Now vs. When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d; Assemble the Mockingbird; Disagreeable Aspects of Hyphenation; T. and I Compare the Dreamscape; & from Tonight, a Woman


Now vs. When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d


Tonight, my mother leaves a voicemail asking I work back-of-house when I can. I haven’t had a parent call afraid for my safety since 9/11. 

Close to where I live, a couple books a hotel, purchases paramilitary gear, pays off a credit card, in order to hinder my life. Who has a good way to respond?

If anything larger than myself notices me, I’ll die. I’m hesitant to recognize a god with hands, knowing how undelicate my own are. 

I’m going to distract you.

Nanay calls on Monday night to try out her new tablet. She alternates between I’m beautiful and you’re beautiful. Beauty, meaning, a pair. We admit to gaining weight, and Ate Bernnie congratulates my well attended Zoom meeting. Lots of repetition. Nanay wants to show that her hair is all white. 

I’ve yet to find a term of self-reference that does not equate to ornament. 

Someone I don’t know mispronounces my name—worse—someone who would like to know me.

Be good and kind, they say, or else. But I am not good or kind or else I would not look for retribution. 

Cardinals and squirrels before summer when I don’t want to be responsible for their nests.

On a podcast, a poet I love names the many accountability groups she’s joined this year. And I am jealous of her self-discipline and the word accountability, used as a term of self-discipline, but that is not what I want. 

Foremost sin in my mind, the one not worth confessing.

Beloved, if it is the year of the comet, do not look for the comet. I stay so long in one place my hair lines the nests. The young blue jays are gray and flightless and want to know me. I don’t know how to hold down what I love, but I’ve eaten so much fruit trying to lure the animal to me. Thirty-one, I go to the grocery store. Two men open the door for me. I cannot stop them. 

I want to love those who gather around my efforts. Offer care in its multiplicity. 

At checkout, the cashier asks if I found everything I wanted. I say almost, but she pulls out the list. 

Rice flour. 


Then she asks, Have you tried Amazon?

 Is have-you-tried-Amazon the new we-don’t-serve here? 

The world begs for transcription. Most of all, I want to be accurate, but I would like to use less effort. Product of empire as I am, I know very little about forgiveness. I’m gleeful for anything I can allow myself to scorn without consequence. I want to be as good as they imagine, displace the southerner as his own child, unamerican as they come because I’m told union was never the goal. 




Disagreeable Aspects of Hyphenation


Driving through the South wearing my mother’s clothes vs. someone who visits like they don’t know how to approach a wasp nest. 

A co-worker explains there’s nothing special about the food I grew up with. I had invited her into my home. I had picked fruit from my own yard, food I’ d grown because it was impossible to buy. She had packed a to-go plate for her husband. That’s when she told me, leaving, There’s nothing special about the food you grew up with. 

I forget to protect my teeth, and now I find craze lines in the enamel. 

The webinar trainer asks that I practice. What are you going to say? It is so easy to know how another will root out my provenance. Less to understand what I want from this conversation I don’t want. 

I don’t know.

To protect my teeth, I put my tongue between the bite. I don’t think the dead are waiting for us to do anything in particular. It’s been twenty-four years and I still carry a nest of small animals. This year’s is the first that survives. Something I’ve touched that lives, so this is the least of my sins. 

Remember, America is only one possibility.

Online, the silk advertises I can sleep anywhere and shows me bodies asleep in the desert. Here the snakes don’t bite. They wrap around me under a silk gown and keep their mouths closed. Keeping our mouths closed keeps us warm. We’re in this together. Dreaming a man—not the lover—gets too close, so close we all open our mouths. 

Who’s happier than Medusa? I think I hear my lover, but I’ve misheard him. He was cutting her up. Who’s halved more than Medusa? 

I can’t say. There are a million things you can halve in the world. A million you can’t. 




from Tonight, a Woman


Apparently, monarchs who emerge from my yard each winter forgo migration. Like homeland is wherever has kept you. 

A co-worker asks if I am happy here, and I say it’s different for me. Belonging demands being caught in one another’s borders.

T. calls my identity over pronounced, a reproduction of women he does not know. I watch a Youtube video about bouillon cubes, and he wants to know who I am.

I don’t fail to notice history. I want to live where most people love me. I cook meals I imagine loved ones eating. 

But then, the conversations return.

At the airport, a message from T.’s mother shows she’s caught on, 

you don’t seem interested in learning anything from us.

A colleague walks a little faster in the parking lot. At the table, someone asks if I’ve lost my tongue.


Asa Drake is a Filipina American poet and essayist in Central Florida. Her chapbook, “One Way to Listen,” was selected by Taneum Bambrick as the winner of Gold Line Press’s 2021 Poetry Chapbook Contest. She has received fellowships and awards from the 92NY Discovery Poetry Contest, Tin House, and Idyllwild Arts. Her most recent poems can be found or are forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Sierra Magazine, MQR Mixtape, and Waxwing.