11:2: “Alimu-om”, by Christelle Mariano

11:2: “Alimu-om”, by Christelle Mariano

Sometimes, just a heat. Sometimes, the stench
of an egg you rescue from the kitchen counter weeks too late.

Alimu-om: your tongue shapes
the heavy steam that escapes the parched sidewalks

after weeks, months of no rain.

Your sky is powder-scented, moving.
Petrichor, someone else corrects, interrupting
this transmission with debate.
Here where there is no ground
from which to escape, only ice,
debate keeps us from sending our thoughts homeward.
My sky is pieces of a broken planet.
Probes over geysers exhaling impatiently into space. Unblue.

I think of things that have no words
in our tropical language:
the silverhair cracks that pattern the surface,
the ocean alive and writhing in the mantle of a frigid moon,
the fingerprint marks the snow smears on the hatch.
Tell me, how many days, weeks, months
the earth has to be left barren
for the alimu-om to sigh into the air,
pleasured and bereft in the same breath.
Tell me the word for thoughts that are swallowed
by the lacuna between here and far away.
Tell me of kitchen counters and rain.
Write to me more.

Christelle Mariano’s work has appeared in the Philippine Graphic/Fiction Anthology, TAYO Literary Magazine, and Philippines Free Press. She lives in Kalibo, Aklan and is a member of the Astronomical League of the Philippines. She contributes indie book reviews to Adarna SF (www.adarnasf.com).  She says:

 I’ve always been curious about untranslatable words and experiences, especially since I write in English while my mother tongue is Filipino. How difficult it must be for someone from a tropical country like mine to try explaining life on an icy planet. I thought it was a good place to start exploring thoughts on distance and change and longing.

“Sidewalk Steam Light” image is by Lee LeFever.

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