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—Ina Cariño


ever look at someone’s hands, think they could belong to you:

imagine fingers tipped with keratin flecks—little claws as yours.

remember how you stroked yaya’s zig-dry tips, rough

enough to scratch your cheek as she sung you lullabies?

they could be just like papa’s picking plenty fast on the guitar,

his singing ribs pressed against the glossy wood—

or they could be just like mama’s as she zipped spines

from longbeans, saying you pull too—tucked her curls in

with nails trimmed so short she must be scraping her own

animal hide        yes you remember tito B pushing your palm

over hot silken lard while teaching you to fry isda, skeletal

fins sticking your pointers—or when tita M said she’d buy paputok

for exploding—ringing in the New Year, right before

the evening news showed an accidental fire in that same

market street—remember, running to the palengke, you tripped

& scraped every single knuckle, hoping for her safe return,

ready for lola to shriek you’re covered in soot! thank the Virgin

you didn’t cut your knees up!—except all the statues of Mary

you’ve ever seen have all just been known to cry blood,

weeping over hands in prayer & for what—remember when

you sliced your thumb chopping vegetables as tears squelched

onto your ruddy cheeks, wet ruby blossoms on the watery paper

of diced onion—how strange it was you felt no pain—

how strange, the instinct to hide the wound in your fist,

as if holding onto blood was the only thing that mattered.


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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