Barbara Jane Reyes, “To Love as Aswang”
and “Psalm for Mary Jane Veloso”









…..First published in Poetry (May 2014).













…..Copyright 2017 by Barbara Jane Reyes. Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books. From Invocation to Daughters (City Lights Publishers 2017), …..available for order here.



Poet’s Note

I wrote “To Love as Aswang” with the intention of having many Filipina voices speaking all at once. I say this because I am always asked what is the “correct” way to read this poem. The best answer I can give about this concurrent speaking is that sometimes we do speak as a chorus. And then sometimes, given how little opportunity we have to speak, we’re all clamoring to speak at once. There’s a music to this latter way of reading the poem as well—not as “neat,” but that’s also not the point.

Mary Jane Veloso is only one of so many Filipinas who have left the homeland to work abroad as domestic workers, and in doing so have risked their own safety in order to provide for their families. She was used as a drug mule, sentenced to death, and as far as I know, still sits on death row in Indonesia. I wanted to write a poem of praise for her and the many like her (that the media will never cover), and to do so in a language my community understands well—Catholic prayer.


Listen to Reyes reading “To Love as Aswang” here, and read a discussion about Invocation to Daughters here.



Barbara Jane Reyes was born in Manila, the Philippines, and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of Invocation to Daughters (City Lights Publishers 2017) and four previous collections of poetry, including Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish Press 2005); recipient of the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets and Diwata (BOA Editions 2010); and recipient of the Global Filipino Literary Award for Poetry. A sixth book, Letters to a Young Brown Girl, is forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2020. Reyes is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco’s Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program. Author photo by Peter Dressel. For more information, visit www.barbarajanereyes.com.



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