The Mango is the Shape of a Heart

Literature Default
a poem by Billy Agustin

When you were younger,

you used to pick at the flesh

surrounding your fingernails

until you wounded yourself


because it gave your hands something to settle on,

instead of paging through old story books

filled with the histories of your people-

sometimes you catch yourself


peeling away the layers

of your own skin

in the fruit section

of Ranch 99


reminded of the women before you,


Pinang, a young girl turned to the first pina, 100-eyed and flighty


Aganhon, her buried heart of sorrow, mango-sweet as youth


The unnamed angel to Mang Selo, wise and affable, forever immortalized

with her fingerprints upon the bruised and brown skin of lansones


They were the true pearls of the orient.


You are no longer young, and yet the feeling of

stumbling blind into the darkness,

arms waving desperately,

still follows you into the fray of a well-lit life


more than it ever did in childhood.


You can recount a million anecdotes- why the piña has 100 eyes,

why mosquitoes buzz around our ears,

why the cock crows.

You can speak of conflicts between gods, of wars between sky and sea


but you falter, these days.

First at language

and second, in shame


You are stuck here, in a world of glass-dome privilege where people rarely look up, accumulating a layer of dust on your bones while somewhere, lifetimes away, the hallowed lands where your feet have never touched are crumbling into themselves, folding against each other, and crashing into the sea. You understand they are sacred grounds, and yet,


They are not home.


You have no right to care.


Your mother cries at kitchen tables-

she tells you how different life is there

she tells you the meaning of suffering

Words so foreign that, this time, it’s even harder to keep up

It is easy, however, to understand that they are all epithets for death.

Tyrant, at least, is a word that translates directly.


And your heart, it will burn. It will burn in soil so foreign,

under circumstances so acrid and cruel


that you can hardly believe the tale of Aganhon

you can hardly imagine sweetness sprouting amongst

quiet decay

even if you share the same broken pieces.


You have no right to care for a world so unknown

You cannot substitute stories for the feeling

of bamboo flooring beneath your heels or

crystal-clear waters.


You have no right to care,

and yet you still do.


This is a country less easily shaken,

this is a world in which you are among the few

with empty rib cages and aching bones that mourn

for people an ocean away,

your brothers and sisters

an ocean away.


How is it that you can mourn the loss of something you never had?

Only you know that. More than anyone.


- Billy


Cover art source: https://images.app.goo.gl/VFXKvukFLTPWeLBdA

Editors: Sandhya G, Siyean P, Evie F, Sam L.