in the Filipino highlands, the kamote* roots thread the mountains

and when the soft tendrils turn to leaves the villagers select

the softest to eat with pebbled rice and pig’s blood, further north

the world’s oldest tattooist resides, a 106-year-old Kalinga woman

with bamboo and thorn, and sooted ink in her veins


we too were planted on the foothills where blue gums threaded

the escarpment called mother mountain, cradling a slice

of land before it reaches the sea; and it is a city of leaving,

of sister-friends pulling taproot from metatarsal, scraping lichen

from our feet, plucking filaments from our nails


lest we betray our luminescence, lest our electric pulse betray

our chosen dirt; the raucous sea-level cities, our expansion

across the topsoil, our fronds fecund with learning and lust

sister-friends seeding along the seaboard, though sometimes

i imagine myself, one hundred and six, tapping mountain soot

into skin.



*kamote: sweet potato