Amanda Ngoho Reavey
Amanda Ngoho Reavey is a Philippine-born, Wisconsin-raised poet and artist interested in ancestral stories and plant spirit communication. She is the Author of Marilyn (The Operating System), which won the 2017 Association of Asian American Studies Best Book Award in Poetry, and is the Founder of Tea & Tattered Pages, a small press publisher envisioned as a conversation between poets, artists, scientists and philosophers. Amanda holds an MFA in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University and is the Marketing & Development Director at Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Marilyn, The Operating System, 2015
Rehome: The Attrition of Luz
Home #1. –
Home #2. –
How to shape my lips to fit this.
Home #3. Ormoc City, Leyte, Philippines
She knew something would happen two days before it did. She went outside where the air smelled like pig roast, sampaguitas and shit, and meditated on a stoop along the Malbasag River. She realized the circumstances of her birth were not unlike the baby Jesus. Her mother: thirteen, unwed and pregnant. There was no father because she was immaculately conceived. No, there was a father; her father was god.
Home #4. Tacloban, Philippines
She didn’t learn of her divinity until she was eleven years old, but others had already begun to suspect it when she was four. Her foster father, drunk on San Miguel and an unbearable sun, lunged at her with a karambit knife and the next thing she knew she was crouched down on all fours on the highest branch of a jackfruit tree.
“She flew! She flew!” the housemaid shrieked.
“She didn’t fly, she floated!” her foster mother said.
That evening, at exactly 7:00pm, a social worker arrived. After three hours of trying to coax Luzviminda out of the tree, they decided to saw it down.
Once on the ground, she looked up and shook her little fist: “Ako si Luzviminda. Huwag mo akong kalimutan.” I am Luzviminda. Don’t you forget me.
Home #5 Angono, Rizal, Philippines
Home #6. Taytay, Rizal, Philippines
The process of becoming an adult happens very quickly. In a night that turns the blackness to lemon green, the moon ashen. Irises the shape of discs transmute into crescents. A shooting star fixes forever on the retinas. This is the moment he asks you how an Asian leopard cat moves and you immediately drop to the ground on all fours. This is Luzviminda. Before she bends, she whispers, “ako si Luzviminda. Huwag mo akong kalimutan.”
Home #7. Metro Manila, Philippines
Luzviminda can't think in the way you want her to. If you try to push her into talking she’ll start rocking – an outrigger several knots from where it started - staring at the wall until she sees herself reflected back. The caretaker calls the children to the table for dinner. When Luzviminda doesn’t turn, the caretaker taps her shoulder. She flinches. Sensation hurts. What can we do? We stop. Instead, we wait. At the limit or point beyond which the thinking begins. Ako si Luzviminda. Huwag mo akong kalimutan.
Home #8. Metro Manila, Philippines
Home #9. Muntinlupa City, Philippines
Days later, in a different house, she awoke to discover the white linens had turned red and she bled for six days. After, she climbed an iron fence and found a garden where she picked lemons from the tree and squeezed them, letting the juices run down her face, her neck. To cleanse the body.
That day the Pasig River reversed itself and flowed upwards. Taking her towards the sky. Along an orange-red blue. What does it mean to switch hands? To go. Again. To go. Again. To go. Again. Again. To go.
Ako si Luzviminda. Huwag mo akong kalimutan.
Ako si – Ako si – Ako si –
Originally published in TRUCK, 2015
Immigrant Notes on Possession
Written after lighting my “Resident Alien” card on fire
1. Two days after turning 8 years old, the papers were signed and she left her name. When she left her name, she left her country.
2. For an emigrant a desire line is a kind of violence that masks loneliness. How the body appears whole but is secretly – suspended – mid flight – a hand that stops a plucked string from making sound.
3. Sometimes the only choice is to flee or to merge. To flee is to dissociate. To merge is a kind of possession.
4. For example, as an adult, she traveled the Silk Road from Rome to Istanbul. Gave away her fingers and toes to lovers until she had none.
5. Once she found her mother’s handwritten signature and right thumbmark forgotten in the back of a closet. Immediately she bought a black inkpad. Made marks all over the paper. How there might be similarities in the looped lines. How shadows make the light tangible.
6. Identity is a Freudian slip. She says, “hold me.” He says, “what are you hungry for.”
7. She puts her thumb on top of her mother’s thumbmark. On an inhale. Her body slips through time and into hers. All at once she understands how orphan children are never born. How they – simply – appear.
8. She stares at him. The way she stares at people when she can’t understand what they’re saying and tries to fill in the gaps instead of asking them to repeat themselves.
9. Could we converse instead in color and brushstrokes? For example, mix burnt Siena and white. Take a palette knife. Make dark marks that dent the blank canvas.
10. Yesterday, she made a tea her mother used to make. Put it in a pint-sized mason jar. Put it on her tongue. To drink. Instead. She drank a memory.
11. It tasted of Sulawesi sea salt and a bloody handprint. Smeared across white washed walls. A crimson line on cobblestone dragged out the back gate of the courtyard. Afterwards, she threw the mason jar in the alleyway. It stopped – mid flight – it did not shatter. It did not sound.
Originally published in Construction Literary Magazine, 2015