The day we learn her green card
got stolen, I ask my mother why,
after living in this country for
thirty plus years, she has refused to
become an American citizen.
She says this is a way to stay
rooted to her family despite
the distance, but I wonder if living
this way for this long is more
of a convenience that prevents
her from getting naturalized, which sounds
more like a process that rearranges
her DNA, where she is taken to a clinic
and subjected to a series of electric
shocks while an IV pumps glowing
and mysterious liquids into her forearm.
Serious-faced men in white lab coats observe
the procedures from behind a wall
of thick glass. Afterwards,
they lobotomize that part of her brain
that retains the languages she knows
since they agree she has no need for it
so she’ll no longer dream
in Tagalog or Ilonggo, only English.
When her own mother appears
in a dream, my mother is unable
to translate what’s being said, must stand
around helpless until she wakes up
to consult a dictionary she no longer
knows how to read.
Once the penny reached his belly,
he claimed he heard the rich baritone
of Abraham Lincoln speaking to him
from deep within his gut,
a great orator that didn’t need
any prompting, freely offering
advice that vibrated through
the man’s bones, saying
the kind of things a person might say
if they had to spend an undetermined
amount of time in someone else’s digestive tract.
When the penny entered the man’s intestine
he heard of Abraham’s illegitimate
children, his wife’s cooking,
how he feared spiders more than anything.
On the day the penny approached
his anus, Lincoln told the story of the assassination,
a detail both parties avoided until the final
moments of their relationship became clear:
how Lincoln thought he heard
a sparrow before the bullet shattered
his bone, that he had been thinking
of his favorite duck recipe
as he settled into his seat, and
if a person is to die anywhere,
the theater is as good a place as any.