joseph o. legaspi


One comes to defeat with optimism.
As my mother and father did with marriage. 

I plunge into the indigo ocean
from a rocky boat, not understanding
how deep,
                    my snorkel mask an octopus
suctioned to my face, my flippers unwieldy. 
Despite the life vest I panicked.

Not trusting my body, again, I grasp
at any human—
my husband—thrashing like a hooked marlin. 

But my parents got through it. 
                                                        In separate
rooms, eventually. They exceeded expectations. 
One died before the other.

Finally, a ring is tossed, 
                                           an orange doughnut

I put on, garish on a parade float. Buoyant, 
I dip my under-glass face underwater.
Rainbow fishes, corals, reef: underlife. 

Sea turtles graze, astronauts drifting. 
                                                                    I’m shivering.

I want the boat’s solid plank.
I yearn for it like the child that I was 

                                                                  with my mother
who is still among the living, breathing in her coastal
air hard as a diver surfacing from the unknowable deep.


Joseph O. Legaspi is the author of the poetry collections Threshold and Imago, both from CavanKerry Press; and three chapbooks: Postcards (Ghost Bird Press), Aviary, Bestiary (Organic Weapon Arts), and Subways (Thrush Press). Recent works have appeared in POETRY, New England Review, World Literature Today, Beloit Poetry Journal, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day. He co-founded Kundiman, a non-profit organization serving generations of Asian American writers and readers.