What if nuclear bomb had not been invented? What if the West had not win the Cold War, would the world be less benign or perhaps less malign? What if the Bandung Conference became a successful movement in gathering the Third World solidarity? What if there was a strong coalition of non-aligned governments in Asia and Africa? What if Southeast Asia had a different grouping that overcame Asia and bypassed the Pacific? What if the Berlin Wall never fell? What if the Berlin Wall had never been built? What if the leftist movement in Asia was able to gain bigger power? How close did we come to alternative worlds the Bandung Conference imagine?

Memorandum of Misunderstanding is a collage of displaced texts written by migrating bodies during the transition of their mother tongue from the motherland to elsewhere. Here and there identity becomes a shelter and language becomes the house of becoming.

Memorandum of Misunderstanding is not a binding contract but rather a declaration of co-operative suffering. It is written from a refusal of work. An uneconomic labor and a struggle for time against the glossed and capitalized transnational spaces fueled with cosmopolitan worldview.

The act of writing reclaims loneliness, alienation and social desire to create a space of understanding for those who are always misunderstood. Translation is always needed to read Memorandum of Misunderstanding, but mistranslation is always inevitable.

Letter from America  /  I Fall Asleep, Just Standing Like That  /  I Swallowed a Moon Made of Iron  /  A Storm in Monday Morning  /  The Tragedy of the Soy Sauce Finger  /  Letters of the Filipina from Brunei

Letter from America
By Carlos Bulosan

You write that in the Far East, where you are,
They cut down the trees and leveled them to the ground
Where fire stood and laughed and screamed, where birds
Flocked to partake in the festival, but were silenced
By the barking of guns; and their story is the history
Of leaves when inviolate guerdons shake the trees.
You tell me that the mountains are tunneled, the hills

Dug out and thrown into the rivers, and the rivers
Are emptied; you tell me that the fields are planted
With camps, houses, buildings, and the garden where
We had gathered roses for the queen of spring
Is now a stable for horses, and ours is a sleeping
Quarters for soldiers.
You ask me why, and what should I tell you?

I Fall Asleep, Just Standing Like That
By Xu Lizhi

The paper before my eyes fades yellow
With a steel pen I chisel on it uneven black
Full of working words
Workshop, assembly line, machine, work card, overtime, wages…
They've trained me to become docile
Don't know how to shout or rebel
How to complain or denounce
Only how to silently suffer exhaustion
When I first set foot in this place
I hoped only for that grey pay slip on the tenth of each month
To grant me some belated solace
For this I had to grind away my corners, grind away my words
Refuse to skip work, refuse sick leave, refuse leave for private reasons
Refuse to be late, refuse to leave early
By the assembly line I stood straight like iron, hands like flight,
How many days, how many nights
Did I - just like that - standing fall asleep?

I Swallowed a Moon Made of Iron
By Xu Lizhi

I swallowed a moon made of iron
They refer to it as a nail
I swallowed this industrial sewage, these unemployment documents
Youth stooped at machines die before their time
I swallowed the hustle and the destitution
Swallowed pedestrian bridges, life covered in rust
I can’t swallow any more
All that I’ve swallowed is now gushing out of my throat
Unfurling on the land of my ancestors
Into a disgraceful poem.

A Storm in Monday Morning
By Arista Devi

Is there a holiday for us from reaping the storm
While the wind and the rain
Could come without an invitation
Although the party had over

The Tragedy of the Soy Sauce Finger
By Epha Thea

The woman peeked out from behind the kitchen door.
She whimpered in pain, holding her stomach, feeling nauseous and hungry.
Hungry not because there was no food, but because she had lost her appetite. Her employer’s family and their five guests were sitting at the dining table and enjoying the meal that she had served of chicken seasoned with soy sauce. Between the sounds of the chopsticks against the bowls, she heard a comment from one of the guests, “I think this is the most delicious soy sauce chicken I have ever tasted.”

The woman behind the door could not endure it any longer; she went to the bathroom again. For the umpteenth time, she threw up all of the contents of her stomach. Then she sat down limply behind the bathroom door; her tears flowed slowly. She was heartsick as she wept over her index finger, of which several millimeters had been sliced off, and, along with her blood, had become part of the dish she had served for her employer’s dinner.

Letters of the Filipina from Brunei
By Ruth Elynia S. Mabanglo

I am a teacher, wife, and mother.
A woman—covered in perfume, powder, and silk,
With only the washtub, pots, and bed for company.
I must have grown so tired and weary,
That I ventured overseas.

It was always the same man at the head of the table,
Reading the paper each morning.
He would wait for his coffee
And smoke, While I rushed back and forth between the crib and the books,
Putting on lipstick and running his bath.
He never looked up from his reading
Even when the skillet burned or the baby wailed.
I would bring his briefs and towel to the bathroom,
And amuse him if he was in a foul mood.
He would offer no explanation
When he didn’t come home at night,
But he would scowl If I went out on a Sunday.
He did not like galunggong and saluyot
Even though the envelope he brought home was far too thin,
And it seemed he wanted me to produce a miraculous meal
When there was never even enough money to pay the rent.
I am a teacher, wife, and mother.
A woman—growing weary of being a woman.
My sex condemning me
To broom, laundry, and lullaby
When I have a career and earn money myself.
It was always the same route day after day— Tediousness laid out in the distance
Between home and school,
Between kitchen and bed.

Did I have a right to be miserable?
If I were unhappy, where would I run?
There was a beerhouse and a massage parlor
That my husband would frequent while he
Expected me to sit by the window, waiting.
My body burned with longing,
I had a cross on my tongue and could not speak.
My children would ask for bread, I would turn up the radio.
I must have grown so tired and weary,
That I ventured overseas.
I used to picture myself wearing pants,
And sending home dollars and presents.
I can breathe easy now, My lips unsealed, my mind open.
I am feeling homesick, I admit,
But at least now I only make coffee for myself.
I wait for letters at the gate and at the door,
The telephone enough to keep my heart full.
I used to cry at first,
But it seems reading can cure anything.
This is the only answer,
Leave the man to wash the sheets.