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
Your arms, your arms
I never thought I’d
Not hold hands, not
understand the ways you
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
*Words plucked from someone’s tweets, rearranged for someone else
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
Ang buhay ko ay anod
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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) 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
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
The pain of being average is nothing comparable
To a gunshot to the foot, to losing a lover,
To the first realization of the certainty of death.
And yet, the self as most mediocre
Defying the very definition of typical
By virtue of being superlative, going the extra mile
To not nowhere, not everywhere, but somewhere,
The sting is ever true, barely tolerable, almost.