Mango Poem

By Regie Cabico

Mother fetches the fruit from the mango grove
       behind closed bamboo.
       Rips its paper-leather cover during midday recess,
before English class, describes their dance
peaches plums cantaloupes before my first-world
       eyes. When the sun blazed on the dust,

she let the mellifluous fluids
       fall on her assignment books.
Where the mangos were first planted, mother,
an infant, hid under gravel
swaddled by Lola, my grandmother,
after my mother’s aunt and uncle
were tied to the trunk
       and stabbed
by the Japanese. Mother and daughter living off
       fallen mangos, the pits planted in darkness,
       before I was born.

We left the Philippines
       for California dodging
U.S. Customs with the forbidden fruit,
       thinking who’d deprive mother of her mangos.
Head down, my father denies that we have perishable
       foods, waving passports in the still air,
motioning for us
       to proceed towards the terminal.
Behind a long line of travelers, 

my sisters surround mother
like shoji screens as she hides the newspaper-covered
       fruit between her legs. Mangos sleeping
in the hammock of her skirt, a brilliant batik
       billowing from the motion
of airline caddies pushing suitcases
       on metal carts. 

We walk around mother
       forming a crucifix where she was center.
On the plane as we cross time zones, mom unwraps
her ripe mangos, the ones from the tree Lola planted
before she gave birth to my mother, 

the daughter that left home to be a nurse
in the States,
       who’d marry a Filipino navy man
       and have three children of her own. Mother eating
the fruit whose juices rain
      over deserts and cornfields.

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