A letter from my foremothers




Look at you.

Your eyes are half-closed.

Your mind is throbbing.

Your chest hurts with every breath.

But you are not dying.

You are the sun in the night.


You are sad.

You do not eat or sleep, you lock yourself up and don’t let anyone in.

You hold your words inside like prisoners.

They pound against your head demanding to get out.

You are nauseous.

You are stubborn.


You punish yourself.

You nourish your soul with doubt and loneliness.

You lash out at people who worry about you because you deem yourself unworthy of their love.

You tell yourself you are no different from the monsters who took away your sweetness and light.

You fester in the dark.


You keep coming back.

Your skin burns from the cold metal operating table, teeth chattering with half-finished Hail Marys before oblivion claimed you.

Your ear rings from “Pia, come home. Mama’s gone.”

Your hair flows from the breeze on the dormitory’s rooftop the day he revealed his true form and left.

Your wrists bruise from being pinned down, his hands tracing you are mine, no one else will want you in the parts of your soul untouched by light.


But in the night, does the sun stop burning?


Look at you.

Look closer.

You are our daughter.

You are the daughter of many radiant, powerful women before you.


You are the daughter of a matriarch.

A brightness unequaled in youth became a luminary through her years.

You have her stature,

her courage to leave home,

her large brown eyes that could see through good and evil.

She taught you who you are: you are Poetry.

Feeling and imagery.

Rhythm and ambiguity.

You are brevity.

You are unassuming beauty.


You are worth more than the comforts of her childhood,

more than her makeup set your father keeps in the farthest corner of their locked closet.

You are the book she never got around to write.

You are her proudest regret.


You have magic coursing through your veins.

With one pinch on a pregnant woman’s ring finger, your grandmother ascertains the exact moment of her childbirth.

When your mother gave birth she would appear unannounced.

She never missed a single birth until she died, shortly before you were born.

She was not learned but she prayed in Latin.

She was a great judge of character and she managed her land and her household with fairness.

You have her intuition.

You have her courage, to travel from province to city to care for a faraway daughter even in old age.

You have in you the power to heal, to restore.


You have lost sight of who you are, but remember us your foremothers who had to change our names and flee for our lives during the war.

We fought for our survival.

Your existence is a testament to our victory.

You are a survivor.

You have bravery forged inside your bones.


Daughter, it is so easy to cave in to the harsh realities of life and death, and all the tragedies in between.

It takes great courage and insight, however, to face them head on.

Get up from the metal bed.

Step away from the rooftop edge.

Discard the dagger under your pillow.


You need not be alone.

We have been inside you longer than the things that torment you.

We will speak to you in your dreams.

Teach you poetry.

Show you the future.


So live.





Pia Besmonte is a poet based in Manila. In 2012, she won a scholarship grant to Barnard College and accomplished her artist apprentice internship with Ninotchka Rosca. She became the youngest member of AF3IRM New York at nineteen. Having recently finished her double degree in education and literature in the Philippines, Pia writes and plans to initiate projects promoting literacy for girls.

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