Watch Animals Closely for Strange Behavior

Ina Cariño

           Luzon, 1990. Fatalities: est. 1,621.

after the quake

             to remind you flight was never meant to be forever

your mother will gift you a pocketful

             of broken feathers

                                                 an apology of fading stars

             what might otherwise be mistaken for daylight

                         you’ll have bolted your furniture

                         installed latches on cabinets

                         learned doorways are no stronger than any other part of a building

                                       but your father will have taught you

                  to carry a sack of centavos

             burlap cradling coins to feed both living & dead

                  after the quake practice being less than quiet

             to shrug silent

                  to unexist

                            to step lightly over figures who wear your sister’s clothes

those limp things lining street gutters



          after the quake boys whose soles are pricked with glint-glass will gather at your house

                                          though you’ll have hung wreaths woven

                              from the hair of elders

                  silver above windows to ward off looters to whom you’ll tell stories with no words

          because everyone should know

                                                                 what a mouth with no tongue sounds like

                              it won’t be long until colors won’t matter

                                                                 what shadow shapes do you see when no one is in sight?

                                                                 what does a tree look like what does a church look like

                 what does God       look like

                                                                 after the quake be cautious

                 watch animals closely for strange behavior

                                   extinguish small fires

                              & follow trails of flies to find the faceless under rubble

who would have thought a city could run out of caskets

                                                  who ever thought about caskets needing linings

                                                                              silk or brocade to cradle puffed arms & legs

          where will the wood come from where will the nails come from

                                         after the quake

                                                  to remind you flight was never meant to be forever

                         what’s left of your cousins will put makeshift coffins together from tarp & old wood

                                                                           stuff them with limbs

                                                                           fling them off cliffs to be buried


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