Two Poems

Deals Only We Only Got Deals

I say, upon hearing the name, imma write
a poem with that title, the name of a store,
mentioned with specific regularity given how much
we all love deals as Jane tells us again how 
its aisles are where Dollar Store finds go to die again, 
further and faster than one can sing 
Grocery Outlet, Bargain Market—
RainraWait, so what exactly do they sell there? 
Where is this place? How good are these deals? 
RainraIs it stuff you actually wanna buy?
—questions erupt from all of our little Zoom boxes,
the moons of our faces reflecting one another’s shine. 
This is a Brady Bunch screen of badasses who’ve been 
writing and painting and teaching and making 
for decades, creators of so much content considered 
too niche for so long it’s now in demand, especially 
upon viral terror and during specific months of the year
though right here and now 
are key words that don’t enter this digital room. 
Instead, we discuss if nail polish can actually go bad,
and speculate on more deals to be had 
in a store with such a confident moniker.
Devon says, I gotta see the sign for this place
and Tessa drops a link in the chat
we all click to see, as Arlene says, Ohhhhh 
and then we discuss how much better got functions than have, 
how it feels more like access than possession,
and rings more assertive relative to the quality of said deals,
and, sonically, sounds much better, with the emphasis on 
the more pleasing syllables—DEALS ONLY WE ONLY GOT DEALS
—we mutter and exclaim at varying speed and rhythm
the cadences of which I repeat under my breath 
when in a sleepy Oregon town I finally find one
alone; I snap the signage and several aisles— 
loofah poofs and rolls of masking, duct, electrical, 
gaffer’s, painter’s and packing tape, a shelf of Batman and Joker 
wrapping paper—and immediately begin a thread:
RainraYoooooo—this place is truly one immigrants and 
Rainrachildren of immigrants can fully embrace and understand!
To which my phone bubbles over with hearts and hahas
and exclamations. There is so much I never want 
to explain and feel bad bringing up but can’t help
but reach out because I don’t want to be alone
when I know I am not crazy but need someone to tell me I am not crazy
when someone attacks another auntie 
when I brace myself for the news whenever I get texts like
RainraHey thinking of you and sending extra love 
and so I am glad that when I sent extra love 
to our group text, Arlene replied with a selfie: 
her astonished face and a maxi pad 
held beside her head to reference scale—
this maxi pad is FUCKING HUGE in its wrapping, already 
so ridiculous—then she sends another image, the pad, now unfolded, 
runs parallel from her raised eyebrows to her shoulders! 
Can I even say how much I love us?
How, when the world is trash, there’s trash pizza.
There’s raccoon memes. There’s real deal strategy for The Floor is Lava
and Supermarket Sweep. There’s an SUV full of houseplants, 
a Google Doc of where and when we’ll eat corndogs,
an always available air mattress. 
There’s a wall of machetes, 
an endcap of wooden canes and old nail polish, 
a window display of garden gnomes bearing Canadian flags 
beside discount bedpans, walkers, and crutches.
There’s Arlene writing:
RainraI will now envision absorbing 
Rainraall the world’s hatreds and horrors
Rainrainto this magical x-tra absorbency shield 
Rainraand throw it into the sun!
I will not explain. 
Some deals only we get.
Only for us. 

Huwag Kang Matakot

My tita texts me a picture
of a t-shirt that reads
You Can’t Scare Me
My Wife Is Filipino.
A mid-flap Filipino flag frames
You Can’t Scare Me My Wife Is
while a cartoon machete punctuates
the oversized punchline
My tita texts to ask if I want one
for my white husband
and for a moment I picture him
as one of the white men at Fil-Am BBQs
Oh no, I’ll just stick to the lumpia
getting sunburned and drinking Coors
whispering to his wife to tell her friends
to only speak English when he’s around
and I hold down the HAHA button on
my tita’s text, my laughter bubbling blue
next to her question and I reply
I don’t think he’d wear it, but
thank you! And I don’t write
but I think about all the times I’ve
heard her say We’re not Filipino,
we’re American and how many times I’ve been 
asked when I came to America and what it means
for the whole of your life to be determined 
by having been born in one place and not
the other and my tita replies OK everyone else
wanted one and I don’t know if she means
my other titas each wanted one for their 
white husbands too or if the white men
they married, my uncles, each wanted one
for themselves, but the more I think about it
the more I think about what a woman might 
want a machete for: clearing a path 
of balete roots, scaling fish, 
opening a coconut. 

Michelle Peñaloza is the author of Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire, winner of the 2018 Hillary Gravendyk National Poetry Prize (Inlandia Books, 2019). She is also the author of two chapbooks, landscape/heartbreak (Two Sylvias, 2015), and Last Night I Dreamt of Volcanoes (Organic Weapon Arts, 2015). The recipient of fellowships and awards from the University of Oregon and Kundiman, Peñaloza has also received support from Lemon Tree House, Caldera, 4Culture, Literary Arts, VONA/Voices, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, among others. The proud daughter of Filipino immigrants, Peñaloza was born in the suburbs of Detroit, MI and raised in Nashville, TN. She now lives in rural Northern California.