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Bino A. Realuyo

  • Poetry January 31, 2002


    In the modern Greek dictionary, the word "Filipineza" means "maid."

    If I became the brown woman mistaken
    for a shadow, please tell your people I'm a tree.
    Or its curling root above ground, like fingers without a rag,

    without the buckets of thirst to wipe clean your mirrorlike floors.
    My mother warned me about the disappearance of Elena.
    But I left her and told her it won't happen to me.

    The better to work here in a house full of faces I don't recognize.
    Shame is less a burden if spoken in the language of soap and stain.
    My whole country cleans houses for food, so that

    the cleaning ends with the mothers, and the daughters
    will have someone clean for them, and never leave
    my country to spend years of conversations with dirt.

    When I get up, I stand like a tree, feet steady, back firm.
    From here, I can see Elena's island, where she bore a child
    by a married man whose floors she washed for years,

    whose body stained her memory until she left in the thick
    of rain, unseen yet now surviving in the uncertain tongues
    of the newly-arrived. Like the silence in the circling motions

    of our hands, she becomes part myth, part mortal, part soap.

    Bino A. Realuyo