She straps the burden on her back.
Her long black braids coil and loop
over chests, under arms, wrapped twice,
thrice, tied snug at their hip bones.
She has tricked death’s due, bargained just
one more life for herself, like Prometheus
who stole fire and now the sister on her back
her dead twin, who must pay the price.
The precious cargo she pulls in penance
like a crucifix, a faceless feather-blackened Christ
whose heels mark the forward path red.
The ravens have come, the crows follow.
They smell her sin, they relish her sister’s liver.
The thick blood and moist veins are delicious
bites torn loose from the in-between place,
piece by piece until dark.
The liver on her back is pecked away
piece by piece for a meal, dislodged
piece by piece, a single lesson in humility
swallowed piece by piece. The fading sun
reminds the sisters to endure until dark.
Her burden is lightened piecemeal
with temporary respite until dawn
only to start again every morning
piece by piece until dark.
in response to Craig Santos Perez’ “SPAM’s Carbon Footprint”
Oh, Vienna sausage! Oh, Frankenstein franks! Why are you so maligned? Why such deep-seated shame for those who love you? Vienna sausage and SPAM, cousins in cans, turn or fill our stomach. How so, Vienna? How so, the grit in your elongated body? People warm up to you, show raw disgust for you, even lust after you. They upturn noses away from you and your family of seven snug brethren in a can, all you stinky pink buggahs. Vienna sausage is earthquake food and shipping strike food, you know. It’s typhoon and hurricane food, too. It’s popular, if not hoarded, in Hawaii, Guam, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Haiti, Japan, and other island countries. Even Florida has a recipe for it—chopped and smashed fine between saltines like coarse lowbrow paté canapés. Hey, cannibal style, it’s seven chopped-off fingers in the round, opened, upturned and eaten right out of the can. The broth smells like no other. Gourmet style, it’s browned with olive oil and rosemary, a college student once told me. Served over pasta or rice, it’s cheap, near-poverty meat of the masses. Cut into flat discs of ohhhhs and dropped into a hot bowl of ramen noodles, it becomes standard latchkey child food eaten while watching his favorite afternoon kid show. Some call them food of the gods, others don’t even want to take the risk. Good news is: It contains no sugar! But you belch Vienna sausage for a week after you eat them. What’s in a name, Vienna? The word vienna is German for sausage. So Vienna sausage really means sausage sausage. Vienna sausage actually means ground pork, beef and/or chicken with the proper fat content added. After just the right amount of fat is shot throughout, it is mixed with salt, spices and mustard and emulsified into a pancake-type batter and stuffed into a casing. Or so the company website tells us. Smoked until the skin is just right, it is then chilled and labeled. Ingredient list: Mechanically separated chicken, pork, water, salt, corn syrup, hydrolyzed soy and potato protein, dextrose, hydrolyzed casein and whey protein, flavoring, sodium erythrobate, sodium nitrate. Serving size 1 can—Total fat 30g, Cholesterol 90mg, Sodium 840 mg, Calories 320. Somebody should invent a car powered on Vienna sausage. Imagine Vienna sausage going green. Hmmm. BBQ or spicy flavor green. If you don’t care too much about your heart, put a can of it over rice topped with cream of mushroom soup. Vienna sausages also make good bait for fishing off of the Haleiwa Bridge. The ultimate white trash hors d’oeuvre, my white friend told me, is smoky-maple-bacon-wrapped Vienna sausage with jalapeno, skewered on toothpicks and grilled. My Jamaican friend gets excited over a Vienna sausage omelet. My neighbor wraps them in tortillas with shredded cheddar cheese. Ooh, multi-ethnic food. VIENNAS—Very Interesting Eats Nauseating Nobs Arranged Symmetrically. VIENNAS—Vile Inches Eaten Not Nutritious Always Stinky. VIENNAS—Venerated In Earthquakes Nondescript Nosh And Snack. Viennas, reach for them or push them away. Whatever you do, know that a Vienna sausage finger leaves a fingerprint in the strangest places. Oh, Vienna sausage, you know you are both repulsive and sublime! Your unique texture, your true grit, might as well be micro-particles of bone that’s made its way through the mechanical separator. My macho older cousin told me when I was young that Vienna sausages are chicken penises. I know better than that. Yeah, I do.
will you tell me your story again?
Start from when your ancestors
crossed ocean, hidden inside
a poor man’s guitar, him singing
about never going hungry again.
Gather your roots like skirt folds
and show me where you broke
the red dirt when you first resisted
thirst far from a familiar home.
I’ll sit and listen for your white flower
clusters singing soft like tiny yellow birds
on the delicious winds that ruffle
your feather branches.
Who wanders here to feed you fertilizer pearls
so your fruit pods can hang tough outside?
Do you wonder about the delicate flesh
fitted tight within your embryo kernels
Have you found the browns and whites
of your starry-eyed seeds dried
and restless as monkeys in the boondocks?
Tell me they did not flee stray bullets
and typhoons only to find home is still
a hand to mouth existence.
Where is your kin
and what is your kind?
How do they grow overseas,
misplaced and sprinkled among,
together and throughout.
's poetry and short stories have been recently published in Tinfish 20, Bamboo Ridge 98, Walang Hiya: Literature Taking Risks Toward Liberatory Practice and Growing Up Filipino II. Born in Manila and raised in Honoulu, she has worked in public relations, community development, and policy research and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in English from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.