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About this poet

Barbara Jane Reyes was born in 1971 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 poetry collections include Invocation to Daughters (City Lights Books, 2017), a finalist for the California Book Award, and Diwata (BOA Editions, 2010). Her first book, Gravities of Center, was published by Arkipelago Books in 2003, and her second book, Poeta en San francisco (Tinfish Press, 2005) 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 is an adjunct professor in the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program at University of San Francisco. She lives in Oakland, California.

Again, She Tells the First Story

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.

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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		See how she lists. The body is bent as light, as wind will it.
And so you must tread light. Mind the rocks under foot. You must tread slow.
There has been drought; see where water has long ago troughed, has carved her.
		See how she branches, twisting, her many hands reaching.
Her roots also reach, sweetened
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