s mind. Sistahfriend ain’t never lied. Now that Blair has passed away, the most poignant stanzas to me come at the end (transcribed above). Watch Blair’s 2002 “Behind the Garage” winning performance here:  http://www.myspace.com/video/vid/55781888  and a 2010 Performance at the Detroit Institute for the Arts (DIA) Film Theatre, for TedX (where Blair begins by taking a photo of the crowd), below:  http://youtu.be/AiheqPT0vL4

* * *

“Detroit (While I Was Away)”:  I love watching this when I’m on the road traveling. There are several, more polished video versions online (including Detroit Lives! and TedX 2010); I like this one because it reveals Blair’s own feelings and the way strangers in the audience responded to him. Despite his decades of award-winning, amazing performances, Blair would still get nervous at events like this. Because he was human. And the best at what he did: http://youtu.be/6CCnRr1dQvw

Video: Detroit (While I Was Away) by D Blair at TedX 10/21/09

* * *

Less than a year before Blair passed away, InsideOut Literary Arts Project commissioned Blair to put Emily Dickinson’s songs to music. This one is my favorite. In this video, he says he was working on a new album called “Reasons for Leaving”, as if he knew that he would leave us:  http://youtu.be/lIRu0eW9hig

Video: Blair Performs “I Haven’t Told My Garden Yet” a Poem by Emily Dickinson, at Wayne State University, February 28, 2011

* * *

More of David Blair’s music, poetry, and merchandise are on his manager’s website: http://seriousartists.com/honor/

Blair’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/BlairandtheBF

Obituary on the memorial website is here: http://www.dblair.org/

For some poems that I wrote about Blair, see elsewhere on this blog: https://divadiba.wordpress.com/?s=blair

Happy would-have-been 45th Birthday, Blair. Rest in Peace and Poetry. We love you and miss you.

* * *
* * *
www.emilylawsin.com
* * *

September 16, 2011

Saturday 9/17: 1st Annual Blair’s Crowded House

 I am honored to be performing at this. Come out and support if you can. Still missing you, Blair.

 1st Annual Blair’s Crowded House

 Saturday, September 17, 2011

 7PM to 2 AM

@ Tangent Gallery / Hastings St. Ballroom

715 E. Milwaukee, Detroit, MI

Admission: Sliding Scale Donation ($5 to $50)

In honor of Blairs legendary Crowded House events, friends and family are launching an annual Blair’s Crowded House, on the weekend of what would have been his 44th birthday.  Featuring videos of Blair, a photo exhibit, a time for writing remembrances, and 40 Performers, including Emily P. Lawsin, The Boyfriends, Alison Lewis, Monica Blaire, Jamaal Versiz May, Airea Dee Matthews, Khary Kimani Turner, Mike E, and Invincible.  Proceeds go towards the David Blair Memorial Fund to help Detroit artists in times of crisis; donate online here: www.dblair.org 

Find us on Facebook, HERE.

To read my poems on Blair, click HERE.

www.emilylawsin.com


May 2, 2011

Remembering Al Robles (1930-2009)


Al Robles at UCLA 1996. Photo by Tony Osumi.

Today is the two-year death anniversary of the incredible poet Al Robles (February 16, 1930 – May 2, 2009). Manong Al and many of our ancestors who have gone before us have largely influenced my poetry and oral history work. As the people’s recorder and founding member of the Kearny Street Writers Workshop,  Manong Al was like a ninong (godfather) to all of us Filipina/o Americans who are spoken word performance poets, oral historians, cultural artists, and/or activists. When I was just a teen, I was blessed to have been able to read his poetry and to learn about how he fought to save the International Hotel in San Francisco’s Manilatown, through my elder cousin, his good friend and fellow Kearny Street poet, Oscar Peñaranda. Many years later, when I was in graduate school and when I started teaching Filipino American Studies, I would see Manong Al at various conferences and community events. He would always give me a hug or slap on the back and say, “Hey sistah, what’s shakin’?” Then a crowd would gather in a circle around him while he cracked jokes or played piano, talking story late into the night.

L.A. Poets with Jessica Hagedorn & Al Robles at Pilipino Studies Symposium at UCLA, 1997. Photo by Carlo Medina CDM Foto.

Throughout the 1990s, long before “Poetry Slam” competitions became  popular, we had Filipino American spoken word poetry and open mic nights all over Los Angeles (and beyond), often organized by Wendell Pascual, Irene Suico Soriano, or the Balagtasan Collective. Following in Manong Al’s footsteps, we knew we couldn’t just study how Filipinos came from an oral tradition, we embraced it and embodied it. In 1996, when my alma mater UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center Press published Manong Al’s book of poetry, many of us poets were ecstatic and honored to be able to perform with and for the legendary Al Robles. During the 90-minute drive from West L.A. to one book launch that Theo Gonzalves had organized at UC Irvine, I wrote this letter to my cousin Oscar to tell him that Manong Al was in town. It turned into this poem (below). I performed it later that night and it was published several years later in disOrient Journalzine.  Afterwards, Manong Al said that we have to keep writing about the streets because we have all walked down them, no matter what the city. We recognize them as Pinoys: streets like Kearny, El Dorado, Temple, and Jackson, because for generations, that’s where “cats would hang out”, talking story late into the night.

The week that Manong Al passed away in 2009, I was living in Boston, and I performed a modified version of this poem at the East Meets West Bookstore in Cambridge, with the Boston Progress Arts Collective’s (BPAC) house band: Charles Kim on guitar, Nate Bae Kupel on drums, and Pedro Magni on keyboards.  I had said that night that Manong Al would have loved that space, which hosts the country’s only year-round monthly Asian American open mic series, like Kearney Street did in the early 1970s. As a call to the ancestors, I played a little bit of kubing (Philippine mouth harp), swayed to BPAC’s jazz, then looked up at the younger generation overflowing onto Massachusetts Ave, and felt Manong Al’s warm spirit talking story with us, late into the night.

I love and miss you, Manong Al. Thank you for being our voice. Rest In Poetry.

Al Robles and Emily Lawsin at UCLA 1996

Oscar Peñaranda, T, and me 2006

Dear Kuya Oscar   

© by Emily P. Lawsin   

On the book launching of Al Robles’ book 

Rappin’ With Ten Thousand Carabaos in The Dark

Irvine, California, May 17, 1996.

______________________________________

Manong Al visits the Southland today,  

bringing us fish heads and carabaos

together to jam.

Our Pinoy Luck Club barkada

skips its regular meeting of

Friday night “X-Files and Tiles,”

saving lost quarters for lonely bus rides

and smoggy lattes;

how could we ever fill your shoes?

Our Doc Martens and Birkenstocks

are no match for Mama’s boomerang bakyas and tsinelas.

We’re fortunate though, this new Flip generAsian,

tempted by you Kearny Street tamaraws:

we shout via E-mail, reclaiming reclámo.

Irene’s Babaye Productions started

our call, herding us to greez in brown fields

of Temple, Melrose, and Westwood,

where Wendell’s Downright Pinoy self,

more than just a t-shirt man,

throws us props, rappin’, producin’,

dekonstruktin’ all our funk-shuns.

With Dawn and Allyson,

sistahs fightin’ in struggle,

brewin hungry champorrado dreams;

the Villaraza and Parreñas clans

and Allan’s gothic poetry

blowin our freakin’ minds, and

nappy flip Nap Napoleon

swingin his sharp bolo smile, scars,

and Zig-Zag-wrapped cigarettes.

 We’re fortunate, yes, tonight,

the Liwanag 2 crew lassoing our ranks,

sistah Darlene’s multiple tongues searing our plates,

brotha Theo’s jazz as loud as his psychedelic zebra tie, —

a noose left by you, Al, the Belales, and others —

oh, da man wishes that you’d quit pumpin him up as the

doctoral candidate/professor/cultural critic/musical genius/taxi-dancing/PCN god

that he is

and return to the SF State days when you once peddled

a crushed box of black-and-white Liwanag books

fading from sun stroke in your beat-up, unwaxed coche.

I wonder, was it the same car you

used to push up to Seattle?

Bringing Nanay and Tatay an endless supply

of canned salmon and me diaper tales of

your wayward Alaskan ways.

Decades later, your AIIIEEEEE!

buddy Shawn gave me an A,

not knowing I was your

cousin/niece/wanna-be hija poet,

the only student in his class of 200

raising her hand when he asked,

        “Who has ever read Carlos Bulosan?”

          Never thanked you for those days.

Another decade later,

Manong Sam Tagatac, with his sleepy eye,

Ifugao tales, and Ilocano twang

returned with me to the UCLA campus,

left his Manila Cafe apron on Santa Barbara’s beach

to add a hint of bagoong to our new stew,

blamed your teaching-ass self for it all:

poets perpetrating as professors,

thinking this is how carabaos

will crush coconuts in the Ivory Tower.

Now he’s vanished, his ailing wife calling,

his film cans fading, and we young bucks

fry his tuyo not knowing where it came from.

We never thanked your barkada for those days,   

for adding light to our fire,

for excavating ghosts from the mountain tops,

for bringing us the songs of the Syquias,

Jundis’ jingles, Cachapero’s cacophony,

Cerenio’s seriousness, Tamayo’s teasings,

Tagami’s Tobera teachings, Ancheta’s anitos,

Robles’ rallies, and even Hagedorn’s hell-bent heresies.

So, Kuya Oscar, as we Kababayans

kick back, chillin amongst jasmine vines,

Southern Cali’s substitute for the sampaguita flower,

with Manong Al’s smoky white hair jammin’,

and Russell, our adopted Chinese cousin, taping — always pullin’ for us Pinoys —

I scribble on this bending bamboo,

throwing you our shout-outs, our salamats,

for dodging the draft, for pushing our pens,

for publishing Pinoys and Pinays before

anyone knew what that was, is, and

always will be,

and for plowin’ the fields,

for plowin’ these fields,

for plowing the fields

before us. 

*   *   *

Angel Velasco Shaw, Jessica Hagedorn, Curtis Choy, Al Robles, Norman Jayo at UCLA Pilipino Studies Symposium 1997. Photo by Carlo Medina CDM Foto.

Dedicated to Oscar Peñaranda, Al Robles, Sam Tagatac, Shawn Wong, Russell Leong,

 the Kearny Street Writers’ Workshop,

Wendell Pascual, Dawn Mabalon, Allyson Tintiangco, Napoleon Lustre,

Irene Soriano, Darlene Rodrigues, and Theo Gonzalves.

   

Al Robles reads poetry with Theo Gonzalves on piano at Royal Morales' retirement at UCLA 1996. Photo by Tony Osumi.

 Performed live at UC Irvine by Emily Lawsin with Theo Gonzalves on keyboards, May 17, 1996.

Originally published in DisOrient Journalzine, Volume 9: 2001.

www.emilylawsin.com

 

June 20, 2010

POEM for Papa


Vincent & Emily Lawsin at FANHS Manila Conference 1998

Papa and me at FANHS Conference in Manila 1998

As I wrote in my previous post, this is a particularly poignant Father’s Day for my family and me, since it is not only the first Father’s Day since my Papa passed away (last March), but it is also my mother’s 2-year-death anniversary, and my Auntie Pacing’s one-year death anniversary. My father, Vincent A. Lawsin, even up to his death at 85 years old, was a fighter, with a strong will and unique character, that is sometimes hard to describe. I wrote this poem for Papa 12 years ago, in 1998, before he and I went to visit the Philippines together. I printed an earlier version and mailed it to him for Father’s Day that year. He told me he brought it to the Community Center and showed it to everyone because he liked it so much. I performed it at Ohio State University last month, for the first time since Papa passed away, and an African Amerian woman in the audience came up to me afterwards and told me that it made her cry, as she remembered her own parents and their struggles in the South. Please feel free to leave comments here too.

Happy Father’s Day, Papa. I love you and miss you much.

Vincent Avestruz Lawsin 1995 Papa’s Two Worlds

© by Emily P. Lawsin

His mama nicknamed him “Teting”, back home in his Babatngon province,

A shelled seaside village near Tacloban, Leyte,

A city whose two great claims to fame became:

1) The infamous landing of General Douglas MacArthur’s bloody “I Shall Return” and

2) The birthplace of the Queen of Shoes, the Dictator’s dictator, Imelda Marcos.

Two claims Papa would feverishly explain to mga puti

In his adopted land of America.


My proud Papa would explain to his engine-room mates

That his roots lie in the heart of the islands,

Penciling a map of the Visayas in the center of the archipelago

On any available napkin or newspaper or oiled rag,

Sometimes telling dirty white lies of going to high school with the First Lady,

Even though Imelda is five years his junior.

Any poor listener who seemed even remotely intrigued

Would get a faster tale of how he

Could have dated her,

Could have married her,

Couldhave—

Then “Just imagine where we would all be now,” he’d say.


So I wonder, what would have happened if my father had married Imelda?


Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have joined the Philippine Guerillas in 1942,

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have a scar of shrapnel poking his lower left back.

Perhaps then

Papa would have kept editing his high school newspaper

Instead of enlisting in the U.S. Merchant Marines.

Perhaps then

Papa would’ve stayed in engineering college

Instead of fighting MacArthur’s war.


Perhaps then                                                    

Papa wouldn’t have migrated from port to port:

Korea, Japan, Guam, New Guinea, Germany, Vietnam, Africa, and Arabia,

Or from dock to dock:

San Francisco, New Orleans, Texas, Norfolk, New York, and eventually Seattle.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have been so segregated from his family

Like when his captain wouldn’t even allow him to sail home from New Guinea

For his poor mother’s funeral,

A faded black and white photograph of her coffin, his only remembrance.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have remained a bachelor until after his mother’s death,

Leaving me with a father the age of my classmates’ grandfathers.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have lost his hearing

After being relegated to the confines of two too many ships’ boiler rooms.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have kept his seafaring union’s news clippings,

Where in the 1950s, his beer-drinking shipmates

Nicknamed him “Chico”, meaning “Small”,

Because they couldn’t pronounce “Vicente”, much less “Teting”.


Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have the memories of the 1980s either,

When Washington State Ferry workers nicknamed him “E.T.”,

After the shriveled up alien from the movies,

Even circulated a glossy cut-out from a magazine of the Extra Terrestrial:

With Papa’s name scrawled beneath it.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have faked laughs at it in front of them,

Wouldn’t have secretly crumpled the clipping,

Shoving it into the pocket of his grease-stained overalls.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have brought the insult home for our mother to find

As she washed laundry,

Taping it to their bedroom mirror,

Giving us kids a quick lesson in “workplace diversity”.


Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have gambled at finding the American Dream,

Wouldn’t have clung so tightly to his faith.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have sought a haven in local politics,

Wouldn’t have become President of Seattle’s Filipino Community,

At the height of martial law,

Heading the Reform Slate, with anti-Marcos activists engineering his victory

and his infamy.


Yes, I often wonder

Which world, perhaps then,

Would have been better or worse for my father,

Ang Papa Ko, Teting, Vicente,

Legally: “Vince”, or “Vincent”.

Which world, perhaps then?

The Iron Butterfly’s world of lies and corruption,

Or, Papa’s corrupted world of white lies?


North Hills, California, 1998.

www.emilylawsin.com

Click HERE to read my previous post: “Babang Luksa II: Memories of Auntie Pacing”


May 9, 2010

Poem for Mom: My Pinay Nanay!

 

 

In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to reprint my mother’s favorite poem entitled “My Pinay Nanay”, that I wrote in 1998 for her and all Filipina American mothers. It was published (with three of my other pieces) in the anthology InvAsian: Growing Up Asian & Female in the United States, by Asian Women United of California (San Francisco: Study Center Press, 2003). You can watch me perform and explain excerpts of the poem on Jay Sanchez’s Fil-Am Television in Virginia Beach on WHRO by clicking HERE, or on YouTube, by clicking HERE.  You can also listen to a live recording of the full poem and some of my other popular spoken word poems on Boston Progress Arts Collective’s radio blog HERE: http://www.bprlive.org/2008/09/23/recap-emily-lawsin-graces-east-meets-words/.

 

I wrote the first draft of the “My Pinay Nanay” poem in the car, on the way to another phenomenal spoken word poetry event that was curated by the incredible Irene Suico Soriano in downtown Los Angeles. I needed a new, fun poem to read because Irene was helping to christen the Aratani Courtyard: a new, outdoor public performance space (which is still being used to this day for the monthly Tuesday Night Café, produced by Traci Kato-Kiriyama and TNKat Productions). Irene’s mother had cooked all day for the event. It was November, 1998, and I wrote on the bottom of the “My Pinay Nanay” poem:

Chillin’ under the Mikasa empire’s patio heat-lamp, amidst candle-lit trays of Irene’s mom’s pancit and empanadas, ten bottles of wine, and seventeen spoken word instigators firing up pre-war spirits in L.A.’s old “Lil’ Manila”, once “Bronzeville”, now “Little Tokyo, the new Union Center for the Arts: tonight, our “Safehouse”.

“Safehouse” alludes to the title of Irene’s chapbook, but also to the fact that the building that now houses the Union Center for the Arts (including East West Players Theatre and Visual Communications) was once a church:  a safehouse for immigrants, refugees, internees, and other outcasts of all races and generations. It was an historic night outdoors, at an historic place: who knew that it would lead to one of my most-requested poems?

The version below is what I read two years ago at my mother’s Rosary/Community Memorial, which had another standing-room-only crowd, in the newly refurbished Filipino Community Center of Seattle. Sadly, since then (and since my last blog entry), my father has passed away too, so watch for more on him in the near future.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy: I miss you and Papa very much. Happy Mother’s day, everyone.


MY PINAY NANAY

© by Emily P. Lawsin

Revised for Emma Floresca Lawsin’s Community Memorial at the Filipino Community Center of Seattle, June 27, 2008


My mother had many names:

“Mama”, “Mommy”, “Lola”, “Grandma”,

“Tia”, “Chang”, “Manang”, “Emma”, “Emang”,

But I just called her:  My “PINAY NANAY.”

MY PINAY NANAY,

She could speak Ifugao, Ilongo, Ilocano, Cebuano, Waray-Waray, Kampampangan,

Spanish, Tagalog, AND English,

Thanks to the THREE Pinoy men she married,

And the thousands of U.S. troops stationed in her island province.

MY PINAY NANAY,

She could whip up a dozen lumpias — vegetable and shanghai,

Roll it, paste it, fry it, see you joke with it like a cigar or boto/penis,

And whirl a boomerang bakya/slipper at you all-in-one-breath.

MY PINAY NANAY,

She could cook a feast for seven in as many minutes,

Spread the table with fresh mongo beans, seafood, pinakbet,

Chicken/pork/beef adobo plus tokwa/tofu chicharron sizzling on the side,

Lasagna trays of pancit noodles:  Bihon, Canton, Lug-lug, AND Malabon,

Vats of tomato-pasty Menudo, Machado, peanut Karé-karé, and

Dinaguan (“chocolate meat” — ha-ha!)

AND for dessert: platters of steamed Puto, Suman, Kutsinta cakes,

Maja Blanca/corn pudding, baked Bibingka, Biko, Deep-fried Cascaron/donut holes,

And bowls of steaming, sweet coconut-y Ginataan, with ping-pong-ball-sized-bilo-bilo dumplings,

Just like you like them,

And STILL asked you,

“ARE YOU HUNGRY?

YOU BETTER EAT!”

MY PINAY NANAY,

She could, with one hand, twirl a hundred-pound lechon

Over a fiery roast pig spit,

While smoking a Marlboro – BACKWARDS.

Guess a Mah-jong tile’s face with one finger — always her middle —

Sliding underneath. (“Ay, Mah-jong!”)

Filled the house with smells of fried garlic rice, longanisa sausage,

Sliced red tomatoes, and eggs,

So the Pusoy poker players would come back

With much “tong” to help pay for your 18th birthday debut.

MY PINAY NANAY,

She could sew First Communion dresses and Eddie Bauer jackets

Without a McCall’s pattern;

Net, pierce, gut, chop, and can Alaskan King salmon with a blind eye,

Write round-trip tickets to the Philippines,

And cuss-out the neighbor Jones kids

For throwing firecrackers down her white stone chimney,

All with her Tondo accent and ninth grade education.

MY PINAY NANAY,

She stood with a 100-member army (of all of you) in the Mayor’s office,

Demanding in nine different languages

That he give Seattle its historic Jose Rizal Bridge and Park,

Its Pista sa Ngayon, and save the Filipino Community Center

From the light rail wrecking ball and everything else in between.

Then acted like she didn’t speak a lick of English on a Metro Bus

So a greedy seat hog would scoot on over.

MY PINAY NANAY,

She had more power – more PINAY POWER –

Than all of our childhood role models put together.

My Pinay Nanay,

She was down,

She was brown,

She was the Pinay

SUPER-FLY.


An earlier version of this poem was written in Los Angeles, in 1998
and published in
InvAsian: Growing Up Asian & Female in the U.S, 2003.
Revised, 2008.

www.emilylawsin.com

divadiba.wordpress.com

* * *

 

 

 

 

December 14, 2008

POEM: For Corky Pasquil on his Birthday

great_pinoy_championsfilm

Aileen Federizo sent a cool Facebook message saying that she’s putting a collection of surprise birthday greetings together for her husband, Corky Pasquil. They moved from Southern California to live in the Philippines so that their sons can learn the culture, so I thought this was a brilliant idea! Corky and Aileen are the founders of MyBarong.com, my absolute favorite clothing company.  I met Corky when I was a grad student at UCLA and he was editing his video documentary “The Great Pinoy Boxing Era” on Filipino American boxers of the 1920s-40s (which everyone, especially all of you Manny Pacquiao/boxing fans, should definitely watch. Now you can even watch or download Corky’s video for FREE on the MyBarong.com website HERE.)


A few years after working as a physical therapist, Corky left his job to start MyBarong.com so he could work at home and help raise their son (inspiring). Corky and Aileen are what we call good people who always “give back” to FANHS and our Filipino American community, so that’s why I also give their products as gifts to family and friends of all ages. (I was going to post a slideshow of my family and me in all their fabulous Filipiniana outfits, but thought that would be too cheesy.  Just know that if it doesn’t look like it’s my mother’s vintage barong – which I also always wear – then it’s MYbarong.com.)  Happy Birthday, Corky! Here’s my gift to you, with salamats to Aileen for the inspiration:

Ang Tulâ Para sa Corky, at Salamat sa Aileen

(A Poem for Corky Pasquil, on His Birthday,

with Thanks to Aileen)

© by Emily P. Lawsin

Cornelio, Corky,

P.T.-turned-MyBarong.com man

weaving a new page

so he could be a family man

brought his bride and his boys

to their ancestral shores

stitching the threads of our history

so they could learn more:

a fine example for you and me.

made his film “The Great Pinoy Boxing Era”

as a student Bruin on a shoestring budget

with pamilya and kaibigans in his corner,

learned the ropes and edited it with love,

a gift to the pioneers and our community: all that he does.

maraming salamat / with many thanks, Corky,

for bringing the beauty of our culture to the world

staying true to your beliefs and dreams

we ride your coat tails with pride,

as you embroider our next adventure!

Maligayang Kaarawan, ang kaibigan ko! = Happy Birthday, my friend!

Mabuhay!

November 21, 2008 / December 14, 2008

Watertown, Massachusetts, USA

For my bio, go to  www.emilylawsin.com

Click HERE to read my previous blog post: “POEM: Padasal, Novena at the Polls, November 4, 2008”

October 30, 2008

POEM: Seattle / “She-attle” / Personified -For Blue Scholars

 

I wrote a “Shuffled!” article about some of my favorite Filipino American songs for today’s Boston Progress Radio, see http://www.bprlive.org. It includes a riff on songs by the Seattle hip-hop duo, Blue Scholars, and I promised to post my old “Seattle” poem here for them.  I wrote this poem six years ago, during a Free-Writing session facilitated by my sistahfriend, 2003 Detroit Slam Team poet Angela Jones. She instructed us to write about our hometown, using personification (giving inanimate objects human qualities). Here’s what I wrote in the 10-15 minute Detroit Summer Poetry for Social Change workshop. Maraming Salamat/endless thanks to my pamilya and Angela for the inspiration. I wish I could perform this with Blue Scholars in Seattle someday. (Geo?) Now that would be fun. 😉

Seattle / “She-attle” / Personified

(Free-write at a Detroit Summer Poetry for Social Change Workshop)

Inspired by Angela Jones, Nov. 20, 2002

© by Emily Porcincula Lawsin

“Chief Sealth”, “Sha-til”, “She-attle”, “Sea-Town”,

From the South End to Downtown – Seattle, a native part of me.

She climbs Rainier Avenue to the C.D. and the I.D.

Like a hiker on its mountain tops, raking gutters of rain

Past the Phó Noodle shops, the ghosts of Chubby & Tubby’s $4.99 Xmas Trees, and

Franklin High on an emerald night.

Her evergreen veins curl up 23rd to the heart of her hood,

Marching down MLK, formerly Empire Way,

To drum beats the FYA plays at the Black Festival, where she reigns.

She feigns summer’s SeaFair, its parade of pirates posing crooked smiles of

Thrown chocolate doubloons that couldn’t brush or floss Lake Washington clean

Despite the Hydroplane Races and Floating Bridges wrapping their legs around her,

Pushing and squeezing gas-guzzling SUVs back to their cold cul-de-sacs of suburbia.

That Queen is smart, she is.

Only giving a small hiccup during Mt. St. Helen’s violent overthrow,

Only giving a small buckle of a burp

at the quakes of the earth called Phinney Ridge.

She held that rage and anger in for 2000 years she did,

Until the Stock Market crashed, Microsoft injunctioned, Boeing went bust, and

dot.coms didn’t come no more.

The IMF brought a charade of bribes to her parade,

Trying to trade – all lies – underestimating that she knew the “WTO”

Didn’t mean “Washington’s Ticket Out”     of the rut of corporate greed.

Her strong fingers of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Avenues

Erupting in an intertwining, internationally televised spectacle

Of necessary anarchy.  Burning dumpsters –

Sweet karma for her sister city’s secret sweatshops,

Bringing Niketown to its shoeless knees.

That Emerald Queen plays smart, she is.

Hid her army of blood lines down Broadway where homophobes dread to tread,

She cruises down “The Ave” to cradle her chorale,

Whips up Wallingford to Woodland Park, setting all the zoo animals free.

Her crossed eyes of Elliot Bay and Puget Sound cries to witness the

Displacement of Asian ancestors from Jackson Street and Chinatown

For a Kingdome stadium that only ended up torn down

For damn luxury skyboxes and a retractable (read: RAINABLE) roof.

The irony of the fault lines quaking through Yesler Terrace’s Projects and

Old Skid Row streets, masquerading as Pioneer Square:

An underground over Underground Seattle.

Still, this Queen smoothes the wrinkles of her face: Aurora and Old Highway 99.

She stretches the stretch-marks of her stomach: I-5

Screeching with pride through traffic and lay-offs

Keeping the moon up all night, she dances through rocks of jazz and grunge clubs,

Holding her crown high on top of her neck of The Needle,

Standing guard on her ribcage of rusted rooftops rustling in the wind,

Claiming this green space.

This city, she is, this Queen, SHE-attle, “Sha-til”,

Seattle: my home.

*     *     *

“Joe Metro” – Song by Blue Scholars

AND because I love it and in case you haven’t seen it, here’s the Blue Scholars’ MTV video of their song “Joe Metro”. That Pinay sitting in the back could be me. And the elders could be my mom and dad. MAKIBAKA, Geo & Saba! Check it:

http://www.mtv.com/videos/blue-scholars/189605/joe-metro.jhtml#artist=1918439

Homesick.

Watch “Back Home” by Blue Scholars’ too:

http://www.mtv.com/videos/blue-scholars/166934/back-home.jhtml#artist=1918439This video brings tears to my eyes. Bring the troops home. Peace.

 

Click HERE to READ and LISTEN to my Shuffle! of my top Filipino American songs on Boston Progress Radio.

 

Click HERE to read my previous blog post: REMEMBERING UNCLE SAM BALUCAS + POEM.

 

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