Curated for National Poetry Month as part of "When did you first recognize me as your own?: A Folio of Undocupoets Fellows"
April 16, 2020

Image Credit: "Freedom" by Luz Adriana Villa via Flickr

This April, to recognize and honor National Poetry Month, we curated a folio of poems by four Asian American Undocupoets Fellows. This page features Frankie Concepcion's "Flash Bang" and "Call Me a Grave Robber." We invite you to take a moment to read the other poems in this collection here.

— Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Poetry Editor


Flash Bang

Because it is New Year’s Eve. Because no one who was there would
remember it now. Because my mama said I looked grown in my
new dress and heels that made my legs look slim. Because her mama
taught her that was a good thing, her mama whose beauty got her through

the war. Made a living out of a body singed black and white and silver screen
silence. And I am eight or nine. A cousin held tight in each hand, we navigate
the minefield dance floor. Each of us a patchwork of scrapes and bruises that
we never notice until we do. Expecting stroke of midnight, instead seeing

man dancing, man looking like all the Disney princes that whisked the princess off
to a better life. Except for maybe Aladdin. Skin like birch bark. Hair like forest
set aflame. And he tells us to lower ourselves to this music, to shimmy
as close to the floor as our bodies will allow and you can almost

hear it, how the bullet of need can pass through more than one body.
How the echo of grandmother’s survival can slip, like a needle into the ear
from between my mother’s teeth. Wanting to be the special one. Wanting
to be the person he puts his lips to first. Being jealous when he blows smoke into

my younger cousin’s mouth and brands her his. A belly of ancestors singing of how
fear can so often feel like desire, as I feel her hand slip away from me. Waiting for
the bell to toll in this city that was once so close to its final hour. Still, these are things
I will not care to know for many years. In this moment, today and tomorrow

sink their teeth into each other and the road home is paved in the cracks
between Manila’s rubble. Tomorrow we will go to church and hot wax
from a novena candle will glance off my skin like a thousand rosary beads.

Call Me a Grave Robber

Someone’s car is digging
into the soft earth behind CJ’s house.
We listen to the splatter
of mud as their tires dig deeper into their corner
of the temporary parking lot
We crush our bodies into the space between
bed and wall and do not kiss.
Do not ask to taste the accent in
each other’s colonized mouths and the strip
of mud behind CJ’s house is almost all that separates his yard from
the church grounds; step over the back fence and you might even
land on someone’s grave. Now the person whose car is
stuck in mud is hollering into the yard
asking if he can use the landline
and from the floor of CJ’s bedroom we hear his
sharp intake of breath, as though
surprised to find himself in a stranger’s home.
I do not ask CJ how long he thinks
until someone comes looking for us and what
happens then. In a year his family will move back
to America for the second time and that parking lot,
the one that was always meant to be
temporary will be an empty space
for cars to fill long after the new one
is complete. Their coming and going punctuated by the
same words: I did not want to go / I never meant to stay
chalk-white barriers between negative space, solid
as any body of metal or bone. By the time we meet
again all the questions I had meant to ask him
will have already been answered. We will take a trip
to the old church and together, share space
with the dead just to look through the window of his
once-bedroom. Ask them: does the body know
when it is home / if so / is it satisfied.



Frankie Concepcion

Frankie Concepcion is a Pushcart-nominated writer from the Philippines. She is an alumnus of the Tin House Writing Workshop, an editor for GRLSQUASH, and a 2019 Undocupoets Fellow. Her work has been published internationally in journals such as Bodega Magazine, Waxwing Literary Journal, The Toast, and Filipino news platform, Rappler. In 2019, Frankie became a permanent resident of the U.S. after living in Boston for almost a decade. That same year, she founded the Boston Immigrant Writers Salon: a community to empower and inspire immigrant voices.