Self-Portrait, on the Cusp

I did not come of age in Bauang or Bacnotan
or Naguilian. Before, I was the snot-nosed
girl who hid in the bushes and behind the fence
to listen to others talk about the world beyond
our town. I was nimble with needle and thread
and my right foot could follow the rhythm of the treadle.
I braided my waist-long hair by the window, pretending
to look at the moon while trying to curb the jealousy
incited by older sister’s matching shoes and shirtdress,
umbrella and purse. When she went out to work I counted
her heels’ fading steps in the distance, then envied
more the moon’s golden light fallen like a shawl
across our poor walls. I longed to spread my hair
like a carpet on the grass. I longed to be someone’s
sweet, the warm brown musk a note underlining
the flotilla of smoke rings from someone’s mouth
before it hovered over mine, then descended.

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