“Milkfish” by Eugene Gloria

You feed us milkfish stew
and long grain rice, make us eat
blood soup with chili peppers,
and frown at us when we lose our appetite.
I remember when I was young and you told me
of that monsoon: the Japanese Occupation—
stories of a time before you met my father,
when you learned the language of an occupied city
in order to feed your family.
You were the pretty one at seventeen,
your skin, white as milkfish.
The pretty ones, you said,
were always given more food—
the Japanese soldiers sentried
above the loft where you worked
dropped sweet yams, and you caught them
by the billow of your skirt.
I remember you in sepia-brown photographs
as a mestiza who equated liberation
with Hershey bars and beige nylons from American GIs—
and the season of the monsoon as dark as hunger
was not about suffering
but what you knew of beauty.