“October 24th” and “My Father’s Softness” by Kristen Labiano

Posted: January 6, 2014 in Vol. 4: Fall Essays 2013

October 24th

Butterscotch cake with frosting so white

 eleven wicks lit in celebration

while the other twelve remain untouched

But where have you gone?

Maybe away to your job

as an entomologist

Capturing insects to feed and study

Under your keen eye through your microscope lens

Maybe you’re a sheriff

Looking out from under your wide brimmed hat

The gleam of your badge

blinding your criminals with justice after arrest

Maybe a race car driver

you won so many tickets

from that game at Fun Factory that day

but the wax runs down and stains the pure white frosting

like slow, single teardrops in your absence

eleven wicks waning in grief

while the other twelve remain untouched


flames dwindling like eyes slowly closing

for an eternal slumber so many years ago

flames…turn to smoke

on this rainy Friday afternoon

I miss you.

Happy Birthday


My Father’s Softness

Taking a break from studying, I make my way into the kitchen

I find my father barefoot, as usual,

standing next the stove in his worn out, faded

red tank top and khaki cargo shorts.

“What’s for dinner, Dad?” I ask.

His eyes stay fixated on the pan before him

“My adobo!” he announces.

His voice a melodic warmth

that dances towards the sky from his grin

as he stirs the carne baboy with a large wooden spoon.

They cheer as I hover over them,

inhaling the salty scent with a smile.

“Mmmm,” I say.

I look at him, his brow furrowed in concentration

yet lined with a hint of that smile

The smoke envelopes his face

with nothing but the sound of sizzling pork surrounding us

I watch him in comforting quiet

as I do every day, in near silence.

Father never does say much.  But I still hear him.

It is in his softness where he speaks the most.

When he talks in Ilocano,

telling my brother and I

to wash our dishes and sweep our floor.

Never forget where you come from

As he washes our clothes

and hangs them up to dry




Stay warm and healthy, my children

When he carries those heavy boxes of perishables

from the airline caterer to his transport truck and

into the airplane

at hours on end.

In the cold and heat.

You will not be hungry

When he thought I was in deep sleep

walking into my bedroom

placing a tender kiss on my forehead

as he would leave for another day

of “heart” work at 3am.


I love you


Written for Dr. David N. Odhiambo’s ENG 313: Creative Writing

  1. Vina Gaddis says:

    Hey Kris- lovely poetry…
    I smell (especially the adobo), I see (especially the wooden spoon stirring), I hear (especially the chatter of ilocano), and I feel (especially your memories). There’s nothing more comforting than home cooking. Your poems hold a well of innocence. Thank you for sharing!

    • Kristen Labiano says:

      Hello Vina!

      I am so glad that you respond to the poem about our Filipino culture so strongly. And a “Well of innocence”, wow. Thank you so much.

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