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Eat Before You Pray

—Ina Cariño

Eat Before You Pray

tell me the story of those revolutionaries,

the ones who slice honey-apples sloppy

into their children’s mouths:

a kind of happiness. to be fed—satiated,


     /giving                so unlike one who limps

into a room of broken chairs, jaded by crimes

grudging stunted memories. remember that story

of an uncle who wooled away his nephew’s money,

right before he was shot by an American

drabbing behind the wilting bougainvillea? who is

the real thief—the most proper criminal.

I never prayed for that uncle, I never prayed

for that American       I never prayed. how to embody

the song of being alive, so the unmothered

turn unstoic again? once, I took my mama’s

stickstraw broom straight from her hands—

swept the gravel streets with salvaged abandon.

once, I opened my own fists & trilled the anthems

of all the elders who died in the raids. perhaps I

am one who limps—perhaps I am gathered grudge.

so sing me a war spell to unfold, to garble gone

along the covert river where we bless our tamarind hands.

so purl me the softest shawl, prick it with brass stars.

& tell me the story of those revolutionaries—the ones

who are poor, unable to give to those poorer.

the ones who only know to eat before they pray.


Originally from Baguio City in the Philippines, Ina Cariño is a 2022 Whiting Award winner for poetry. Their work appears in the American Poetry Review, the Margins, Guernica, Poetry Northwest, Poetry Magazine, the Paris Review Daily, Waxwing, New England Review, and elsewhere. She is a Kundiman fellow and is the winner of the 2021 Alice James Award for Feast, published by Alice James Books in March 2023.

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