by Kay Ulanday Barrett

Psalm for a womon at age 60

Psalm for a womon at age 60

For she who sang to young ears old country time radio and malinak lay labi

Bring forth the father who is now a cloud roaming.
Bring forth the mother who was a severe beating and before she died
an apology you accepted.
Bring every sister back in her likeness.
Bring more than eleven at the table, passing steamed pots and you the oldest
reminding them be careful.
Bring the dead husband who made wooden squares colorful cages with our faces
looking younger in them. You kissed him many times, without one arm around his waist.

Ask the auditor, second that motion / you and I were born political.
Make you vice-president of another organization:
Mangaldan, United Pangasinan, Rizal Center.

Bring cables that travel to Quezon City microphones and Sharon Cuneta and Aga Mulah
—I’m against nothing that makes you laugh and sing in the bed.

The permanent marker is in the top drawer, write down large letters S A N F A B I A N.
A cousin gets your old tape deck radio; you carefully include white tube socks,
hats, our smell.

Let toe step be center of the dance floor, her cha cha cha, her boogie—
knees bent like busy elevators, both men and women in line,
your daughter used to stay up late /
do you know the time?
of course you knew the time, you worked the graveyard shift since 1990,
three more songs, anak.

Look carbon copy / my face, eyelids, thick hair to your louder left dimple.

Blurred chorus of knuckles, a dropped vase over a head, hard thud of your drumming anger.

Get the brush and rubber band.
fingers will curve your hair like the first time a child runs—
fumbling, traveling, a handful.

For the mother who told the daughter to be architect of her own city. No one will
build your…

when I visit you in the basement we watch Filipino news, corrupt murder bribery
your voice pitch standing next to Malacanang Palace, gripped to the throat of anyone
who steals.

Bring the games of poker and pusoy;
claim some hearts and diamonds somehow.
strategize. collect. make the best possible combination.
When you are tired, let me take your turn.