Ancestral Flow

by Mary L. Moody

I am confronting my caste
I am burning ledgers of historical records
that say my existence
was recorded by a man.
I am burning villages like the Spanish
colonizers did; like the Americans;
like the Japanese;
like so on; like so forth.
I am trying to connect to a European greatness
that at least José Rizal could describe
with eloquence.

From American soil
In the context of
my American English
I look across the waters and imagine my islands,
the ones we left just a generation ago.
I mouth my mother’s colonized language like
reciting lines for theater:
Katatagan. Resilience.

My people from the Philippines
named after a Spanish king.
I am not Filipino,
I am not of his name.
I am not Filipino,
he will not define me.
I am not Filipino,
he does not own my geography.

The name, Filipino, I choke when I say it.
The name of Spanish patriarchy in my mouth,
The name of wars waged against the lesser than,
The name of a conqueror who ruled from other land,
and used my ancestors as a dumping ground
for used up priests;
used up ideologies.

I try to visualize my ancestors
whose identities have been erased
by the bisection of colonization:
Spanish rule;
American saviors
etc., etc.

I stand at the dichotomy of two rivers;
That which was and that which is.
Like ghosts
my ancestors have voyaged
across seas.
Molecules like water droplets
beading and collecting momentum
until finally, they create my body.

These rivers cross
and I hold my ancestors hands
standing on the banks between
where the water rushes
and splashes over my naked feet.
The distance is just enough
that my arms are always sore
with the reaching.

My American southern
roots tie me
to the identity
of my father
who had the money
to buy my brown
desperate mother.

American rule;
in the name of God.

Under my breath,
I am Filipino.
I am American.


I am reshaping this territory
every day,
digging at its borders.
The rivers taste like
vinegar and mud.
My fingernails are dirty with soil;
my heart is always burning.

The banks finally
give way.

The flow breaks
the division.

©Mary L. Moody, 2023

This poem was longlisted as part of the Kinship: Poems Exploring Belonging project. Click here to find out more about the project, and other poems on the longlist here.


Concepts of belonging and community have constantly evolving definitions, and have been at the centre of fierce debate in recent years. The first twenty-three years of the new millennium have seen a rise in rhetoric aimed at those without the voice to argue back, and waves of toxic abuse have proliferated – and genocide. How relevant, then, to unite and raise our voices, to celebrate the rich tapestry of humanity, and to explore the labels we use to identify and express ourselves.

Kinship is a poetry anthology that seeks to provide a platform for marginalised voices, and to celebrate the great diversity and rich variation in the identities of people from around the world and from a huge cross-section of walks of life.

Click here for the anthology of shortlisted poems.