Dear Father, I Am Maria

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou
 I am Maria. It’s dark around me
 My hands caress the nook and crag of life
 Boiled rice with salty fish is all we eat
 Every other day, even twice a week
 We live next to the sewers and trash heap
 I hear the cat purring and dog lowing
 And at times women wailing and screaming
  
 Tiny, thin, I bump into everything
 I have a cleft palate above my chin
 You can see my yellow, crooked front tooth
 An old couple found me crying, and nude 
 Alone, feasted by ants, by the river
 I thank them with all my heart, dear Father
  
 No pen and paper, books of braille to learn
 Ma and Pa made me sit next to the church 
 I heard the clink of coins in front of me
 Vendors selling food, the smell of incense
 I was told Sundays bring in the money
 I sighed, bit my tongue, I am still lucky
  
 One day, Miss Vicky hired me to wash clothes
 Live and get fed at her dorm of students 
 But my wages go back to my parents
 Capitan Lobo is a friend, she said
 Yet she reeked of him, and her money bled
  
 He was a mean blue man not to mess with
 I can feel his eyes roaming my body
 Hair on my skin stood when he gets close
 One night alone, he got drunk and beat me
 I screamed out for help. Please! Anybody?
  
 Dear Father, where were you? I needed you!
 I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve been a good girl
 He forced himself in me. It was painful
 The sharp knife I stabbed him with became dull 
  
 Miss Vicky found us. She screamed. And blamed me
 She cried over his cold, sweaty body
 I did not do it! He started it all! 
 Then I reckoned, my life’s about to fall
  
 I ran out bloodied, confused, and naked
 Laughed, wailed, clawed my way up an overpass
 With bitter tears, jumped in front of a bus
  
 **
 I am Mariah! Sixteen! Nevada!
 On a short vacay, a gift for good grades
 Omigawd! I can’t believe that our house
 Is ringed with thatched, rickety small dwellings
 The roads unpaved, the traffic was awful
 The stench was all over, the weather’s hot
 I’ve complained that I will die here of rot
  
 Like, my family owned banks and businesses
 Land you can see, but what’s it do to me?
 We were going to do some sight seeing
 Soak up the sun with my fair-skinned cousins
 I just wanna hang, I am a teenager!
 What’s a girl gonna do with this glitter?
  
 Umm, while the parents were busy shopping, 
 Or making money, I’m alone. . . again
 In a house full of nannies and drivers 
 And so many rooms, cars, pools and Chanels
 ‘Nang Kikay, ‘Nong boy are my newest kin
 Family secrets were better than gin
  
 Bored, I tiptoed out of the house unwatched
 I wandered into the street, scared, curious
 A POP! A moped with two people rushed
 Someone grabbed and pulled me away from them
 Moped guys were then followed by mayhem
  
 My young hero was no taller than me
 For sure, she sold me flowers at the church
 In tattered clothes, no front teeth and slippers
 We crouched quietly, far, in the bushes
 Her face calm while blood spilled in the trenches
  
 Wuz told that the moped boys were hired guns
 By the sly clan who lived in the big house
 Her family used to own the land taken
 By mine, a land her grandpa plowed till then
  
 They lived in a hovel, fed me crackers
 Slept on a cardboard box above damp earth
 I snuck back and brought them food and money
 It’s the least I’d do for her family
  
 Whatever God! You telling me something?
 To go through all these coz it’s destiny?
 Um, wait till I tell Mommy and Daddy!
  
 ***
 I’m the Mary you see lurking at night
 The clock strikes 12, I’m alive wearing white.
 Near this creepy tree at Balete Drive
 Tis quiet here but when the full moon comes
 The door between two worlds open for us
 Who lost our lives to run free but tethered
 By an unseen leash that held us earthward
  
 Fate had other plans for me, I suppose
 The man I was going to elope with
 Asked me to wear white, meet him at the tree
 Someone hid behind it as I waited
 And struck me hard with a long knife and ran
 I wafted above my skin for a man 
  
 When you suddenly leave this world, you try
 To latch on to the closest living thing 
 Your soul could find so I clung on that tree
 Why Father? I didn’t deserve to die
 I had a life, pakshet, sonovabitch!
 Fine, I will go scare people and be a witch!
  
 The bitch who killed me was someone I knew
 A so-called friend who seduced my husband
 Curse her! Curse him! I hope they rot in hell!
 Then she walked by the tree drunk and alone
 I appeared and screamed at her to the bone!
  
 Mama came to see me bearing sad news 
 The prick who jilted me sold all my stuff
 And left the children at the orphanage 
 Ooo. . . if I could only wring his damn neck
 He will never have another pekpek*
  
 To my surprise, the bastard stood outside 
 The tree waiting for me, to say goodbye
 I asked where in the world he was going
 To Hell! He said. It was all his doing
  
 What? He goes to hell while I am stuck here?
 He apologized, asked forgiveness from me
 His mistress, my killer, choked him to death
 When he bitched at her for having bad breath 
  
 Well, isn’t Karma just appropriate?
 Thanks for abandoning me, Dear Father
 I am destined to wear white forever!
  
 ****
 If you’ve opened that scrunched paper by now
 I maybe dead or about to die soon
 In it is a message to call the cops
 To look for me in this address, this hell  
 It’s too late now and I’ve done what I can
 I know you are still around, Dear Father
 Tell mama she was right and I love her
  
 I left rustic life to seek my future
 For greener soil up the metropolis
 An aide job beckoned outside the country
 Thank you, the hardship in school will pay off
 My kinfolk warned me that this was a trap
 I’ll take the chance rather than eat for scrap
  
 I took care of an old, foul-smelling man 
 I’m at his beck and call, day, noon, and night
 They took my phone, passport and dignity
 They also fed me scraps after their meals
 I’ve no contact to the outside at all
 They burned my fingers when I tried to call
  
 I threw that scrunched paper out the window
 In it was a hopeful note to find me
 When the front door was opened, I bolted
 The police came that time and stopped me
 He took me back to that vile family
  
 The struggle was moot. Fate was so cruel
 Resigned to what is to be a life of hell
 I am now shackled, prodded, beaten, watched
 Then one day, the old man died suddenly
 And the agency people came. I’m Free!
  
 Someone found the note and reported me
 Another Pinay aide who worked close by
 I fainted that fateful moment, dear God
 Recovered at church. Just happy, not sad
  
 Mama showed up, still crying, to fetch me
 Mina dropped by to hand my belongings
 My documents, clothes and stuff were intact
 There is cash, Eight thousand to be exact
  
 Coming back, I lowered my face in shame
 And try to move on, to face a future
 I will live! Ready for new adventure
  
 *****
 I was told that I’m pretty, lithe, and tall
 With shiny, black hair and oh-so smooth skin
 I earned my living in a beauty shop
 Peddled stuff to make women beautiful
 To take care of their skin, hair and body 
 You see, I represent today’s woman
 Considering I used to be a man
  
 I was bullied and beaten at death’s door
 For being different, for acting strange
 TG, Trans, transgender, crossdresser, gay
 Was better than freak, faggot, or bayot*
 I can’t help what I feel, it’s who I am
 And to be true to myself than a scam
  
 Dear Father, I sought refuge at your door
 When I couldn’t take the heat anymore
 I was welcomed unconditionally
 Sister Grace taught me to be kind, not hate
 Father Dan showed me acceptance and love
 I became an agent of god above
  
 I found my calling to become a nun
 Suddenly, I was denied communion,
 And confession, told to dress as a man,
 To act like a man, well I’m not a man!
 That boy is gone. I am now a woman!
  
 So I saved enough money for the change
 From counseling, noselifts, to tracheal shaves
 Rib reshaping and Vaginoplasty
 Breast augmentation and mammoplasty
 It is painful just to be the new me
  
 Through it all, I prayed and asked for guidance
 So when I set foot in your church as a girl
 Your priests leered, groped and teased me sexually
 The nuns outed and mocked me savagely
  
 Dear Father, just because I changed my sex
 And your clergy and nuns uncongenial
 Am still your god-fearing and devout lass
 I’m moving on yet slyly go to mass  
  
 I’m a transsexual, catholic woman
 I am now comfortable with my new skin
 And enjoying all of things feminine
  
 ******
 I am 89 years young, Dear Father
 Suffered two strokes and wear a diaper 
 We were fed smelly swill in this abode
 The aides ignored us when we needed help 
 They stole from us our jewelry and clothes
 My bed was full of bed bugs and urine
 I stayed quiet so I don’t get beaten
  
 I will speak softly and plainly because
 I have no voice left. I am done screaming
 I had four babies, three boys and a girl
 Their father died and left us penniless
 I labored hard night and day like a mule
 So they can grow up, learn, and finish school
  
 I saved money yet it wasn’t enough
 Oh lord, you know I never spoiled my kids
 I tried my best to feed, clothe and love them
 They never finished high school or college
 The eldest, my smartest and hope, was shot
 She got pregnant, the other two shared pot
  
 They left so I had to fend for myself
 Worked menial jobs and sold at the market
 Santo Papa, I cried remembering
 The memories I’ve had with my children
 I hope that I get to see them again
  
 Years passed by, I moved on and start anew
 Saved enough to buy a house with a store 
 While cooking a batch of banana Q
 My left arm went numb and I got dizzy
 I fell and fainted. It wasn’t pretty
  
 One morning, I woke up to an odd room 
 Shared with strangers I didn’t even know
 I can’t move my legs yet I was lucid
 My daughter signed me as an invalid
  
 I begged to go home when she visited
 There is no home to go back to, she said
 She sold my house to pay for my health care
 It’s the best she can do for my welfare
  
 Lord, I implore you to look after them
 It doesn’t matter what happens to me
 Please love and take care of my family
  
 *******
 My body! My bullet-ridden body!
 Never dreamt that I’d leave this life so young
 Life passed by as I floated above the ground
 I saw my brown eyes twitching for answers
 Then felt the eerie stillness of a dawn
 That promised a new start but the past came 
 To honor the debts owed, I am to blame
  
 Tonio. My handsome Tonio. What a stud!
 A user who turned this god-fearing lass
 Into a puppet who made him happy
 And swept me off my pill literally 
 He showed up when I was struggling in class
 And was there when life wasn’t worth the pass
  
 Fun! Fun! And more fun. We’d be sniffing glue,
 Or ecstasy, drink hard liquor or shoot pool
 To love and be loved at thirteen was bliss
 How could anyone not love doing this?
 We would be all over the place to deal 
 Made money and love, it was surreal
  
 One day, he’s with another girl, a girl!
 What da hell! The fucker will be pay for this
 I claimed my turf, turned his peers against him
 I learned how to use a gun and set traps 
 Was looked upon as a leader perhaps
  
 A rival drew hails of bullets at me, at me!
 I survived alone at that crowded mall
 Dead friends fixed their eyes to my direction
 A cook helped me escape. He is Mario
 I owed him my life, this single fellow 
  
 Maria and Mario. Yin and Yang, Ha!
 Our eyes met, held my arms as he hid me
 We became lovers while I had to heal
 Dear father, this wasn’t part of the deal
  
 He wanted a new life for us. Away!
 So we planned our flight to a far province 
 Escape into the darkness and greet 
 The sunrise with new hope, far from the heat
  
 I can’t do this anymore. I am tired
 Now all I want is to be with Mario
 Before we left that morning, we met Tonio
  
 ********
 Is this eternal peace, you priest of the cult?                                                                                                                           What right do you have to wrest tribal land
 from the people who’ve tilled it for eons?
 You said we do not belong here. Do you?
 We didn’t go around the world to prey
 On people whose land they worked on taken
 Forcefully by aides of god in heaven
  
 I’m a daughter from a clan of Lumads 
 Decimated by goons who fired at us 
 At a rally, a peaceful one down south
 A moment of infamy. We stood there
 peacefully yet we moved when told, but why?
 We did nothing! Why did my people die?
  
 My father’s father told us how you’ve used 
 Progress to drive them into the forest. 
 You took advantage of their naivete
 They may look simple but they’re not stupid
 They want to have a place they call their own
 Your cabal’s secret lastly is now known
  
 You have stone and wooden idols to kneel 
 Nature and life around it, we believe
 The plants and animals have souls, we care
 We, as humans, do not own or take land
 We’re here briefly on Earth as it was planned
  
 We will no longer be ever silent
 Our blood might flow, our lives deeply shattered
 Dear Father, do you hear that sound coming?
 It’s the roar of justice coming your way
 It is called Karma! Think of it each day
  
 As long as there’s still air to breath and food
 To eat and land to walk onto, you will 
 Remember who we are, what we’re made of
 You will be judged by your own god above!
  
 Why can’t you just leave us alone in peace?
 You even have the never to cast us out
 From the idyll land that’s not even yours
 You left us dry without any recourse
  
 If you push us too far, we will fight back
 We will not be silenced. It’s not our end
 Our future is bright! Our spirits ascend
  
 *********
 I am the one whose life shouldn’t be told
 My small village was in the far-flung south
 The eldest of nine, I helped my kinfolk
 Sell farm-grown food at the market each day
 This old man would drop by and smile at me
 Then one day, the ground I stood swayed and shook
 My parents’ blessing came was all it took
  
 Merely twelve, I woke up in a huge house
 There, I was maltreated like a soiled mouse
 I slaved in the kitchen, washed the toilets
 Beaten and denied food when I spoke up
 That night, the man tore what was left of me
 I resisted and fought back helplessly
  
 A baby showed up unexpectedly 
 I’ve never seen someone frail and tiny
 They took him away and locked me up high
 I could hear him wailing for me, my milk
 His name is Raja. He’s my only hope
 My beacon to maybe live, love and cope
  
 Alone in the attic, I wondered why
 My parents let me go without asking
 Why would men have choices, money and wives
 Though girls like me have none and treated less
 Yet we give life, care for and do love thus
  
 Old man would come in the door and in me
 He’d bring his sons to hold me then take turns
 My screams and cries were muffled and ignored
 I wished I’d been a man instead of this
 A Woman, Lady, Girl, Maiden or Miss
  
 I pray to you, Allah, for your guidance
 And to him on the cross and other gods
 That my son will remember his mother
 Not for killing his father with anger
  
 But to know who bore and loved him to death
 That night, I stabbed the man who enslaved me
 His blood crept while I tried to flee his house
 No regrets, I am now the killer mouse!
  
 I am in a much happier place for now
 My parents showed up as my fate unfolds
 My death warrant signed as the sword behold

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