Feast: n. - a large meal, typically held as a celebration.
From Vulgar Latin festa (also source of Spanish “fiesta”).
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.
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.
these days I crave salt
over sweet shiver
at the sting of it
threshing my inner
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
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.
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:
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.