By Iris Orpi

I came to Chicago at the end of summer
I was there when the first leaves changed colors
and each day was a feast of so much beauty
I didn’t really mind the cold
I got pregnant in December
and my first trimester was in step
with my first winter
I didn’t know if it was the one
or the other
but that’s when I started craving
for the tastes and smells of home
and this tantalizingly complex, cultured city
felt like a brutal abomination
in its foreignness
as my husband and I drove
past different restaurants
in the snow
looking for a place to buy
Philippine tuyo,
stopping every so often
so I could vomit
on the salt-covered pavement
amid the smells of steaks
and hotdogs and burgers
and gyros and tacos
and fried chicken with secret herbs and spices
and signature popcorn and
the famous deep dish pizza
feeling so alienated and alone
and when we finally brought home
the prized fish that is,
in all actuality, a poor man’s dish
in my native country,
I had to cook it
with all the windows open
in our eighth floor South Side apartment,
out of consideration for our neighbors
who might be offended
by the aroma of sun-dried herring
sizzling in corn oil
breaths of ice from the lake
and its glacial banks
accepting the begrudging invitation,
filling the place in gusts,
coating the walls with
frigid non-forgiveness
like the inside of sickly lungs
and there I was,
wearing a two-hundred-dollar wool coat
in my own kitchen,
defiant, ashamed,
homesick and hungry
and fretful for the tiny life
humming inside me,
looking out at a world
of too-early nights and frozen roads
and seeing but suns and oceans
in that skillet,
standing in two places at once,
nine thousand miles apart. ■



This poem appears in Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology, available from Belt Publishing.

Iris Orpi is a Filipina writer living in Chicago, Illinois. She is the author of the novel The Espresso Effect (2010) and two books of compiled poems, Beautiful Fever (2012) and Cognac for the Soul (2012). Her work has appeared in dozens of online and print publications around the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and several countries in Asia. She was an Honorable Mention for the Contemporary American Poetry Prize, given by Chicago Poetry Press, in 2014.

Cover image by Quinn Dombrowski (CC BY-SA 2.0).

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