Reading for the Day: Shirley Ancheta’s KRISTINE

From Going Home to a Landscape (Calyx Press, 2003)

Kristine turns a corner in San Francisco and is struck by an oncoming car. She is floating, she thinks, in the air with the seagulls. Her teeth ache. A man steps up to her and says, “Dear God, I’m sorry. What can I do?” What? She thinks he has said, “Desire . . . here . . . what will you do?” The only man she wants to reach is married or dead or related to her. She smiles. She can’t remember.

She thought she was kissing a boy in the dark, in back of the house near the pineapple field. His hands could hold down a pig for the killing. They were caught by their grandmother who threw her slipper across the yard. “No do dat wit your cah-sin! Wassamaddah you kids? You no feel shame o’ what? No good fo’ cah-sins fo’ make li’ dat!”

It is cold on the pavement of Stockton and Pine. The wind is enough to pick up Kristine’s skirt. She rolls her head from side to side. As someone puts a blanket on her, she hears a siren rising to meet the singing in her ears.

After they butchered the pig, they hosed down the concrete of pig guts and urine. He had held a pan to catch the blood after Uncle had slit the pig’s throat. She had stirred the blood with a metal spoon until it became foamy then thick with the odor of vinegar.

Was it desire that made her straddle him later, or was it his desire that brought the tips of her breasts into his mouth? Did they finish before Grandma saw them or after?

“Hello,” says the man who opens her eyes and lets the light in. “Do you know where you are?”

Kristine wants to say the name on her tongue. If she closes her eyes, a warm rain will come. Kunia Village, Kunia Village. This is the place she is.

Shirley Ancheta is a Filipina poet and writer who teaches at Cabrillo College. In 2004, she was honored with Cabrillo College’s Calabash Award for her dedication to “Excellence in the Ethnic Arts.”

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