whistled ivory
teeth of coconut meat
meant he was shoveling
or having coffee with Acidophilus Milk
or a smoke with Dan the ‘Nam vet
who sold him cartons

wore flip flops in the garden
carved canyons in his soles
saw clearly beyond cataracts
made Filipino expletives
ukininam at the mahjong table
shuffling made the gamble sound simpatico
like the tango he danced on the piano

called us from the trees
with peanut butter toast
fed us with his thick cracked fingers
nails like moons
kamayan style

read Are you my mother?
to the audience, a page-turner, age three
in his lap and when you fell
he spanked the concrete
with vengeance
for a scraped knee
handfuls of coins convinced you
shhh—you were his favorite

In the morning basement
he hacked a toilet cough
for yesterday’s phlegm
in the bathroom where his dentures slept
where we split his menthols
and flushed them like love
we could not reciprocate

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Lia Yaranon Hall

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