As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Lisa Marie Rollins – Poetry

I fail to read my ancestral chart

                                                                                                ~Sun Yung Shin


                      47.4831° N, 122.2158° W

                      How do stars position if you do not know the exact time of your birth? 
                      Small notations line blank segments of this hospital documentation, 
                      almost illegible. They indicate how long her labor, difficulty, yet not 
                      the time of the end of it, when I entered the world. So to examine 
                      points of stars, where my moon sits, locations of planets, could require 
                      the sum of multiple angles. There is mathematics involved here, 
                      numbers, sperm, egg and flash of spirit, a cocktail of wondering. The 
                      astrologer wrinkles her nose, she has heard this story repeatedly, sighs 
                      and reaches for my palm instead, runs her fingers over the lines, as if 
                      they are the only thing concrete. As she squints I know what can be 
                      read can’t be simply a shroud of silence, because my hand is here, my 
                      thighs and belly thickening with age, my birthfather dying without 
                      seeing my face, and from stories I hear, without wanting too.

Nine Ilokano Songs #2

setting this compass

It is rumored or historical truth if you look at the north star hard enough on any winter 
solstice night in these islands, Angalo, one of the giants who made this land, will appear 
in the sky. You can see stripes where he spits out and the liquid from his mouth falls to 
the ground, there, where the stars shoot across the sky in deep night. 

If you walk that way, then follow his sword, it will aim you due north, to the highest hill 
at the edge of Luzon. Once you reach that point, your body will be filled with starlight, 
and you can walk across the sea.

There is no statue here


for the wealth of bodies moved across plotted land
they travel, (un)parented, (un)wrapped for presentation at the airline exit gate

for the girl who opens her hands, wilted grass clutched for hours of flight drops
litters the polished ground, her new mother scoops her into her arms

there is some safety here, in these spotless sheets and freshly pressed skirts
pencils and a grand piano sticky now from her breakfast syrup fingers

moonlight is not a veil, instead a microglass of memory
shining through thin steel slats of the shade over her new bed

2 years gone, she doesn’t sleep yet
in the dark she remembers her sisters, the smell of cooking legim

whispers words to herself like 
kontan, papa, soulye, mande Bondye padon and don’t forget

                * for those children taken from Haiti after the 2010 earthquake

Contributor’s Notes: 

Lisa Marie RollinsLisa Marie Rollins is a Black/Filipina writer (playwright/poet/memoir), touring her acclaimed solo theater show, “Ungrateful Daughter: One Black Girls Story of being adopted by a White Family… that aren’t Celebrities”. She was Poet in Residence at June Jordan’s Poetry for the People at U.C. Berkeley (2010-2011) and is alumnus in Poetry of VONA Writing Workshop. Her work has appeared in Eye to the Telescope, Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out and River, Blood, Corn. Forthcoming publication appears inLine/Break Special Issue on Asian American Adoptee Poetry (June 2013). She is focused on her new manuscript of poems, “Anchoring the Compass”. Lisa Marie holds an M.A. in Cultural Studies, M.A. in African American Studies (U.C. Berkeley) and is on leave from her doctoral program there in African Diaspora Studies. She authored “A Birth Project”, a blog focusing on transracial adoption and Black diasporic identity from 2006-2013.

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