Janice Lobo Sapigao


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dead, casualty
they were right here
this space
and they left

If every woman has a grave deep inside her,

Then mine is my father’s
A four-cornered stone that holds my focus
My last name etched in cement


Sapigao is not just a surname
It is the X on a map
Marking the territory of my father’s body in the cemetery


Every Father’s Day I follow it
This is where I celebrate
Every November for his birthday,
Every March when I can remember,
Where each visit is a prayer


A reminder that I am small against landscape
Standing above someone standing above me
My father is the bouquet of roses
Lillies, baby’s breath, the occasional potted plant

They say flowers are the scent of the dead

A potent temporary reminder

I have learned to love him

By holding tight and letting go


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A part of this conversation is missing.

I swear that Gem, who might be one of my cousins, sent me a message about wanting to talk to my mother, whom I was upset with at the time he messaged me.

I swear that Gem asked for my mother’s contact information and needed it right away. I could sense the urgency, but I did not act in like manner.

I was too upset with my mom and a bit frightened at family members’ accessibility to make contact with me.

I only responded because I had seen on Gem’s Facebook profile many people expressing in Ilokano condolences and aches for his life. They presented me disbelief that Gem was gone. That Gem had passed away unexpectedly.

The message I sent was an attempt to make up for the fact that I had ignored his previous messages. I thought that if I’d replied he’d reply, too. I thought that I had misread the comments in Ilokano. I suddenly wanted to converse with him knowing I couldn’t.

What if the reason Gem messaged me correlated to his need to talk with my mother? What if it was my fault?

This is the same person:
My dad    My Father Son
This man       on the             tapes
Juan C. SapigaoJuan Sapicao
John SapiagostrangerJohn Sapigaoa man in love
JohnnyJuan Cariaga Sapigao
parentJohnny C. Sapigaothe deceasedimmigrantJuan Sapigao, Capt. U.S. Army J. Sapigoa
“Doddy” mahal
UncleSAPIGAO, U.S. Army


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I don’t know for how long my dad lived in Saudi Arabia.

I have a lot of friends whose fathers worked there.

Some said they lived most of their lives without a father around.

I imagined their fatherlessness just as I imagined my own.


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Example: Father’s sacrifices

An example of this is “father’s sacrifices.” This means that the sacrifices belong to the father. This means that he has given up, offered – strategically, religiously, constantly. This means that he left and that his absence is a sacrifice. That when he sacrificed to go away, that I have sacrificed, too. I inherited his sacrifice. I duplicate sacrifice.

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An example of this is “father’s sacrifices.” This means that, without the apostrophe, one would also be saying “father is sacrifices.” The father, singular, has sacrificed many times, in the plural form. This means that more than one sacrifice has been made. That the father is an embodiment of multiple forms of sacrifice.


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to struggle
good luck pronouncing
the curvatures of that which
strangles you




JANICE LOBO SAPIGAO is a poet, writer, and educator from San José, CA. Her first book of poetry about her mom, microchips for millions, critiques the Silicon Valley and its exploitation of immigrant women workers, and will be published this summer by Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA), Inc. She teaches English at San José City College and Skyline College. She loves hip hop, runs races occasionally, and plays with stuffed animals. Please visit her website: janicewrites.com