PISI | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

"Table Delicacies" by Emilio Alvero (1928). Photo courtesy of the University of the Philippines Diliman University Collection Mapping Project, 2017-19.



1. n. part, fragment, piece: I watch her slice the peeled calabash gourd into tiny windshields. 2. v. agpisi: to cut up, divide: Bonnet-mouth fish fermenting in a glass jar, blue plastic lid browned with innards. I slip a spoonful into a mesh strainer, sieving bones from concentrate. 3. adj. kappisi: it was just cut, it was divided just now: Boiled water poured over. Bones crushed, set aside. 4: v. ipapisi: to ask someone to cut up, divide, something: Grandma asks me to slice tomatoes and onions for the stew. How small, I ask, should I cut. When you lift a bite to your mouth, how much can you fit. 5. v. ipisian: to give a share to someone: I hand over the cutting board. With the knife, she sweeps the reds and whites into the saucepan. The half-moons slide into the thick, brown foam. 6: v. pisien: to separate, to halve: She gives me the ladle, puts me in charge. Don’t fuss, you’ll soften the gourd to mush. 7: n. pisien ti bagik: my spouse, lit. my other half: Dear love, this is the world we can never share. I wish I could show you how much this stew is worth, the jars of salted bonnet-mouth, fresh calabash gourds seated on the counter. 8: n. kapisi ti puso: sweetheart, lit. a fragment of my heart: pisi of gourd, pisi of fishbone, pisi of boiling broth. 9: n. pisi ti bulan: crescent moon, lit. moon fragment: I love you to the moon and back. How far, I ask, is the moon and back. When you lift your eyes to the moon, how much light can you take in.

Aldric Ulep is a Filipino American writer from Hawai‘i whose poems have appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Beloit Poetry Journal, Tinfish Journal, and Witty Partition. An MFA student at the Rainier Writing Workshop, he works as a legislative fiscal analyst and also as an executive assistant of the Speakeasy Project.
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