DECEMBER 12, 2022

Dear Lola Auntie

My daughter asked me at bath time

Why men have nipples if they don't have milk

I told her something

I heard from a doctor on TV

“Nipples develop first before the penis…”

“all of us were born girls”

She smiled and told me how she saw your one breast

once when she would not sleep at nap time

you told her that you would let her see

your secret of twenty years

that shy wink of your chest

the scar you kept

under tissues and foam

how easily you used to bribe

how easily she fell asleep

I remember asking you how it happened

You sighed and like flowers your story bloomed

It was noon and your mother was hungry.

You were tired

from selling and mending

and living

and seeing everyone leaving

leaving you alone

leaving her with you

because they said

You were no man's wife

All you had was a single fish

You know that you can never multiply it

like Jesus

and his loaves of bread

As you turn to serve the rice,

you stopped as cat had his mouth on your mother's fish

it was a split second when both of your eyes met

you ran after the cat

the cat ran after its life

still with your mother's fish on his mouth

In your anger, you did not see

the gray wall and banged your chest

The pain, you said was blinding

It was months

you fed on two pink pills

little seeds of promised miracle

months after you woke up screaming at a hospital

the nurse would not give you water

you question yourself

with one breast

can you still be a woman

Now as we think of you

I see my daughter's finger

tracing the letter C on your chest


at the thinning railroad of flesh

of the sorry fountain of milk

I remember how you lived your life

In fabrics, threads, and weakened pulse

I remember you in your sadness, on the times when

you stuffed tissues on your bra

And on days such as this, I wonder

how much did the cat enjoy your fish

Genevieve S. Aguinaldo is a mother to four children. She earned her BA Communication Arts degree from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Her works appeared in Sundays Times Manila, Musepie press, {m}, Scarlet dragonfly, and Revolt Magazine. She enjoys playing Organ Attack and UNO with her kids.