“To the Red Fire Monkey” by Jonel Abellanosa

Jonel Abellanosa


Ama*, papa’s mom who loved me more than anyone,
Blamed the year I was born—1968—her ethnic
Chinese biases answering why unruliness ruled our home.
Disciplining me was possible when she’s not around,
Every now and then belt coiled round papa’s hand. Her
Firstborn, papa’s elder brother, tied my wrist to the
Grillwork after I instigated my younger cousin to
Hose the floor with our piss. Uncle must have known
It was a mistake when Ama arrived home. What he did
Jerked the dragon in grandma’s heart and she fumed,
Knifing her eldest son’s authority with scary scolds. “Your
Love for that monkey is spoiling him!”—I remember
My uncle’s words as he argued. My grades began to
Nosedive, report cards decorated with red numbers
Of failing marks, papa and mom like patrons of the
Principal’s office. Nicknamed “Monkey,” I skipped
Quizzes, classes. Forward ten years or so and I was a
Red as shiver junkie smoking for decades, my life like
Siesta hours of childhood that seldom knew silence.
This year, 2016, how many children, born of red and fire,
Unleashing monkey business as homage to you? How
Vicious can playfulness be? Red and Fire seem
Worse enough. Add Monkey to the mix and all
Expectations fly out the window like banana peels,
Your year guaranteed with the funniest brow raisers,
Zaniest behaviors as cure-all for conformists

*Ama is how I addressed my grandmother

Poets Respond
February 9, 2016


Jonel Abellanosa: “Happy Chinese New Year!”

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