our space

there have never been parents more proud of their child than us as lovers
looking at the cheap plastic dresser we pounded to entirety with our hands,
squatting over stained tiles, space for miles. we were building hopes
on weak dividers and mattresses an inch and a half thick each; making plans
of making arts with stomachs fed with tuna and Lucky Me

when nights grew quiet and car lights dimmed to turn open roads, as if reminding
Quezon Ave. that it, too, must rest, on nights as quiet as ours, we reached hands
over bodies, like sprouts seeking sunshine in each other’s breasts. i remember
as nostalgic dreamers do, warmth in the darkness of our dusty patched up room

our plates, we lifted from the floor with a bed tray we called chabudai.
my mother, she pitied with a mini-fridge, a mattress, and a washing machine.
the wide room, which grows even bigger with your occasional leaving, is now shrinking
in square feet. can you count, my love, as I do, the foundation of our romance
in the things we told ourselves we needed: one dining table, two creaking chairs,
one couch that is now, as I write, cursing our combined weight, four pillows, two bed
sheets, four towels, five shared shorts

one cat. except no one ever really told us that cats multiply in heat and that our family
of three will grow into six, then five, then eight, then seven and i would just watch
as our intertwined lives take shape at midnights over ashes and conversation

and i thought at second year, i’ll have realized that i’ll never be happy with a lover
and that i will always be ready with the certificate to prove that i am the cats’ mother;
and that warmth will always give way to the cold when we’re sleeping
and that some people are better left writing poems over things that once were,
counting furniture at a quarter past eleven. but looking over my shoulder only
to have cheeks meeting your lips, talking about whatever, i will
throw away all the money to fill all of this space until we lose the way to the door       

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Searching for Winged

The elders kept chewing their words
Someone cut the children’s tongues

Memory played: pebbles rubbing rough
The soles of the feet, a body of water, and blood
The blade in her macopa hands slipping
To slice the silence with a clang

I feel wings but neither see nor hear them

All was written as legend
Yet as forgotten, almost unsaid

I never thought I’d

Your arms, your arms

I never thought I’d
Not hold hands, not
understand the ways you
believe, exist,
hurt,

          I
          beg

End the night,
Sleep, see again, tomorrow
Trade chances, I
think I’d want to
Stay with you

Your arms, For a while
I never thought I’d

Miss
the most

*Words plucked from someone’s tweets, rearranged for someone else

Ikaw ang Dagat Ko

Malimit ang tawag ng tubig
Balik-balik ang alon
Ang luha ko ay dagat
Sa kalawakan ng papel

Bawat titik ay tulala
Ang hikbi ay bula
Sa kalaliman, kadiliman
Walang piglas
Nalulunod

Ang buhay ko ay anod
Tahimik
Bago ang unos

Akay ka ng daluyong
Ang tayutay na nagkatawang tao
Ang wangis ng lalim, ng dilim
Ang banayad, ang ragasa
Ang pag-ibig, ang tula

Ikaw ang dagat ko

*Para kay Paul

Dreams of Red Beijing

They’re memories, lilies in a stagnant mind
Feet weren’t stepped but left prints
Ripples in the air perfumed with sweat and the scent
Of dimsum

Red Beijing, with women raven-haired
Shy eyes setting over ocean smiles
Their skin salmon pink or blue
Red Beijing, as in movies, touching
Is loving or fucking

Cigarettes as lanterns burning bright in starving mouths
Red Beijing as red lips seeking warmth
Women raven-haired and softly shedding
In some far away country that never was
Alive as ghosts in a dreaming mind

Miss Takes

I have only kissed men who could only kiss me in the dark.
Not out of preference, of course, but these things
Happen. They are names
Inside a box I label “never look back”
Because the norms tell me that I am a slut
For playing with lips that other women have labeled “reserved.”

When I was in college, a man told me that he liked that I spoke French. It didn’t matter
That he didn’t understand.
He looked at me the way voyagers
Looked at the unexplored edges of maps.
And when he thought no one was looking,
He led me by the hand and marked my lips “charted.”
A man’s life is a continuous quest for terra incognita. It said so in all the books.
His wife waits for him to come home.

The first time a man branded me woman, he took off his pants but not his shirt.
His torso held a warning “only for my lover”
While I lied on his bed,
Naked space.
He looked at me the way Neil Armstrong looked at the moon, and whispered that I mattered.
Except in space, sound never learned to travel without air.
And if a word was not heard, would it have happened?
Armstrong’s ashes are scattered over the Atlantic.
Each time the moon waxes, it drags the waters closer and closer, but Armstrong
Would never
Come back.

At night, my dreams are as vivid as Photoshopped pictures—
A policeman stops the traffic to make love to my lips in the open streets.
A priest calls my name at church and proceeds to fuck me on all fours in front of the whole flock.
On the radio,
Frank Sinatra is alive and is singing my name over and over and over. On the television,
Salvador Dali is young and says he
Is nothing without me.

Yes, sometimes I would take out the box of names and rip out the label.
Look back.
Most women have photos and love letters in their shoeboxes, I
Have nothing but the memory of men on my skin, their smell long faded.
When they gave themselves to their lovers, they had nothing left for me to keep.
So I would put the label back,
“Never look back.”
I would turn off
The lights and assure myself that some people
Can only glow in the dark.

Your Name (noun)

Your Name (noun) 1. The romanticization of a seconds-
long interaction beginning with your question, ending
as a knot in my stomach, a smile I swallowed

2. The bitter dawning of the impossibility
of having lips that will reach your ear, of having
stranger skins meeting under covers, accompanied
by the sweetness of becoming nothing
more;

3. The disappointment that follows a minute of introduction
to the you stripped of my imagination;

4. The laugh ripe with disgust after landed feet
proving the foolishness of constructing a future, a poem,
a noun, after a spit of tired dialogue
from an unexplored tongue