Friday, September 4, 2015

The Rice Plant


I held him by his slender neck
To pierce him under his chin
And saw white sap trickle forth
Like milk spills from a tin.

I shook him strongly by his thigh
To feel him flail like a fish
And heard his hands’ helpless sigh
Like sand shaken in a dish.

I bravely bent his youthful bone,
Which sprang with a painful cry—
I wondered how one so green and wet
Should so resemble I—
For I am brown and dry.

Originally published in aaduna notes (April 11, 2015)

I held him by his slender neck...


  1. Rice is a symbol of Southeast Asia—note, for example, the bound rice sheaf in the ASEAN logo. Malays, who include, principally, Malaysians, Indonesians, and Filipinos, consider themselves a “brown” race. The poem “The Rice Plant” merges three motifs into a single identity—the rice plant, the “brown” Malay race, and the speaker in the poem.

    In my personal experience, Americans do not understand the “tin” metaphor in the poem. For many decades after the Second World War, Filipinos obtained their milk in tin cans, or simply, tins. The way to open the tin is to puncture it on top on opposite sides using a single-blade can opener. When the can is stabbed, milk squirts out the way sap flows from the green head of a rice plant.

    Canned milk is still widely purchased in the Philippines. I believe most Americans today obtain their milk from cartons.


  2. Photo courtesy of Joe+Lauren

    Photo link:


  3. A morena speaks:


  4. “Should so resemble I”—“I” pronoun used here is a subject complement (or predicative complement).