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Ina Cariño, Poetry

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Ina Cariño. Photograph by Beowulf Sheehan.

Ina Cariño holds an MFA in creative writing from North Carolina State University. Their poetry appears in Guernica, Diode, Poetry Northwest, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review Daily, Waxwing, New England Review, and elsewhere. Cariño is a Kundiman fellow and a recipient of a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. They are the winner of the 2021 Alice James Award for Feast, forthcoming from Alice James Books in March 2023. In 2021, Cariño was selected as one of four winners of the 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest. In 2019, they founded a reading series, Indigena Collective, centering marginalized creatives in the community.


From Feast:

balsam pear. wrinkled gourd.
leafy thing raised from seed.

pungent goya, ampalaya: cut
& salt at the sink. spoon pulp

from bumpy rind, brown half-moons
in garlic & sparking mantika.

like your nanay did. like your lola did.
like your manang braving hot parsyak—

you’ll wince. you’ll think of the taste
of your own green body—mapait

ang lasa. your sneer. masakit, dugo’t
laman. it hurts, this smack of bitter.

yes you’ll remember how much it hurts,
to nick your thumb as you bloom heat

in acid, sili at sukang puti—to grow up
glowering in half-light—to flesh out

& plod through your own grassy way,
unfurl your own crush of vines.

after you tip it onto a mound
of steamed rice, as you chew,

the barb of it will hit the back
of your throat. look at yourself,

square. you used to snarl at moths,
start small blazes in entryways.

woodchip fires, flaking paint.
look, tingnan mo—see your lip

curling in the glint of your bowl.
unruly squash. acrid vegetable,

you’ll flinch. you’ll want to see
nothing, taste like nothing. but

when you disappear your meal—
when you choke on the last

chunky morsel of rice—you’ll slurp
thirsty for more—a saccharine life.

huwag mo akong kalimutan,
you’ll plead—

taste me.
taste me.


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