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

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.

Sometimes I wonder why I don’t have what others have.

We are not ruins, we told ourselves. At least not in the way most people imagine it.

It’s been three days since I last spoke to him. Three whole days, seventy-fucking-two hours. The last time I saw him, he walked right past me to the bathroom without so much as a look. In a house as small as ours, you’d think that the walls would push us to get sick with each other’s presence. Except he’s been cooped up in his studio for the past three days. The sink is half-full with dirty plates and I cannot be bothered with dish-washing when there are words, turns of phrase, that I cannot wrench out of my head.

He understands.

I understand.

There’d be days like this, we tell one another, when we would get lost in our respective worlds. There are healthy breaks for and from people sick with images constantly darting back and forth in their heads. We are balls of energy, too much exposure to which can cause nausea, mood disorders, and even mental derailment. This is also why we don’t keep too many friends.

One of these days, he would finish his art. I would know it when he finally summons me for a reason as to why the house is a filthy mess. I would crawl up to him with a piece of paper in my hands, three days’ worth of words that would never fit the proper meter. He would read it and kiss my forehead. I’d look at his work and tell him that it’s the best he’d come up with so far. We would never ever come to terms with our worth.

This is how we are.

We’re down to our last five hundred pesos with two weeks remaining till the end of the month. Money has never run stable in this household with the couple of us never really learning how to spend like proper adults. We splurge on sudden cravings, five-course dinners washed down with the finest merlot. The following week, we’d hoard the cheapest noodles and the cheapest cans of tuna for the charity case that was ourselves. There are times when I feel like money is the root of the evil that will eventually lead to our ruin.

We are not ruins, we told ourselves. At least not in the way most people imagine it.

There are nights when he would come home to silence and consequently find me in fetal position on our bed, my arms a crisscross of red lines and my skin a patchwork of black and blue. A number of men had left me to die but he would look at me as if I was the most beautiful piece of art to ever breathe. I look at his ability to hold me despite my constant breaking as tragic. He would make love to me like our lives depended on it and they did. A few hours later and we’d be laughing over plans of moving to India or Brazil.

Sure, there’d be days when memories of childhood dreams and the mainstream definition of the words “happiness” and “success” would eat at his heart. He would cradle my neck in a choke and would curse the day he says I destroyed his dreams of becoming something else. I’d scream my own frustrations into his ear and share with him the horrible adjectives I reserve only for my self. His mouth is cruel, seeking to pain, but the fire in his eyes would assure me that we’re good and we would be moving to Cambodia or Cuba. This is our music, our art, our lives, ours.

One Christmas eve, I got him the present of a black eye.

He sent me to the hospital with a broken wrist.

We spent the next week apologizing with sheets upon sheets of love letters. My mother, she worried over the bruises, the unpaid bills, and the absence of a grandchild. I laughed and told her that she could never really read me even as a kid. When I smiled, I wondered if she thought me as beautiful as I felt.

If you had asked me at fourteen what I wanted to be when I turned thirty, I would have told you that I wanted to be a respected journalist. If you had asked me at twenty-two, I would have told you that all I ever really wanted was a home. If you’re going to ask me now if I think I made it, I’ll just tell you that I feel like I finally understand everything I sought to understand. From where I’m sitting, the words are clear on my notebook in the exaggerated loops of my handwriting.

“Let love be the name of their lie.”

This is why I will never say a word

Reality is the product of a stare. This is my truth
That the key to unlocking the mysteries of the galaxies
Lies in the dark matter of your pupils;
Should the world tumble out of tilt,
The north of my compass is at the tip of your tongue.
I believe no myths and I believe no books
Save for the trial and error that made you you,
That had god made man out of his own holy rib
I would still take the one born of fish.
But poetry was never made for talking, in the same way that
Love is not a four-letter word, it is an empty echo of people
Aching at the lack of how. This is not me
Playing hard to get with metaphors and hyperboles,
The limit of human communication is the fact
That you will space while I will earth,
That you will mountain while I will bird,
That you will sea while I will sky,
And should there be a parallel universe
Parallel lines would still not reach a point of union.
Language is the prerequisite of reason, except
Feelings are never rational and “love” dies in my mouth.
I can only tell you thisthat the history of the universe began
When light traveled to reflect your eyes in mine,
That the story of everything is a man, and the story of the fall
Is me.