The immigrant looks at a picture of William Howard Taft astride a water buffalo

Once she asked her father (born
in 1913) what he remembered

about that place before the Americans came,
before the streets changed from names

of creeks, mountain gorges, and orange groves
to names of dead presidents or men in uniform.

He told her soldiers came with threats to shoot
their animals if people refused to move

their homes farther away from what would be
the center of town: no warm entrails

festooned on the trees, no bones
bleaching on the hedges. Blueprint for

lawn-mowering the grass in that
wilderness of hills. From that time,

there’s a photograph of the Governor
General, all 360 lbs. of him: dark suit,

straw hat, carrying a riding crop; sweaty
in the tropics, astride the broad plank

of a water buffalo. Not a beast
for riding, but someone took

care to fit it out with blanket, stirrups,
bit. Taft cabled back to D.C. that he’d

enjoyed a horse ride, prompting
the Secretary of War to inquire:

“How’s the horse?” In the canopy, chatter
of the indescribable; birds of unidentifiable

color. She and her kind, among the new
taxonomies of empire: little and brown.

Note: “Little Brown Brother” was a term used by Americans to refer to Filipinos. The term was coined by William Howard Taft, the first American Governor-General of the Philippines (1901-1904) and later the 27th President of the United States.


In response to Via Negativa: Grave goods.

1 Comment

  1. Wow, I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t know that Taft had been governor-general of the Philippines! Just about all I remember of him from history class is his campaign slogan, “Get on a raft with Taft.” Which somehow didn’t prevent him from winning the election despite the grave peril it suggested. Hmm.


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