sages’ gardens, ginger root, and sirenglow of mist, green tongues of lightsmoke and portents arousing hungersmagnolia plumed gold moonstone heartcollecting rain in turtle shell hollowsof shoals and shelter, of stones that singof coral, of wine, of luminous unnamed
cinnamon groves, veil of monsoonmoonless midnight’s milky starsthe finest gold dust, tinder, mirrorof angels’ tears, of devils’ bloodof cooing doves, a child’s fine bonesof sugarcane, and fistfuls of saltof silk brocade, of laughter, of waiting
by Barbara Jane Reyes
From Diwata, by Barbara Jane Reyes. Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010. 'the true color of the sea' is reprinted by permission of BOA Editions.
Notes courtesy of BOA Editions:
Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of two previous poetry collections including Poeta en San Francisco which
was awarded the 2005 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American
Poets. She was born in Manila and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.
She works as adjunct professor in Philippine Studies at University of
San Francisco. You can read an interview with Barbara Jane Reyes here, and find out more about her from her website, where she frequently updates her blog. Reyes also recently contributed to Harriet, the news blog for the Poetry Foundation, and you can find her entry here. There are a number of recordings of Reyes reading at this site (scroll to the bottom of the page).
In her book Diwata, from which 'the true color of the sea'
comes, Reyes uses such Filipino oral tradition devices as meter,
repetition and refrain, call and response, incantatory verses which
verge on song, and the pantoum (which has Southeast Asian origins). She
frames her poems between the Book of Genesis creation story, and the
Tagalog creation myth, placing her work somewhere culturally in between
both traditions. Also setting the tone for her stories is the death and
large shadow cast by her grandfather, a World War II veteran and Bataan
Death March survivor, who has passed on to her the responsibility of
remembering. Reyes’ voice is grounded in her community’s traditions and
histories, despite war and geographical dislocation.
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