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A tribute to lolo

Written by Hazel Anne Agustin, poem submission 

we do not dare call you grandfather,
we do not dare call you grandpa.
to belittle you with weightless english words
is to forget the history of your hands
and how you planted us here years and years ago,
with isang peso still saved inside your pantalon
and how the only word
you needed translated was
trabajo.

we do not dare call you out of your native tongue.
your home today does not settle on foreign land,
you brought Paniqui here with you,
cooking with talong, sitaw, and ampalaya shamelessly
in your favorite sando and worn-out chinelas
its aroma’s so strong
that the scent of chicken adobo lingers for days.
the kitchen was your home.
the other rooms
vacant, untouched spaces.

you planted seeds sa lupa that America had never touched
and she accepted them graciously,
letting you plant in her damp soil
and birthing upo on sturdy stems.
you taught her to say thank you in a different language.

your weary hands had assembled airplane parts by day
and only asked for familiarity by night.
and so you planted your garden
and ate with your kamay,
and peeled kalamansi,
and hung your clothes out to dry,
and sang Magic Sing!
and washed rice over the sink
with one hand clasping the bowl and the other
gracefully stirring four cups of culture back and forth
just so we could remember
that even people need to be planted
in order for their flowers to show.

you wore your dilaw sumbrero from
sunrise to sunset
everyday for 40 years.
the dried up bark, once the color of sweet pandesal,
aged to match the color of your skin: pinoy.

against our foreheads,
your four frail fingers tucked beneath our own,
we graciously ask mano po
and we know that blood, your blood,
runs through our veins.

we do not dare call you grandfather,
we do not dare call you grandpa.
we are your apos
and you are
etched into our minds
lolo.

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