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To Be Walang Hiya

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Bubblegum lip gloss kissed,                Our lifelines, our mirrors,

I was never a singkil princess            These are Luminous Mysteries — 

Knuckle cracking, polished toes,        Our notebooks, our language,

I was never a Santacruzan queen      To witness, to make way,

Black eyeliner, push up bra                  Our thirst and our wedding bands —

I was never a curtsying debutante    To fill stone jars with water, to wed,

Loud, gum-smacking babygirl             Our glamour and our armor.

I was never a tiaraed Miss Fil Am     To transfigure, dazzling as the sun.

Source: Poetry (May 2014)

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This poem originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

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To Be Walang Hiya

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  • Barbara Jane Reyes was born in Manila, the Philippines, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. She earned a BA in ethnic studies from the University of California at Berkeley and an MFA from San Francisco State University. She is the author of the poetry collections Gravities of Center (2003), Poeta en San Francisco (2005), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and Diwata (2010).

    Her work explores a variety of cultural, historical, and geographical perspectives. In Poeta en San Francisco Reyes employs English, Spanish, and Tagalog to create a devastating portrait of her hometown. Craig Perez noted in a Rain Taxi review that “throughout Poeta, we witness the intersecting trajectories of body, self, culture and city.” In a review for Bluefifth, Nicole Cartwright Denison commented that by “drawing heavily upon inspiration from Filipino creation myths, along with multiple biblical and classical allusions …...

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