written by Merlinda Carullo Bobis


— Merlinda Carullo Bobis

every night from work,
she proceeds to test for damp
the lingerie redundant on the line.
the wash are shadows of other hangings;
they need to be tucked away
like virtue nightly slipped
into an old rose vanity.

she shuts her windows tightly
from a fire-wall never higher than her grim
stare, and begins to strip away
the opaqueness of the day.
she resists the sin of a lone mirror;
it might reveal her luminous.

a monotone of rice and fish
is laid out then—the voyeur yellow bulb
is asked to dinner. it's their affair
to have it hug her limbs,
and gentle them to grace.
she squints in welcome
of its savage repetition on her face.

nightcap follows, a glass of milk
for gut-wounds. they nag for feasts
that hush with sleep.
tucked between eight and nine,
the willing mattress holds her down,
its weight unstirring as a mother's arms.
she, too, does not stir,

except on moments when her hands flail,
ever slightly, to toss aside
this mother's clasp
in dreams of maybe younger arms.
but they only flail-flop
back to her breast
like some impotent reliquary.

her mouth half-opened
cups the darkness for posterity.
so she does not hear the rustle,
the young wife's skirt,
the fabric-sigh that ransoms
the next room from shadows.

About the poet

Merlinda Carullo Bobis

Merlinda Carullo Bobis is a contemporary Philippine-Australian writer and academic. Born in Legaspi City, in the Philippines province of Albay, Merlinda Bobis attended Bicol University High School then completed her B.A. at Aquinas University in Legaspi City. She holds post-graduate degrees from the University of Santo Tomas and University of Wollongong, and now lives in Australia. Written in various genres in both Filipino and English, her work integrates elements of the traditional culture of the Philippines with modern immigrant experience. Also a dancer and visual artist, Bobis currently teaches at Wollongong University. Her play Rita's Lullaby was the winner of the 1998 Awgie for Best Radio Play and the international Prix Italia of the same year; in 2000 White Turtle won...

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