The Mango is the Shape of a Heart
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
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
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.
Editors: Sandhya G, Siyean P, Evie F, Sam L.