Aimee Suzara

My Mother's Watch


My mother's watch:
a two-toned, gold-band Rolex.
Small, moon-like face encased in
curve of heavy glass—
time measured without numbers.

At the palengke in the rural province
I say
Mom, that's too flashy.
someone might try to rob you.
I heard that Tito R. got stabbed in a dark alley
near the house in Manila
for a fake Rolex
with a too-shiny gold band.

Its tiny hands tick time
almost imperceptibly.

Doesn't she notice
no one else in the palengke
is wearing a real Rolex?
Instead, pseudo-American logos tattoo polyester tee shirts,
old housedresses fade in the humidity.
Doesn't she notice
shifty gazes from low-moving youngsters

slip through the narrow spaces between the
bangus stand overflowing with gravels of ice
and the bushels of tumbling green bananas
and the meat hanging in flanks, swaying slightly?
I see
that the vendors eye us curiously,
feeling our fidgety ways as they hawk their goods,
my height uncanny despite
hunched-over shoulders—
unflattering blouse to hide my curves.
And the recognition of us Americans like spies
causes a shift in tongue:
They quickly switch
from Pangasinense or Ilocano
into Tagalog,
Taglish, and finally, English
Bili na kayo! Yessss Ma'am, Sir . . .


My mother's watch:
emblem of 1969
20 borrowed bucks secret wedding
two twenty-somethings gawk out the window as they descend
into the mouth of the Big Apple.

The newlyweds
learned to cook gizzards, necks and smelt,
occasionally adobo as a treat.
First TV: a gift carried on his lap from port of entry to Niagara Falls.

unrecognized credentials
lawyer uncle turned butcher to feed his eight children
couch-surfing and loans
six to a bedroom: like a can of anchovies
caffeine and anemianot enough sunshine
untreated TB and pneumonia
memorizing of books to pass exams while
memories of home melt into
too many cups of instant coffee


A child's Fisher Price record player
tinkles "Mary Had a Little Lamb."
Dad flips real vinyl on Technics. We learn
Beatles, Beach Boys and Benatar.
Late nights sleepy-eyed after emergency room calls:
the garage door opens.

Ice clinks in a whisky glass.


They do not yet miss their left-behind lives:
Lolo's rule in the house with the green metal gate where
nine kids left for the West,one by one by one
movie house in the little town by the sea
popcorn sold out of recycled coffee cans

Sine del Sol burns to the ground:
fatherless tensibling grudges

tsinellas shuf shuf shuffle across aged wooden floors
timemeasured in sunrise and sunset

The ones left behind keep time in slow
tick tock the clocks not turning digital

send us some Tang, cigarettes, M&Ms
medicine, a change of the curtains


Now we are too fat and fancy
standing in the palengke
flies hover over mounds of silvery anchovies
jackfruit is cracked open to reveal orange innards
durian sends pungent soursweet towards our nostrils
timemeasured in the melting of ice, the rotting of fruit.

I feel ashamed for the fat on my cheeks
try to disappear, but an American can be seen from miles away.
And Mom refuses
to hide her real Rolex
even when a watch is unnecessary.

Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry
Issue 2 | Winter 2011 | pp 17-24