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Graveyard Picnic

By Ina Cariño

atang, n. — a traditional food offering in the Philippines for warding off evil spirits or nourishing the departed

memory of magnolia on lapels. grandfather’s paper
cheeks pale, teeth whiter than frosted hibiscus.

when I visit the mausoleum, I lay a white cloth on his tomb,
mesh of cobwebs stretched across the buds

of last year’s wild jasmine. graveyard picnic: rice & meat
simmered in soy, scented with bay leaf & star anise—

queso de bola covered in red wax—guava, his favorite,
wrapped in tinfoil. I imagine his spirit feeding,

swooshing up, down. back into the ground—shimmer
trail following his ghostly comet form. faint ringing

of church bells. cawing of junkyard crows in noonday heat.
from a metal thermos, I drink sugared hot milk,

burn my tongue on three prayers. the first,
for his soul, that it may rest. the next, for my own,

that I may sleep. & the last, to ward off specters
in the night. but my heathen mouth curls a sneer

as I intone a Hail Mary, beads in hand, & I remember
sullen gods on my mother’s mantel. they must watch

as we busy ourselves from day to day, disdain our lives,
so unlike their own sylvan past. I pocket the rosary,

pack away the meal. walk up the dusty cemetery hill.
drive to the mountaintop—sit on cliff edge, raise

the food to the winds. with my grandfather’s soul fed,
I offer his leftovers to those who watch us, those

who swoop by us invisible. I stare down the bluff, fling
the scraps into the air. delighted, he’ll laugh.

the gods will sing. the birds will eat what remains.




Listen as Ina Cariño readsGraveyard Picnic.”

Added: Tuesday, March 14, 2023  /  Used with permission.
Ina Cariño
Photo by Sass Art.

Ina Cariño is a 2022 Whiting Award winner with an MFA in creative writing from North Carolina State University. Their work appears in The American Poetry Review, The Margins, Guernica, Poetry Northwest, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review Daily, New England Review, and elsewhere. She is a Kundiman fellow and is the winner of the 2021 Alice James Award for her debut poetry collection Feast (March 2023).

Image Description: Ina Cariño in a dreamlike portrait, with afterimages of their face and figure on either side of their face. Their right arm is propped forward, hand next to their face, and their left arm crosses their chest. The lighting is multicolored, with shades of purple, pink, blue, and green casting shadows on brown skin. They have a tattoo on their left shoulder.

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