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About this poet

Joseph O. Legaspi was born in the Philippines, where he lived before immigrating to Los Angeles with his family at age twelve. He received a BA from Loyola Marymount University and an MFA from New York University’s Creative Writing Program. Legaspi is the author of the collection Threshold (CavanKerry Press, 2017) and Imago (CavanKerry Press, 2007), winner of a Global Filipino Literary Award. He is the recipient of a 2001 poetry fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and in 2004 he cofounded Kundiman, a nonprofit organization serving Asian American poetry. He works at Columbia University, teaches at New York University and Fordham University, and lives with his husband in Queens, New York.

My Mother's Suitors

The moment my mother tells me she’d fallen out of love
with my father, the Santa Ana winds still
for a wingbeat second and the lemon trees
shudder in the backyard, their fruits falling
in a singular hushed thud. 
It is a quiet shaking. I sit across
from her at the kitchen table, a man
now, new to shaving. The knowledge
is no revelation to me, not a throbbing secret
made flesh, not a downy egg sac of spiders,
rather, for years, this lovelessness skulks
in our household like mice with bellies full of rice.
                     How did I earn this disclosure, and why
after a slippery-fingered dinner of sweet pork sausages
and sliced tomatoes swimming in fish sauce?
The Santa Ana resumes its torturous blasting. 
My mother then speaks of past suitors:
those who brought her gifts of rose water,
sugar cane, and summer melons; the jetsetters
who promised her the lavish gems of Kona
and Hong Kong; lovers who mastered the rhumba’s
oceanic waves, the tempter’s hipsway of the tango. 
                 It is astonishing what sustains a person,
what we live on, how my mother has blossomed
with age, as she savors her secret history. 
I can’t help but envision her by a window,
leaning into the night as her serenading suitors
gather below her, surrounded by sampaguitas,
luminous children in moonlight.

From Threshold (CavanKerry Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Used with the permission of the author.

From Threshold (CavanKerry Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Used with the permission of the author.

Joseph O. Legaspi

Joseph O. Legaspi

Joseph O. Legaspi is the author of Threshold (CavanKerry Press, 2017) and Imago (CavanKerry Press, 2007), winner of a Global Filipino Literary Award.

by this poet

poem

Amphibians live in both.

Immigrants leave their land,
hardening in the sea.

Out of water.

In Greek, amphibian means
“on both sides of life.”

Terra and aqua.  Shoreline.
In fresh water:

amphibians lay
shell-less eggs;
immigrants give

poem

I love a white v-neck t-shirt
on you: two cotton strips racing
to a point they both arrived at: there
vigor barely contained, flaming hair,
collarless, fenced-in skin that shines.
Cool drop of hem, soft & lived-in,
so unlike my father, to bed you go,
flushed with fur

poem

His artfully unkempt strawberry blonde head sports outsized headphones.  Like a contemporary bust.  Behold the innocence of the freckles, ripe pout of cherry lips.  As if the mere sight of the world hurts him, he squints greenly and applies saline drops.  You dream him crying over you