New Poem: Bethany W Pope

The Virgin’s Birth

Your father cleared the tangled vines
with his two hands and the thin crescent
of a bola edged from the fragment of fender
he bought in Manila. Your mother
drew four turned stilts erect in land
less soil than water. She wove
the walls with her two hands, hefted planks
to form a floor which hovered
above the heads of men and made a cave
where the pigs could wallow. Paddy on paddy
they called forth the rice, litter on litter
they slaughtered the dogs, staples
to sell at the barrio market held ten miles out.
Children came with puppies and piglets,
tumbling from wombs as the village grew
in the shadow of war. Their wealth increased
without pause. When the Japanese sent scouts
to seek and capture comfort women
your mother hid you with her in a barrel
of the long grains their captains eschewed
as fit only for horses. They took your pigs,
your aunties, they parked their steeds
in the new chapel and let the animals piss before the altar.
They departed and you were born again
in the arms of your mother, eyes, mouth and nostrils
bathed in the hard white pellets you pictured
when you taught yourself to read
and stumbled on the incomprehensible purity of snow.

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