Every day I forget
How far this archipelago stretches.
Shorts and the headband you wove
Me, sometimes, I catch myself
Daydreaming of papaya
And a white sand aplaya.
On our way to visit Tatay,
We passed rice terraces. I told you
The farmers looked funny
With their hiked up pants and skirts
Wading through paddies
Muddying the pools,
So that when they pressed
Their noses against the shallow water
Their brown wrinkled faces
Became one with the earth:
Rows of stalks—each one
The same distance as the next.
I wish I could give it all—
That I had a country to die for,
An Eden to lose,
Instead of refracted images
Of sayas and barongs
Sieving through. Pack it
In the balikbayan box, you say.
So you pack it all, each one,
Into an unwieldy carton:
I resist the temptation to make you, in my head,
Like the rest. You are
Not, cannot be
Just another island in an archipelago,
Washed over by typhoons, held and clutched
By the torrent of the sea.
You see, mama, I always imagined
That you were an ocean
And that I was a fishing net woven
(Isn’t that more poetic?),
The way our hands twisted when you led me
Through a grove of banana trees
In the heat of a yellow sun,
Bare feet on dirt roads,
Caribou shit and gas stations,
Children, somewhere, singing
Dujie's family moved to Washington state when he was 5 years old, shortly after arriving to America. He grew up in Yakima, went to college in Walla Walla, and moved to Seattle in 2014 to take a job that provided for his young family. Dujie still lives and works in Seattle with his three kids.