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by Aldrin Valdez


Nanay once joked that when it came time to move to the U.S. she’d beg the pilot to turn back. Or she’d jump out of the plane


swim back to Manila.


Come back    

I pray






langoy ka.


Swim into the river.


Sa ilog.


Taga ilog.


From the river.


Tagalog: People of the River.




emerges from the water, cursing


the trash and tae floating all around her, clinging to her ill-fitting dress, something she’d only ever wear to who knows—maybe an embassy, to a stuffy plane full of ‘kanos & balikbayans-to-be.


She wrings her hair dry, a gesture her arms have memorized wringing wet fabric ten times as thick down the street from her house where neighbors gossiped over laundry.


She thinks to get on a jeepney, but she doesn’t want to stink up the whole bus with the shitty water drying on her skin and clothes.






Tagalog curses feel good on her tongue.


She spits on the earth & begins to walk the many, many miles back to Tondo. She is used to walking.


The skin on her callused heels is a map of broken streets & syllables that fall like rain water on newly paved asphalt


I / sa


da / la / wa


       tat / lo


a / pat


       li / ma


    a / nim


pi / to


       wa / lo


      si / yam


   sam / pu

Aldrin Valdez is a Pinoy poet and visual artist. They live in Brooklyn.

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