B&W circle

Content Moderation

Kabel Mishka Ligot

“[Internet users] won’t continue to log on if they find their family photos sandwiched between a gruesome Russian highway accident and a hardcore porn video. Social media’s growth into a multibillion-dollar industry, and its lasting mainstream appeal, has depended in large part on companies’ ability to police the borders of their user-generated content. […] This work is increasingly done in the Philippines[, a] former US colony [that] has maintained close cultural ties to the United States[…]”

    — Adrian Chen, “The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed”,

                                                                                        despite the crippling
                                                                                        sluggish internet speeds
                                                                                        the future is here
                                                                                        well            it’s coming
                                                                                        at least
                                                                                        in long hot
                                                                                        spurts you breathlessly snuff
                                                                                        out and wipe
                                                                                        off the monitor
                                                                                        click next

                                                                                        you’re crammed in a cubicle
                                                                                        thousand kilometers’ worth
                                                                                        of wires away from both
                                                                                        source and destination
                                                                                        but here you are

                                                                                        both judge and defendant
                                                                                        divining wrong
                                                                                        from right
                                                                                        publishable         from banned
                                                                                        you hold
                                                                                        jurisdiction over all the evil
                                                                                        mankind can capture

                                                                                        on camera: burns
                                                                                        ruptures         bloodied         bodies
                                                                                        and objects where objects
                                                                                        and animals
                                                                                        should not be
                                                                                        it’s the filipino
                                                                                        morals     the boss says
                                                                                        you     people
                                                                                        have the same set     of sensibilities
                                                                                        as us

                                                                                        as their sensitive eyes rely
                                                                                        on a blueprint of your borrowed
                                                                                        feeling     some secondhand
                                                                                        in this golden age
                                                                                        of oversharing
                                                                                        you’re the martyred patron
                                                                                        saint of restraint

                                                                                        from this nine-hour
                                                                                        of split     spaces
                                                                                        the desire to be
                                                                                        anywhere else raps
                                                                                        its knuckles
                                                                                        on the cold     of your desk
                                                                                        until entrails
                                                                                        are just entrails
                                                                                        god’s own
                                                                                        broken     teeth     the next
                                                                                        beheading     the next cup
                                                                                        of coffee     the next end of
                                                                                        shift          until bravely
                                                                                        you can

                                                                                        the act of bearing
                                                                                        someone else’s
                                                                                        child          twice-
                                                                                        bled and witnessed

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    noun (Filipino/standardized Tagalog); petrichor

                Why are you afraid?

    I come silently,
                pad a thousand whispered feet
    over the city’s floorboards, thick with smog

                and even the vendor of newspaper and sweets, waist-deep in traffic
    holds his wooden box closer as a father a newborn
                child when he senses me stirring.

    Umbrellas bloom, faded in the waft.
                The myths no longer matter. On a makeshift raft nobody evokes
    a lovelorn god’s tears limping

                behind his errant wife, banished for her desires
    to create as he does. In the buildings you’ve built
                there are clerks and poets dreaming of another city

    without me: the streets parched and even, succulents lining the avenues.
                Clatter and gossip of insect
    wings absent in the bluest canopies. You know

                what is to come: the shops and banks closing, the certain
    migration to rooftops and second floors, rioting in the deeper streets.


                Once, your ancestors begged

    the same sky for manna, showers of rice bright
                as the moon’s fingernails. For years and years you’ve danced
    from strait to strait as I’ve sung. Don’t we both leave

                sizeable islands of fruit peels in the gutters of your city?
    When I rise from the earth I’m no different
                from the perfume of cloves, pithiest lime, crust of salt

    that crown the unwashed body stitching its way through
                a ragged quilt of tarpaulin and corrugated roofs,
    narrow streets that web like veins of a wilting leaf. Let me in.

                Give me a body
    to bathe and lull back into the ocean’s crib.

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    First Mass / Hesukristo, Exit Interview

    13 de Marzo 1521
    Mazaua, Leyte del Sur

    Yes, I remember it all. Every station of light in the constellation,

    each star ripening into its appointed name and place, the Yucca palm refusing
    to dissolve into ash, the stable’s sole oiled wick among the lowing oxen,
    the twinned sparkle unfolding in the young girl’s eyes: Talitha koum!

    How lightning wove itself quick through the rafters, sudden heads
    haloed in speech, fevers of phrase that first blossomed in the mouths
    of distant rivers. Believer, I’ve remained—skimming the skin of this earth:

    sunset loitering in a tide pool, sparks shuttling between synapses, deep red
    in palms held up against an open flame. In the mercurial sugars and phloem
    pulsing through a blessed oak. In the glint of the axe and its saintly blow.
    In the gilded fetish the pious sailor smuggles into the galleon’s hold.

    Our boats kiss the blackened shore. In the dusk, my carved-out eyes survey the calm
    and unchristened sands. Sun glints through the leaves like sharpened blades. Yet

    I’ve strolled through this dewy grove before. What travels quick as light, if not faith?

    Kabel Mishka Ligot was born and raised in and around Metro Manila in the Philippines. He holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he received the 2019 Jerome Stern Teaching Award. Mishka’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Waxwing, The Margins, Bear Review, Cha, and others. A fellow at Tin House and the Indiana University Writers’ Conference, Mishka currently lives in the Midwest. Find him at