Heat Studies


People seem surprised when I tell them I don't really like
hot weather—But aren't your people from a tropical country? 

Similarly, at news of widespread devastation wrought 
by cyclones and hurricanes,  immediately they ask

if my family have suffered any losses. Which is to say, 
they don't know I'm from upcountry, so far north 

where every mountain was once blanketed with Benguet 
pine and moss, until it was turned into a colonial hill station.

Early colonizers were so excited to find this pocket
of green—this Shangri-la wild with orange groves, rice

terraces, trumpet flower vines; hidden waterfalls and
veins of ore. Plagued by infernal heat and humidity 

in the lowlands, they lost no time gathering up 
their coattails and cravats, top hats and silk

shirts (surprising they didn't adapt their own
habitual dress to their new circumstances), 

carving a city into its heart and pushing 
the natives to the outskirts. No resinous

trace of pine left in the air now, or frosty
mornings. Only rising heat and diesel fog,

billboard after billboard advertising mobile
phones and luxury condominium housing.


My Korean friend once told me: fight
heat with more heat. In summer,
steamed rice or boiled noodles, piled
in a lake of gochujang sauce and 
ladled over with chili oil. Food 
that makes you sweat, cools
the temperature of your blood.
A little gash of water on the nape
or on the wrists. Sit still, 
preferably on a lower floor
with windows open.  


Is it hot or is it me?
Cat on a hot tin roof, 
the dog days of summer 
hot enough to fry 
the hot mess of an egg 
on the sidewalk. 

Is it hot or is it me?
Not even a mile up the road,
cool marble pillars hold up 
a mansion's roof. Columns
of shade trees all around.
The hum of HVAC boxes.

Is it hot or is it me?
Asphalt paved parking lots
and outdoor basketball courts.
Bus stops with no shade.
Some housing areas are right
in the middle of a food desert. 


Don't burn your bridges.

Don't leave the babies in the car.

Don't pour more concrete on surfaces.

Don't burn the candle at both ends.

Pray that volcanoes stay quiet.

The heat is on. 

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