Reasons for Letting My Garden Grow Wild

I am forgetting the Tagalog

for mother, which is how it

                                            all begins, doesn’t it? First, the words,

                                            then a deluge that wipes them of all their

faces. There are trellis vines to be

uprooted and I could never bear

                                                       the violence of their unraveling, their stems coiled into

                                                       fingers grasping the clear, empty sky. In school, I made

the mistake of pressing the lockers

with my fingers and a student froze

                                                          so suddenly, I withdrew, became phantom

                                                          of middle school, little brown thing just

haunting the hallways. There are some things they don’t teach

you about plants: how to shift the earth so they can breathe or

                                                                                                    not, if that was your thing.

                                                                                                    I remember my seatmate

leading the class into a chorus

of laughter when the Mexican

                                                farmer in our history video pronounced die

                                               a bit like Diós, though it’s possible we just

failed to hear him saying that once tossed

to the wind, the vines will turn into holy

                                                                   offerings for the God waiting for His part

                                                                   in this sorry harvest. My history teacher

was in fact an unused English major prone

to teaching us about the ancients of literature

                                                                        that had been crowded out by the more

                                                                        vogue writers of the day, like Chaucer

yielding to Shakespeare. I don’t know

why I feel guilty when I can’t muster

                                                           the image of my history teacher’s tired

                                                            sunburnt face reciting Shakespeare as if

the poet’s sonnets never tasted the bittersweet

winds of a garden liberated to the wilds long

                                                                        after he died. In school,

                                                                        I made the mistake of calling

my mother and answering her

in Tagalog only to be suddenly cut

                                                       off by a supervisor asking me to speak

                                                       in English. When forced to say

I love you in a different language,

it sounds like a goodbye, or maybe

                                                        it was just my hyperventilating middle school

                                                        self speaking through the wild beasts of her

heart. If our conversation was let to

run its course, would I have known

                                                         this other shadow of life? Yesterday, my neighbor looked

                                                          at me oddly when I lined up all the things capable of death

in my house outside the curb near the grass:

knives, scissors, history books. So far, no one

                                                                        has taken them, and they still sit 

                                                                        there, rusting in the open breeze. I admit I like

the shape of the horizon when cluttered

with fauna marrying the closest spaces

                                                                like the mountains I woke to

                                                               as a child—those ancient, dancing,

untamed gods. Where else would you find

such audacity? When the vines die, I sing to them

                                                                                lullabies in Tagalog

                                                                                I only understand

viscerally, like the need to remember

 the origin of your lonely brown self.

                                                         Some days I ask myself if I’m better

                                                         than that seatmate who tugged first

at the laughter when here I am, offering my garden

in worship quietly as to survive. At night, the mountains

                                                                                               would grow into their ages,

                                                                                               bowed under the weight of the life

hidden softly in their shade: a mother

asking her stubborn daughter for a kiss,

                                                         the daughter’s young

                                                          tongue still as native

as a lifetime under the gentle

trees blocking the harsh Philippine

                                                        sun. Oh, all these words

                                                        Shakespeare never knew.

Yvanna Vien Tica is a Filipina writer with a hearing impairment who grew up in Manila and in a Chicagoland suburb. A high school senior, she is the 2021 Hippocrates Young Poet and the 2021 1455 Teen Poetry Contest Winner. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Verse Daily, Poet Lore, Salt Hill Journal, and Shenandoah, among others, and has been performed virtually in a 2021 UN Climate Change Conference event. She edits for Polyphony Lit, reads for Muzzle Magazine, and tweets @yvannavien. In her spare time, she can be found enjoying nature and thanking God for another day.