Itak


when my mother was a little girl

and martial law by dictator Marcos was forced upon her country

she remembered the day the Marcos regime raided her house

to look for her father’s weapons.

She told me

he had spears,

from indigenous tribes in the mountains

machetes from his father’s father

butterfly knives, from his gang brothers

and everything he could put his hands on that would be used to protect his own.

she told me that the government

was trying to take anything that could overthrow them.

44 years later and my parents,

who have lived through the slaughter

request that I don’t go to protests whenever I’m home.

or if ever at all.

they say it’s too dangerous for me,

they say it’s not my problem to fight.

My father told me,

they used to kill people who speak out as much as You do

journalists, activists,

“you  speak like you have no name, no face to save,”

both of them tell me   just finish school, that’s all we ever wanted for our daughters.

both of them would probably want me to be as invisible as possible

but they never raised me that way.

my father fed me fire ants and taught me how to sing to make my voice stronger

my mother taught me how to fight back, how to be fair.

what is marginalized oppression but a big brother?

who makes my people feel like invisibility is the only way to stay alive

that makes my people stay complacent in their role as caregiver, as student, as tally mark

never present, or whole, or complex

never authentic,  always dubbed or translated or voiced over

what is America but a regime,

taking all of our weapons

My voice is my butterfly knife

it is my indigenous mountain spear

my words are machete

ready to cut at any moment

my heart is a rifle my grandfather made out of scrap metal and tree trunks

and my body is armor made of every prayer my grandmother lit a candle for

I’m the offspring of two people who silently protested against the mistreatment of their daughters

I am the product of an island that swallows itself whole and recovers the next morning

I am the daughter of the sun

a sand skinned girl who refuses to fade to the back ground

and there is nothing that will ever dim my light.

there is nothing that can ever scare me out of my glory

I have never met my grandfather

he died before I could ever start remembering his face.

my mother tells me he managed to hide one machete

she keeps it in our closet in the Philippines

it is rusty and heavy

I am 13 and she teaches me how to hold it

carry it like first child

and grip it like last day

this is when I know where I belong

this is how a girl becomes a woman

this is what a homecoming  looks like

Power, is a brown girl finding her weapons and learning how to use it.

Power, is how memory can repeat a history that was supposed to be erased,

Power, is how a grand daughter can revive a legacy that the empire tried to destroy.

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