PIYESTA


INA CARIÑO



                Feast: n. - a large meal, typically held as a celebration.

                From Vulgar Latin festa (also source of Spanish “fiesta”).



1. 


                surrendering to a new tongue

                       is having mine sliced

                                                            on the jag of expectation:  

                                 language cut on sweetened rim— 

                chipped teeth whitened.  

                                                                   but sugar burns bitter. I watch  

                                                        my sentences crack                  sweet brittle  

                                                                      shattering on foreign floors. 



2. 


as a child only the sweetest poisons would do 

               to nettle my mouth electric. once I swallowed


a tamarind hard candy, the size of a large marble,

               whole. it slunk down my esophagus, bulged 


& stuck itself halfway, so I ran away from yaya 

               thinking myself heathen—bound to be in trouble 


for the accidental gulp. in my tempest-blinking, 

               she called my name, found me under the banister, 


her hands warm & blurred as I wept. matay akon— 

               this is how I die. but instead of letting me, 


she had me polish the hardwood floors 

               with a dried coconut half, push on the husk 


with my foot. we did it together—better than wax. 

               soon the candy melted within the house of my ribs. 



3. 


                                           these days I crave salt  

                                                                           over sweet       shiver 

                            at the sting of it 

                                           threshing my inner 

                                           cheeks— 

                            pucker of gums         swollen bottom lip 

as I swallow soups & stews: peasant food  

                                                 from sepia days         vegetables swimming. 

              gristle meets tooth in the vinegar 

                                                             dance of my mother’s        mother. but 

                             when century eggs stare dark        jellied eyes, 

                                             I mash orange kalabasa into my rice, 

                              ready to honey bitter bile ladled  

                 purposeful                                     into every red clay bowl 



4. 


when typhoons flapped torrential above the crags of the Cordillera & the power went out, my mother would slip wool warmers onto my legs, bundle me in mothball sweaters & dappled ikat shawls. we’d light candles around the house, procession of dripping tapers: my sisters’ necks garlanded by everlasting strawflowers—candy scent so slight, even years after they’d dried. such rituals—sunka pebble games in the dark, shrimp chips, boiled peanuts at dawn. in the end, even immortal blooms shed petals like tears, the sugar-daisies strung upon our shoulders, gilding the way to a new country.



5. 


to eat is to meld tongue with heat. 

an abundance of crumbs at table— 

milky mounds of pan de sal,


bible tripe, little books drowning 

in gravy. pair the best parts of harvest 

with the worst: longbeans with okra 


mottled, crisp onion to counter 

the softest parts of a nightshade’s skin. 

flesh of it—sweet. I pinch the cream 


with fingers, burn the expectant roof 

of my mouth, as if waiting for the pain 

that makes me whole again: nabiag ak.




Listen to Ina read "Piyesta" below:

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INA CARIÑO (they/she) is a queer Filipinx American writer who was born in the Philippines. Ina's work appears in Waxwing, New England Review, and Tupelo Quarterly, among other journals. They hold an MFA in creative writing from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, and is a Kundiman fellow. In 2019, they founded Indigena Collective, a reading series and project centering othered and underrepresented creatives in the NC community.