The coconut crabs made quick work of the body.
And the bones they didn’t crack
fell to the forest floor.
In Batanes we picked one apart with our hands,
our guide explaining that in Ivatan, after meals,
you say Dios Mamajes. God will repay.
On the international phone my grandfather speaks to my mother,
who translates for me. He speaks Ilocano which I half-
understand and she tells me in English which she half-knows.
Between languages I ask if I can send him something.
She laughs and asks what he wants. In Nueva Vizcaya
they have crabs and coconuts but New York has better snapper,
which is his way of saying he misses fishing, I think.
The last time he broke his hip the family sent him back
to the Philippines for his health. Back, we say
even though he was the only one to be born in America.
My mother, who is contemplating divorce from his son,
still calls him weekly. Panggalan, the phone turned away,
which I know is her way of saying
Be thankful for your citizenship.
It is said that if that one circumnavigational flight
had landed among the treetops and not in the sea,
its American pilots still would have fallen
victim to indigenous coconut crabs. Think of
Magellan, who was relayed to me as hero, tragic explorer
until we entered the 21st century and understood
history, smallpox, Spanish flu. How our grandfathers can’t walk
but give us passports to see them with. The accident
of being born in New York or Manila or anywhere,
leaving for as long as you can, marveling
at the simple forces that bring you back. Gravity or magnets
or an empty fuel tank took down
that plane. I could tell you that much
in any language. But the things that pull on a body,
the line that cuts and stutters —
Jay Julio is a multi-instrumentalist and writer based in Harlem. They enjoy rhythms, ube ice cream, and being brown.