top of page


a poem by Billy Agustin

I wake up on a Tuesday morning,

6:20 am


The very moment the brow of the horizon shines at its seam

A class period away before I hear a jumbled word called

A hand flails into the air

The mumble of a simple “present”

As my classmates welcome their well-known titles

But that term upon your lips

The one that is mine

It might as well be a pseudonym

Resembling the structure of my heritage

You play with it on your tongue

Repeat it twice

Once for indulgence

The second time for my sake

Slightly confused

And expecting

Barely coherent through muddied senses

What else can I say but yes?

I’m tired of not caring

And as I write it in the upper right margin of my worksheet,

Lead to paper in a smooth motion

It’s too distant of a phrase

Washed out by the lazy drawl of white tongues

To the point where sometimes I forget it

And sometimes it’s too fruitless to remember

It’s happened for a millennium.

I know too many stories worse than mine

At least mine isn’t forgotten

Faded in the yellowed scrolls of immigration

Buried with the bones of the conquered

It’s easy to pronounce

It’s not hard to say,

Not at all.

2 syllables

5 letters

Where do you get lost?

Is it in the spiraling tendril of a root that curls around my last name,

The kind that arcs into a family tree

Long and winding

Within its rings,

This vivid ancestry you have no idea lies behind the blanket of bark?

Chronicled throughout these circles unseen,

all unknown to you.

But what’s worse is when you tell me my name is wrong

Tell me

This well-worn page that I carry on my back

And with me every day

The soul of the man I was named after ingrained in my own life

Interwoven in my own narrative

The same pattern rewritten

Bernabe, Billy, the one before me

His spirit revived in mine

Making my name a symbol of honor and veneration—

How dare you take it from me and tell me it is wrong

that my own identity is a mistake my mother made

A birth certificate misprint

Because you can’t fathom that even if she was mistaken

The name is still my name

Who I am in tandem

And that by itself shall make it correct

No matter what

I am permitted to be a mistake.

I am no less of a person,

No less full of substance, daughter to the soil she has never touched.

Don’t write me that hall pass

Those symbols of royal blue that pop against pallid yellow

Not a falter in your ballpoint pen

Insisting that the way you spell it

Is the correct way

The only way

When I tell you it is not.

Though you’ll only smile and say

“It’s easier this way.”

Easier for who?

For you?

You are not compromising your identity

For the sake of somebody else’s comfort.

You hack at the boughs of my own mother,

Saw at the branches of my father

Without even a thought.

You condescend me with a terrible smile

Taint these grounds where my roots are planted

As you burn me, my name, my culture to the ground.

This name is who I am

What I came from...

And it is the title for everything I will be

So who are you to tell me who Billy Agustin is?

- Billy

bottom of page