Primates from an Archipelago

Primates from an Archipelago

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In this cinematic collection of poetry, Irene Suico Soriano unravels threads of silence and oppression. Primates from an Archipelago traces lineages on geographic and personal islands where memories and dreams are synonymous. Balanced with official documentation such as passports, birth and death certificates, and membership cards, the poems also speak the languages of uncertainties and multiple truths. The collection travels from homeland exile and loss in the Philippines, to the author’s origin story in Zamboanga, on to sites where experience and education have shaped her world view, and finally to Los Angeles, the city of settlement and fractured pasts. Mythical and intimate, Primates from an Archipelago illustrates the sad beauty that lies in the gaps.

Dear Emanuella
I want you near the ocean’s edge
standing as I write this love
letter to you thousands of miles
away, mother.

I’ve carried in me the weight of
your confusion and longing
to have a man carry you in their palm.
Each movement revealing your vigilance
for signals that a man was once
again leaving.

I do the same thing
a generation later.
The names are different
but it’s all the same—
the feel of a man’s palm
sliding down my back,
the chime of a promise uttered
and the utter grief
of their departure
from our beds.
All these hurts
dig inside our hearts.

Many do not know that I
have never seen your face
and all I can do is try
to see you in mine.

Every time I grieve and think
there is no way to go on,
I reach for a feeling
only you could have passed on to me.
Always losing it and searching for
this particular feeling in various
rooms and cars,
trying to contain it
not let it slip away.

This morning I thought
of something new.
I will walk away from the ocean’s edge
and fill my pockets with sand.
I wonder, mother, if this weight I carry
will be enough
to fill the decades of loss between us.
Let the sand fill your heart,
make me light once again
so I can walk in different towns
and countries
traverse deserts
and lie in green forests
sleep soundly for
and feel my shoulders

For one night let the sand
fill us up
so we can finally sleep.

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