Stepmother en Filipinas, circa 1948

Victoria G. Smith

Stepmother en Filipinas, ca. 1948

Long before the clop-clopping of hooves
echo from the sun-baked road,
and the calesa drops off its passenger
and her groom, there will have been
a thousand chores completed.

The bride will arrive at her new home
and regally ascend to her forerunner’s
legacy on narra steps and floors
polished to ebony shine, mirroring
her long virginal skirt like lover’s
eyes lurid with desire.

And the dining table will not betray
one speck of dust—she could lick off
her dinner straight from its top.
And her dinner will be served
by an army of young servants,
sneaking peeks for signs
of approval or—Dios mio!
displeasure, as they learn
to address her, Ima

Typhoid had robbed them of their blood
mother during the war that taught them
their sculptor father was useless
when art served no purpose but vain hope,
and beauty only attracted unwanted attention,
and it was more important to learn how
to bow low to the Hapon and say Hai!
like you meant it, unless you craved
a lusty beating, and how to carve
out a living selling poor man’s meals
from the bodega of their house.

Everyone says how lucky they were
for a young lady to want to marry
a man with seven children already.

The fourteen-year old eldest daughter resents
the woman not much older than she
usurping her place as mistress of the house,
can’t think of what more a man could want
beyond a brood of obedient children
catering to his needs. Doesn’t grasp this
until that night when he orders everyone
to bed early, and the house—
thought to be dead all that time,
rises and sleepwalks.

The daughter knows,
for she heard it straight from the loose lips
of the heaving and groaning floors.

About Victoria G. Smith

Philippine-born author and poet Victoria G. Smith’s first career was in law practice. After marriage to an American that led her to immigrate to the United States, she rediscovered and pursued a childhood passion: creative writing. Her early efforts won her first place in the 2004 (Fifth Annual) Ventura County Writers Club–Ventura Country Star national short story writing contest—the first time she’d entered a writing competition. Recent distinctions include the 2015 Driftless Unsolicited Novella Award for her novella, Faith Healer, and semifinalist for the 2015 Elixir Press Fiction Award for her story collection, Faith Healer and Other Stories. Her poetry and other literary work are published by, among others, Reed Magazine, The Greenwich Village Literary Review, The Earthbound Review, Elite Critiques Magazine, Ruminate Magazine, Westward Quarterly, The Earthen Lamp Journal, The Milo Review, Lyrical Iowa, and Dicta. Her essay, “Gatekeepers and Gatecrashers in Contemporary American Poetry: Reflections of a Filipino Immigrant Poet in the United States,” appears in Black Lawrence Press’s 2015 anthology, Others Will Enter the Gates: Immigrant Poets on Poetry, Influences, and Writing in America. Her first book of poems, Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul: An Immigrant’s Journey, was published in November 2013 to critical acclaim spearheaded by Kirkus Reviews. Later that same year, the Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame honored her with the Outstanding Writer Award. She writes a monthly poetry column for VIA Times Magazine. Smith attended the 2005 UCLA Asian American–N.V.M. Gonzales Writers Program and has been featured as an emerging writer in several print media and online articles. She is currently writing her first novel, Gabriela’s Eyes, and a second poetry collection, Mother of Exiles.

Updates on her literary work and author events may be found on her website,

National Poetry Month

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month 2016

If “love calls us to the things of this world,” then poetry too can call us to think about challenging questions, difficult situations, and social justice, implicating and engaging the reader with the world we live in, in the hope that this engagement is a step toward wrestling with our better selves.