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About this poet

In 1971, Barbara Jane Reyes was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her undergraduate education at the University of California Berkeley and her MFA in Creative Writing (poetry) at San Francisco State University.

Reyes's most recent collection of poetry is Diwata (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010). Her first book, Gravities of Center, was published by Arkipelago Books (San Francisco) in 2003, and her second book, poeta en san francisco (Tinfish Press, Kaneohe, Hawai’i) received the 2005 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.

She has taught at Mills College and the University of San Francisco. She lives with her husband, poet Oscar Bermeo, in Oakland, where she is co-editor of Doveglion Press.

Again, She Tells the First Story

Barbara Jane Reyes

Once, when there was no light, the wind danced with the sea, whose glassy surface became untame funnels and silver crested waves as she leapt and spun. How the wind also spun and let out a mighty roar. You have heard this one before, no? How earth convulsed as if laughing. How seafloor forced her fingertips skyward. How she freed her body from the silent, murky depths.

She who was born of the rocks fell in love with the one who was born of sea spume. There upon the rocks, they spread seeds and soil, and from these the bamboo sprouted. It rooted itself in those rocks, and some say kidlat split this bamboo open.

Others say a great serpent ruled the sea, and set upon his crown, a gleaming stone upon which the skyfolk spilled dark earth. I do not know why they tried to bury the serpent, but because of this, he hissed and lashed at them. The sea was once sweet and cool as rainwater. In the north, a medicine woman told us of her people’s prayers for salt. Hot winds brought to them fragrances of the dead. After the waters receded, how the shores became the color of clear crystals and blood.

Hija, I bring the sea tobacco leaves and fruit, but still no stories come to me. I plead with her, O diwata, pakitanggap po ninyo ang aking handog. O diwata, ang inyong mga salita lamang ang hinihingin ko. Today as ever, she gives me but silence.

Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Jane Reyes. Reprinted from Diwata with the permission of BOA Editions.

Barbara Jane Reyes

Barbara Jane Reyes

Born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, her second book, poeta en san francisco received the 2005 James Laughlin Award.

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