For Lucila Baja and John Cielo Baja
Mother, I’m trying to sketch you
since I cannot write you a poem.
I wanted to say, even if I don’t understand how metaphors work,
how carefully your hands shaped me as a man through your labors.
I watched carefully how your hands mastered the art of spreading butter
on every bread you brought home. The same hands that neatly folded my shirts that
often got stained because I played outside too much. It’s the wonder of your attention
I am trying to capture with my pencil. And I make mistakes every time I draw.
I have drawn elephants and spiders out of my imaginary world.
I have sketched the full moon over Angeles while you stood under it.
But I couldn’t perfect your form. I remember that time one morning,
you were wearing your sundress. You had that smile: the kind that rivaled the stars.
Remember that? I will always remember that and I wanted to draw that memory
with my trembling hand. But I couldn’t. I wanted so much to capture
the details of your tired hands and your weary smile and you carrying on.
Mother, I will keep trying to sketch you.
I have bought more pencils and papers and I will have more
even if I do not know anymore how to live in a world where you don’t.
And if I can’t, I know you’d understand because you have designed my heart like a landscape,
where as a child, you watched me tremble and coil in fear and shriek in happiness.
I do not know what loss is really like. All I know is, I will have the memory in memory,
the pain from pain. This grief from grief made from words from words gathered
in this loss, only to reveal itself as words I wished I could have written as a poem
since I also cannot sketch you, mother. There are no enough pencils in the world to illustrate pain.