what we are (work
hard) (adaptable)
negotiates with

what we were
(dropout poor) (under-
employed) (dreams
of [___________])

we value where
we know (city
streets) (southern
suburbs) (barrio)
where we went
(fishing village)

wrap presence
(work) (sleep)
(love) (sorrow)

with our needs
(dress you couldn’t afford)
traditions (always open

doors) and comforts
(fresh-baked pandesal)
we don’t forget

we negotiate
what we can be
(labor) (opportunity)
(migrant) (model)
(social construction)

transform (status)
what we came from
(sardines and rice)
(oyster-shelled streets)
(two-stop jeep ride)

anecdotes to shape us
(diligent) (contract
worker) (independent)
position ourselves
(on whose foot)

we (blank stare audience)
(narrative passengers)
can identify (Manilamen)
(American) (Filipino)

(call me [name it])

become what (ancestry)
(heritage) (stereotype)
we were born to be

grasp (culture)
(erasure) (community)
connect when we can
(memory) (history)
(noodle dish we both cook)

and become

“Become” as it appears in Settling St. Malo. A version appeared as “Becoming” in Redactions 20 (2016): 18-19.