The Dressing Room

A poem about exploring your roots

Art by Amelia Mertha.

At the dinner table, we eat kamayan, to let our hands
taste the food first. Our hands know sacrifice
the way only women do. A fistful of rice
means comfort. An open mouth & a belly full.
The sharp zest of calamansi runs down my palm
into a dish of soy sauce. In this dream, the kitchen

is a dressing room – we peel the layers
like a second skin & listen to the careful rustle
of movement around us. I watch myself

in every mirror & become a girl made of windows.
Shy as a peach tree, blossoming like banana leaf.
All the quiet in me. This act of undressing

is always nameless & I refuse to wilt. My mother
never taught me how to cook, but I know what it means
to save the last serving for someone else.

I walk away from the table as my father would.
Chair untucked, plates scattered. Footsteps
carrying the weight of someone foreign.

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