All rise together

“…one more light, the bowl shall brim.” ~ Advent carol

Near winter break, my final year in Chicago
at the end of my fellowship, before I had to get back
on a plane to leave for our other country on the other
side of the world— After the first heavy snow,

you took me home to your family, more confident perhaps
than I about how they might take me in, someone I myself
had described as a woman with history. I think I baked
a chocolate cake— choosing three smooth-curved

bay leaves for improvised decoration atop
the buttercream. Did they sense how much I feared
not ever again being loved for who I was; not ever completely
finished or becoming? But after you told the gathering I was

the woman you wished to marry, your sisters
broke the ice: So where’s the ring, dude? Then
your mother, putting the kettle on the stove to boil
for tea, held out a box of matches and instructed:

Buhayin mo ang apoy, meaning Bring the flame to life.
Already I was in love but fell deeper in when your father,
rolling out dough on the table to make steamed buns, said
in response to my mumbled thanks for making room for me

over the holidays, Kasama ang lahat sa pag-alsa:
meaning The yeast makes all rise together. He stuffed
and shaped each disc, and after they were steamed it was true—
we held their heft and fragrance doubled, generous, in our hands.

~ in memoriam, Ruben B. Igloria Sr.

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