Joseph O. Legaspi
Joseph O. Legaspi was born in the Philippines, and was raised there and in Los Angeles where he immigrated with his family when he was twelve. He holds degrees from Loyola Marymount University and the Creative Writing Program at New York University. Currently, he lives in New York City and works at Columbia University. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, recently in the North American Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, Puerto Del Sol, Poet Lore, The Literary Review, and the anthologies PinoyPoetics and Titling the Continent. A recipient of a 2001 poetry fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), he is one of the founding members of Kundiman, a non-profit organization serving Asian American poets.
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As soon as we became men
my brother and I wore skirts.
We pinched our skirt-fronts into tents
for our newly-circumcised penises, the incisions
prone to stick painfully to our clothing.
I was partial to my sister's plaid skirt,
a school uniform she outgrew; my brother favored
one belonging to my grandmother, flowers
showering down his ankles.
By this stage, the skin around the tips
of our penises was swollen the size
of dwarf tomatoes.
As a cure, my mother boiled
young offshoots of guava leaves.
Behind the streamline of hung fabric,
I sat on a stool and spread
before a tin washbasin. My mother then bathed
my penis with the warm broth,
the water trickling into the basin like soft rain on our roof.
She cradled my organ, dried it with cotton,
wiping off the scabs melted by the warmth,
and she wrapped it in gauze, a cocoon
around my caterpillar sex.
I then thought of the others at the verge of their manhood:
my brother to replace me on this stool,
a neighborhood of eleven-, twelve-, and thirteen-year old
boys wearing the skirts of their sisters
and grandmothers, touched
by the hands of their mothers,
baptized by green waters,
and how by week's end
we will shed our billowy skirts,
like monarchs, and enter
the gardens of our lives.