The students are overjoyed

because it is the last day
of the in-house semester
the first
after a debilitating year
when I was twenty
& close to graduating
all I wanted
was to move out
& get a job
my diploma
was good for
at twenty-two
all the students ask
is Christmas
with their families
& a future
they no longer have to pray
somewhere outside campus
they held a box
of pastries
& they huddled around it
the same way
in laboratory class
they saw crystals
real crystals
& saw them glittering
as they took turns
the microscope
something little
can hold
so much
they opened the box
each of them
taking a piece of pastry
examining it
putting it in their mouths
their other hand
catching every crumb
that fell
from each bite
how beautiful
to see joy
picked up
held in their fingers
just like that
I wish
that the box
would never
run out
I wish
I could see them

Lesson in Immunology

When a foreign pathogen enters the body, the body primes itself for its defense. Three things happen: first, its recognition of the enemy; then, a proliferation of cells; before finally, the attack. Some cells will die after this exchange, but those that remain will remember the pathogen, ready if it ever comes back. Here, the body says death is not enough. Here, death is only secondary to memory. Here, to resist is to remember everything. In 2016, nine Philippine Supreme Court Justices ruled for the heroes’ burial of a late dictator. In 2021, his son rises to the presidency. What to make of this resurgence, if not a presage of a failing memory, a willingness to forget? These days, when someone asks me what immunocompromised means, I think T-cell ratios, thrush, chemo, cancer, country, Filipino. But perhaps it is unfair to think of a country as an agglomeration of cells. Perhaps it is impossible to reduce our lived identities to fit a scientific metaphor. But in class, a classmate raised a question, asked if it was possible for immune cells to have the capacity to forget. I’d like to think our professor was referring to us when they said they rarely do.

A friend asks if I’ve been writing

& I laugh, a small, muffled laugh,
unsure if thinking about writing

counts as writing. Emptiness
is part of the process, I think.

Silence, a more sensible response
than words. Between grad school

requirements, a hundred students,
& a crumbling world, how does

something so airless & immaterial
find its way to demand space? Read More