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Bill Pay

By Janice Lobo Sapigao

“You smell like light, gas, water, electricity, rent” 

-- Chance The Rapper

we don’t know how to pay the bills on time
and we don’t know the password to your bank account

& in all of our languages     I understand why you stacked
linens and face towels and rubber bands and plastic bags

in drawers and hallway closets   
everything filled to the brim &

now that i am older i know lawyers & doctors are a thousand times
the cost of alfredo sauce jars  & plastic silverware in the garage

stockpiles  of love  & future  & sacrifice & your forethought
& of our survival  & we don’t know how to fix the clogging bathtub

& why isn’t there a drain in the sink      our tenants
are spiders & the occasional garden cockroach

who are we without your meals for twenty people    &
what do i do with your pambahay wear

last week i showed dad how to do a mobile deposit
i used my good english for the phone call with your employer

the microwave installed into the cupboards only has two functioning

we tell your boss   your co-workers
me dad william cynthia paolo  they ask us when you’ll be back

&    our christmas gifts for each other are under a desk in march
all the aunties & uncles & niblings visit with fried chicken & arroz caldo

& it’s hard to vacuum & disinfect while you’re sleeping in your hospital bed
in the living room    our lady of nazareth    of peace     of remeron    of lovenox

our shrine of home health aides  & when dad asks me to call unemployment
& when william asks me to buy you more diapers & when i ask cynthia if she’s coming

& when cynthia calls me when she sees your irregular breathing     & ma   we wonder
how to make you stay   watching netflix with us   your kids  

did we cobble enough karma to keep you
to sleep through american pickers with dad  

can we leave our whole ass house neglected   for your pulse  
can god let the bills pay themselves for now

how many rosaries will equal the rent   when will we know
if we paid enough in prayers

if this will be it    if this will be the day   or tomorrow is the time
or now in the hour of our debt    if god will keep all of the lights on




Listen as Janice Lobo Sapigao reads "Bill Pay."

Added: Friday, August 28, 2020  /  Used with permission.
Janice Lobo Sapigao

Janice Lobo Sapigao (she/her) is a daughter of immigrants from the Philippines. She is the author of two books of poetry: microchips for millions (Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc., 2016), and like a solid to a shadow (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2017 by way of Nightboat Books). She was named one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Women to Watch in 2017 by KQED Arts. She was a VONA/Voices Fellow and was awarded a Manuel G. Flores Prize, PAWA Scholarship to the Kundiman Poetry Retreat. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Skyline College, the 2020-2021 Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, and a Poet Laureate Fellow with the Academy of American Poets.

Other poems by this author