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Crimson blood. Midnight feathers. Small sacrifice.
Father tells me. Kill quickly. Before the air thickens.
Before the rotten arrives. Unable to find a landfowl,
a neighbor offered their supper: wild lizards.
When darkness dawned a black moon, talons
cavorted on their nipa roof. The youngest was taken.
Spirits came before us. Father reminds me. Pay
your dues. Bow your head.
Give way. Back down.
He says when you enter doors, declare, Tao po.
I am human. When you hear a knock, ask, Tao po?
Are you human? Be humble or lose yourself.
When we walk on rice puddles, we interchange
our left/right slippers & wear our clothes inside out.
This is the only way to safely pass. Under paddies,
eyes that flit in different directions. Bones
that contort into many forms. Skin eager to molt.
My father buried our youngest uncle after he turned
seven. He returned seventy. A woman took him
he said. Luminous skin. Kind eyes. Bright hair.
Invisible and in trance, he watched his siblings age,
his parents die. Small habit to remember. Father
teaches me. Same path to & from home. Won’t lose
your way with repetition. Decades later, the chained
dogs on every house corner are gone. Vines clasping
on barbed wire fences replaced by pillars & stones.
But spirits are never hindered by man-made walls.
Everywhere, I still leave pots of water. Each room
has salt. When scared, I wear a garlic necklace.
When alone, I bathe in coconut oil. The odor repels
the unwanted. The grease lets me slip away.



Mark Dimaisip is a Filipino writer from Manila. His works have appeared in The Brasilia Review, Cha, Fantasy Magazine, harana poetry, Human Parts, Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition, Strange Horizons and elsewhere. He has performed spoken word in Southeast Asia and Australia. Links to his poems are at https://markdimaisip.carrd.co.
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