John "Meta" Sarmiento


I learned how to speak Tagalog
joking with my parents at the dinner table.
I learned to eat with my hands
and laugh with my belly,
but on some nights
it was less of a comedy
and more of a lecture.

My mom would flash a starving town in her eyes
and tell me,
“Kainin mo yan Jay!”

Before we had the comfort
of ceramic tiles and glass tables
my parents
ate off dusty cardboard and flimsy wood.

Before our house had a fridge
that hummed like a supermarket
my parents
had songs to plant in rice fields.

Before my parents
found salvation inside a steel angel
and built a heaven on Guam,
they burned in the hells of a third world.

So at dinner,
when I complained about the food on my plate
my parents would remind me


doesn’t always taste the way I want

but it feeds me just the same

and I should show thanks

by swallowing my food.

detail of Diasporic Waters - Joy Enomoto - 2014
Baninnur: A Basket of Food

John Norman Sarmiento is best known as “Meta.” Meta is a sun of the Pacific, a hybrid: Pinoy-born and raised on the island of Guam. Meta is the gray area between clashing cultures. He feels he isn’t Pinoy enough for Pilipinas and is too Island for America. He is the first-world product of a third-world dream. Privilege is his identity, but he refuses to practice high-class ideals. Meta has been performing and teaching spoken word poetry in after-school programs for public schools since 2009. Through poetry and hip-hop, Meta hopes to show the youth the power of the word and inspire them to find their own strengths too. His work often has sociopolitical tones and makes commentaries on the situations he finds himself in. With a pen for a compass, this Pacific sun points forward for a brighter future.