Poems from Diaspora
(Ivy Alvarez)

Verity La Heightened Talk

*Ligaw-insik

Maybe we can be together. Maybe I can say the words. What
can I whisper? My shoes brace against the metal gate. I am a key now

and somehow I slip in. It’s not magic. Once I lift the latch,
I am inside your kitchen, up the stairs, hitching my lungs

to silent walls, the windows. The rails. Did you never wonder
how I arrived at your bed? Or did you merely accept, take

in your hands the gift of these limbs, the scent on my neck,
the throb beneath my ribs, something trying to leap out.

 

*Filipino idiom meaning giving gifts when courting (literally, Chinese courting)

 

*Lamang-kati

Asseveration is natural to me.
A machete, too — blackness
bonding to metal like rust.
I’ve seen blood on dirt.
It doesn’t hurt.

The first time I heard the words
dog’s breakfast, it made sense to me.
Things can get so messy
only a dog would eat it up.

The meat market’s wash and slurry,
my feet brown with storm water,
the aisles lined with heads, limbs:
a wedding I never knew.

Let’s not make a hash of love —
we don’t know how it ends,
what the shore looks like after hard rain,
the sea disgorging its contents.

 

*Filipino idiom meaning meat of butchered animals (literally, contents of low tide)

 

*Ligong-pato

Let’s wade into shallow water;  the  tea-brown  creek wends to
the beach.  Feel how warmth covers unfamiliar skin.  This is the
beginning of becoming archetypal. A clinical smell overwhelms
the    air.   Perhaps   I   am   antiseptic,   impulsive,   incorruptible.
Unbaptisable.  You are preserved in amber water, darkening by
the hour, turning into night.

 

*Filipino idiom meaning taking a bath without wetting the head (literally, duck bath)

Note: these poems will be part of Volume L of Diaspora, a multivolume project of poems that respond to Filipino idioms, nineteen volumes, one for each letter of the Filipino alphabet.


Ivy Alvarez is the author of The Everyday English Dictionary (London: Paekakariki Press), Hollywood Starlet (Chicago: dancing girl press), Disturbance (Wales: Seren) and Mortal. A MacDowell Fellow, and Hawthornden Fellow, her work is widely published and anthologised, including in Best Australian Poems (2009 and 2013), with several poems translated into Russian, Spanish, Japanese and Korean. Born in the Philippines and raised in Australia, she lived in Wales for almost a decade, before arriving in New Zealand in 2014. ivyalvarez.com