Families, Reimagined: excerpt from: [ first fruits ] by Jake Vermaas

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Families, Reimagined: excerpt from: [ first fruits ] by Jake Vermaas

In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we present our “Families, Reimagined” art series! Organizations like APANO have long recognized the diversity of families and have been working to expand definitions of family in legislative policy. To explore this expansive notion further, we commissioned six artists to create original artwork responding to changing definitions of home, family, and community. Today’s piece of original writing comes from artist Jake Vermaas. Read on and join us in celebrating Asian and Pacific Islander artists.


excerpt from: [ first fruits ]
for Exequiel Verry 1921-2007

 

Consular Report of Birth Abroad1:

 

//

 

you didn’t

even need    papers

the first time   you almost

went stateside  they needed

coolies from an Orient

more like the East

Indies2

 

//

 

//

 

it was

either  Alta California

or Hawaii or Mindanao   no

difference between them  empire

ically so you chose

the latter

 

//

 

//

 

you were

not a ward of the

State but later    became

one of two childless Americans  

the Verrys   you took their

name after another em

pire took every

thing else

 

//

 

no longer

a Nunag or Pineda

your family tried to make

you their slave3 after   your

parents passed   so

you ran

 

//

 

//

 

the resist

ance came calling

but      you would have fought

without the offer   of citizenship4

which was good since

they took it away

anyway

 

//

 

//

 

soon after

the bodies were cold    you

had to look up what “rescission”5

meant     your education ended

at ten    forget about

benefits6

 

//

 

//

 

you had

nothing   to inherit in the

ruins    no papers your folks claimed

you with7     no reparations paid

to anyone that looked

like you

 

//

 

//

 

one spring

break a college

friend joked about seeing

the server’s immigration papers

& i ghosted her after but

regret not calling

it out

 

//

 

//

 

your boy

R—-  and his wife went

TnT8 in the 80s    cause my cousin had

epilepsy so bad    it might kill him

but it shouldn’t have

mattered

 

//

 

//

 

when we

flew back what was

left   when you left  to the banks of

the Rio Grande de Pampanga   was

it home? what did it

look like?

 

//

 

//

 

on my

trips back to your

town   later i couldn’t help

but see other selves: half asians9

whose first world dads   

didn’t care to

file papers

 

//

 

//

 

when i

hear ppl rail about “illegals”

i think of you and how you had

nothing    

    how you always made sure

my cousins and i knew    we

were citizens of

your nation.

 

//

 

Notes:

  1. My father happened to file the correct paperwork (CRBA or Form FS-240) as a US Citizen when I was born, so my birthright American citizenship was actually recognized, unlike the estimated 250,000 Amerasians left in the Philippines. The pure products of America go crazy, indeed; see erased Boriuca, Williams.
  2. See Manong Generation. See plantation laborers at US owned (Dole, Del Monte, etc) fruit plantations, since the legal status of Filipinos as US territorial nationals was the same as Hawaiians and Puerto Ricans at the time.
  3. See Tizon, Alex, “My Family’s Slave.” Forget Alex Tizon.
  4. See Filipino WW2 Vets (est. ~400,000). See Pimentel, Kevin, “To Yick Wo, Thanks for Nothing!: Citizenship for Filipino Veterans,” 4 Mich. J. Race & L. 459 (1999) at https://repository.law.umich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1238&context=mjrl
  5. See Rescission Act of 1946.
  6. Despite his lack of education my lolo Quiel never gave up on trying to get justice for his wartime service, and late in life, qualified for 5,000 pesos a month (~$100) veterans benefits from the Philippine Government. But he was never recognized by the US Military that he fought with as a guerilla.
  7. After many records were destroyed during the war, my grandfather’s adoption was never recognized by our   government, and no paperwork was filed for him to get US citizenship, like many of the Korean adoptees or Cambodian refugees that are being deported almost daily.
  8. See Tago ng Tago (Tagalog), “always hiding”. Every family or friend group knows someone who is living in fear due to our byzantine immigration bureaucracy and colonial history.
  9. Unlike the Amerasians born in Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia, half-Filipino and half-Japanese children must be claimed by their American parent to get U.S. citizenship. It was reported in 1993 that prostitutes are increasingly Amerasian, children of prostitutes caught in a cycle that transcends generations. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/blog/explainer-how-can-you-be-half-american-and-still-not-a-citizen/

 


 

Jake Vermaas is a poet and engineer in Portland, OR, and the co-founder of the Whitenoise Project, a reading and discussion series aiming to center writers of color and underrepresented voices. A 2018 Oregon Literary Fellow in poetry and Jade-Midway Placemaking Grant recipient, his work has appeared in Anthem, Tayo Literary Magazine, Gramma Poetry, and Capitalism Nature Socialism.

Artwork by Ameya Marie

By | 2019-05-08T23:18:22+00:00 May 24th, 2019|Arts & Culture, Featured, News & Events|