Poetry: Three Poems by Troy Osaki

A Weekend in Which We Organize, Again


A yellow Seafood City bag––

our tsinelas bundled inside.

We pack to stay in Portland

overnight. In our luggage,

my beloved’s hairbrush

beside my deodorant. We

drive until the wind smells

of the Willamette River––

a harbor wet with starlight.


Lyly loans us an air mattress

we inflate in her spare room.

The window, curtainless. We

hang a malong we’ve seen

worn around a tita’s waist

in Tarlac. Again, I’m there––

standing in the countryside,

sandals stuck in a pit of mud.


In camping chairs, we sit

huddled around a space

heater. I lay my overcoat

across my lap––stare into

the projector light leaked

onto the white board. I

read mass organization & my legs bloom

stalks of rice.


Kenneth asks where we

imagine ourselves once

we’ve won our country.

I pop the blue lid off

my tupperware, lift

a ladle of nilaga out

the pot. Lyly wants

to plant trees


a bomb has fallen.


I kneel in moonlit dirt,

dig up a carabao horn.

The land is, again, on

the ground. Not braided

into the hair of children

evacuating—June air

filling their summer


The Morning Kian Misses His Exam I Take a Tabo Shower

For Kian delos Santos

I scoop a small bucket

of lukewarm water

from a plastic tub.

In my tsinelas, I lift

my tabo, pinch my eyes

closed, & pour. Nearby

a seatless toilet, a drain

on the concrete floor.

My hair scrubbed

of sweat until

I sweat again. Between

us, the CR door. Marco

cooks cubes of tocino––

the gas burner seems

a star we still have

left in our country.

Ka August Greets Us in the Netherlands After 17 Years of being Stranded

We watch a movie on Mao. Eat mango. Outside is mid-March. The rain, sweet. He suggests Amsterdam in the morning, a bike ride. We roam on our bright legs instead. Rummage through a canal-side flea market. A van overflowing of 1980 styled sweatsuits––hot Miami pink. A pile of dusty DVDs. Jean Danielle spots a pair of worn converse, picks one up, inspects its sinking heel. Bernadine flips quietly through 100 pages of erotica. I tell Ka August we’ll be back for a field of windmills, to see Anne Frank’s house, to meet tomorrow. We leave, I imagine, how he left the Philippines, sincere in saying See you again, soon to someone we won’t. We board an emergency flight home before the pandemic spreads. Say no goodbyes. Above the North Atlantic, his lola miles away––her endless hands his face hasn’t fallen into since ‘03, a red hibiscus perched on her windowsill he’s forgotten the scent of. We arrive a week early at Sea-Tac Airport, look out the window to Mt. Rainier, & walk off the plane.

About Troy Osaki

Troy Osaki is a Filipino Japanese poet, community organizer, and attorney. A three-time grand slam poetry champion, he has earned fellowships from Kundiman and the Jack Straw Cultural Center. His work has appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Hobart, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. He writes in hopes to build a safe and just place to live in by uniting the people and reimagining the world through poetry.