Saturday, December 31, 2011

You're the One that I Want in 2012!

On the precipice of a new year, we are most likely going through the list of things we are hoping for. The things we desire. The things we want.

When we strip away the judgement, when we embrace our true nature we find at the core of desire is a softness that is as delicious as it is infuriating. The things we desire propel us, inspire us, enrage us to move, to live, to be. I want you to want things. I want you to listen to that desirous humming in your breath. I want you. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Red is The Color of My Love

If you've visited here before this will be no secret to you, but if this is your first time then it's important that you know: I am a brand geek and an ad geek.
I believe in the power of brands, I believe in the power of communication. At our best, we can shape positive behaviors and offer up a world of choices and better options. In our most shining moments, we harness these powers in ways that leave the world better. Or at least try to. I have written a few times about how I continue to fall in love with the (RED) campaign. I love its big ambitions and love the progress it continues to facilitate.

As we gear up for the holidays and wage into the most generous time of the year for most it's important to remember that true gifts cannot be bought in department stores or through consumables. The gifts that matter most set the course for a virtuous cycle and hit the biggest problems that plague us. It is one of those simple, profound ways we can help.

If we truly believe we are in this together, here's an inspiring way to do our share. Click here to create your own panel in the iconic quilt, make a pledge then harness your social networks to inspire people to do their share. What greater gift than to give future generations a world where they are free to love, free of AIDS.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Notes from The Road

I have resisted the urge to be hard on myself for not writing enough. I have resisted the temptation to lay the blame elsewhere. Life is what it is, and sometimes there is no room even for the things that matter the most. I have started an experiment, instead of reading on the train I've started writing. If it's an issue of time and space being limited, I thought to make use of the time and space available to me.

For real. Leaving the iPad behind, and focusing on the trusty Moleskin and pen. Sometimes it's a fragment that comes to me, sometimes the begin of a thing that eventually becomes a writing artifact. Last week, on Tuesday this notion came to me. I am still waiting for the next train ride that gives it more shape. But here it is, an impulse from the train. A notion of a piece of writing:

"As if there was anything else she knew how to do, she let him in. Again. Without question or condition. She let him back in."

Watch this space and see where the ride take us.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Before the Flash Mob... was just giddy, spontaneous, unchoreographed bustin' out. For real, just people dancing. With people. For no good reason but to dance.

 I was reminded of this over the weekend, when a bunch of us took a shopping sidetrip distraction between brunch and happy hour. We were at a quaint Brooklyn shop called Something Different and they were playing eighties tunes. Who can resist???

This 'Reality Bites' scene below is a close approximation of what happened when Tiffany's I Think We're Alone Now came one. Except in our case, we were all dancing and joyful. We love each other, and celebrate each other's gangsta. And danza.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Where Have All the Best Friends Gone?

You may or may not have noticed the radio silence, but the day job has kept my mind preoccupied lately. Working through a brand's character and personality (at least if you do things the way I tend to) sends the thoughts on wild rides. As I looked through Jungian psychology, the fundamentals of branding and a snapshot of female popular culture I could not help but as the question: Where have all the best friends gone? The last big chick friend flick was "Thelma and Lousie." This was in 1991, then close to the end of that decade "Sex and The City" took the world with its real-talking, stiletto strutting strong women and their deep friendships. Sadly, with the success of the show and consequent increased production budget and caché, the fashions and romance often seem to have eclipsed the heart of the matter: women nurture women.

Gratuitous bromance hunk shots appear
thanks to
Meanwhile the world has come to embrace male friendships, celebrating them through the birth of the bromance and it seems the tides turned on female friendships with the introduction of the term frenemies. Granted, it isn't exclusively for female use only, it is quite alarming that while the press celebrates the shirtless Lance Armstrong + Matthew McConnaughey tandem training for the NY Marathon they taint the Oprah - Gayle friendship with speak of closeted lesbian love. I started to worry. Then, I found a spark of hope in the most unlikely place - the box office! 

This summer's top grossing film
was by and about women.
This summer, guess which comedy flick kicked every other film's butt at the box office (well, except for the one that utilized similar gratuitous hunkiness in its promo)? A charming, heart-warming, witty, well-written, well-acted film authored by women, celebrating the friendships of women. The film is called Bridesmaids and it was the summer of 2011's top grossing film, with an impressive $26 million the weekend it opened and Box Office Mojo reporting box office sales of $283,444,100.

I realize life gets busy and hectic, blog posts take time to write, Facebook and Twitter can make us forget to actually stay in touch but we gotta gotta gotta romance our most treasured friendships, we simply must. I am not asking anyone to run around shirtless (unless of course that's what you and your girls are into, then by all means go!), I am simply putting a loving reminder out there: your girls need you, this girl needs you. 

My blood sister, my treasure
Before I go walking and not talking, let me salute my girlfriends, and the men of my inner circle. You are the loves of my life, the sass to my shimmy, the chili salt to my body shot. You all know who you are. We brunch together and poem together, we dance together and booze together, we have seen so much life together and look ahead to so much more. I only have one blood sister and she's the bomb, still I must be doing something right because lucky me, I get to choose an arsenal of amazing women (and men!) I am thrilled to call my girls, my sisters, my friends.

I will probably tag you on this post, or  tweet at you - but that's just right now. Just you wait till I see you, you'll get an old fashioned hug and then some because that is how we love.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A New Place to Call Home

There is no exact number I can come up with when I try to count the number of times I've moved in my life. More cities than the fingers of two hands, and enough countries to occupy all the fingers of one hand. Even still, finding a place that feels so much like home in a city that is so far away from most of the people who know you best and love love love love you is always a magical thing. It's been a week to the day, and the report remains stellar.

An early drawing by Gaél, a foto with a story I might tell you, an old-school writing kit from my brother.
The place is warm and nurturing, somewhere between a beachside fire and a shot of whisky. Neat, of course. It sits on a tree-lined street, where today an HBO series will be shooting (yep, it's THAT pretty). My desk sits facing the street, so I get a cool breeze as I think and work surrounded by mementos from friends and family. This new life is punctuated by touches of where I am from, a pair of ash trays bearing the words "Casa Vallés" from Abuelo's collection; the scapular my great grandmother brought to the Philippines from Spain - a present during my First Holy Communion, one one side The Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin on the other. It is all part of the dichotomy of who I am, and I like it like that.

This is how we do breakfast chez nous.

For all the time I've lived in New York and for as much as I love this city, I have not felt like I could claim a space and call it home until now. The art that sits waiting for me to get my bearings will soon board a ship and find themselves, as I have, in a new place to call home. Until then, I continue to get to know what this new home will mean to me and my story. I invite you to come over for a meal, we do quite well in the food and beverage department. I may be a New Yorker but I will always be a hospitable Filipina at heart, ready with a big hug, warm meal and clean sheets for my friends. Come visit us in Brooklyn, donde hay vino para el vecino.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Oh, Vast Sea

Oh night of poetry, oh open heart.
Oh moon playing all your tricks,
tonight you win. Here I sit misty,
longing.  Nothing to console me,
not my stoop, not this starless sky.
Not the cup, not the apple. Not
the pop of cork, not the haste
of these champagne bubbles.
What I need cannot be found in
the pulsing city of cities I now call
home. I have learned to live with
the ache, the watery eyes.
I take this sadness to bed
fall asleep thinking of my loves
and the parts that keep me away
from them. Tomorrow when
the sun rises I will look away
so I do not see the ocean, the
sky, the vast land. I will look
inside and find them all in
my pulse, in my breath.
I will close my eyes.
They will be
there, right there.

(a work in progress written after a magical night of Poetry at the Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn) 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hey, Jo You So Fine I Love You Long Time

When the white man first came, he brought
The Book, a cross, goblets of wine, white bread,
silk robes and the promise of a Heaven.

When he left, he took our sun and mountain,
our worship, our medicine, our brown magic.
He lined his trail with mosaic bastards,

the aberration of a people who once sanctified
women and battled with spears,
yo-yos, blow guns, western wind.

The white man came again, this time in
camouflage and boogie-woogie. He brought
Santa Claus, democracy, and hand grenades.

He took our fight and aimed outwards to the
yellow neighbor and his Kamikaze, took our
women for servants, sex slaves, nurse maids.

When he left he took our words and letters,
our lessons, our drum beat, our open fist.
He lined his trail with shrapnel and gunpowder,

flattened our cities, tarnished our dreams.
When is the white man coming back?
I look around and see his ghost everywhere,

he is never there. Why won't the white man
love my country anymore? Has he grown
tired of our unflinching love?

The bountiful lands he pillaged for rice, pineapple,
bananas, tabako, mangoes, coconuts are barren now.
They long for the white man's science again,

My tears have always come with ease, this is
something you learn in my country. I remember
when the white man told me tears are prayer,

blessings from the white god with the high nose,
The cheek the white man never touched
still burns from his un-loving.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Heart's Desire

I used to say I was a reformed Catholic.
Really, I did.
As I think of it I realize there is something dishonest about that.

The more honest statement is this: the values I learned from the way the Catholic faith was taught to me are the very fuel that keep me going, that keep me true. If I am truly honest, the values of love, compassion, fidelity, child-like-faith, the unflinching pursuit of deep understanding and a genuine sense of wonder - these mark my character and strength. I learned them all through the way my heart and mind were reared. Some of this happened in "school" and a lot of this happened through the people life continues to shower me with, through the school of life.

In a country where poverty sits side by side with opulence, a heart can only make sense of things through faith and understanding. In a family where night time rituals include bedtime prayers, the soul learns to search every day. And in a home where love indeed conquers all disagreements, misunderstanding and heartbreak one inevitably learns how to make room, to forgive, to accept. And ultimately, this is what all lessons about the life of Christ taught me - a compassionate heart makes room.

And isn't this ultimately the heart's true desire and destiny? To love wholly, without condition. To accept people for who they are, be a mirror that reflects back their best light? The moon is full tonight, and so is my heart. If you hear some raucous howling, join in. Heed your heart and sing the happy howls so full and well-loved.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

That Sickening Sense of Entitlement

What is it with people who come at things with statements like "I deserve this?!" Where do people get off feeling they are entitled to anything anymore? Have they been living under a rock? Have they been on a media diet? Or are they simply without a clue or two?

What we do or don't deserve is irrelevant in this world that is all topsy turvy. Let me tell you who deserves better.

Think of that hard-working father of three, who has kept at a job that doesn't inspire him so he can build a solid home for his family and send his children to school and have them covered under his company's HMO. Then think of him in a 'town hall' meeting at work, hearing ugly words like 'downsize' and 'restructure.' Now think of his heavy walk into the house he has almost paid for, the painful conversation with the wife he loves, with whom plans for a happy retired life have been made. Think of his dwindled retirement fund, the mortgage he is almost done with but cannot keep up with. You have just conjured up a man who deserves more than that pink slip he was given. You have just conjured up a man this system and all its promise has thoroughly failed.

Here's the thing. Stop the whining, stop the pitchy tweets about your pathetic life. It isn't about you. It's about the choices you make. You don't deserve anything but the chance to work hard and do well. And that is a lot. There are people who don't even have access to these. You deserve whatever you have and wherever you find yourself right now. It's the result of choices you have made. Don't like what you see? Then it's your call, not mine so don't complain to me, or to the weary man trying to fix things for you. Life is tough and whiny people can't cut it.

I suppose I could say it isn't your fault, that society has sold you on this false sense of entitlement you so proudly wear. But I won't do that because unless you are under the age of fifteen, I hold you entirely responsible for yourself and your bloated sense of what you deserve. Unless you can get over that, then you'll never really get far in life. And the short distance you are destined to travel, you'll deserve that too. In fact, that might just be all you do deserve.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Come on Baby, Light My Fire

In the final analysis, there
shall be no regret or remorse;
no spreadsheets, no checks and
balances. In the final
analysis there is only you
and your truths, the good ones
that light you up and the ones
that take you to darkness. In
the final analysis it will not
matter that you were loved

wrong or right, only that you
were loved. More importantly
that you loved with furor and
unflinchingly. And that you
danced with abandon. In the
final analysis your swagger
will only matter as much as
the sweat of your hard-working
brow. How much shit taking
was equaled by walking and

working. In the final analysis
how much you know will make
no difference. Your curiosity,
generosity and how openly you
taught, this is what will count.
What you did with what you
know, how you surprised
yourself, that's what I'm
talking about in the final
analysis. Were you kind, were

you gentle - this won't matter this
won't bear much weight in the
final analysis if none of it was real.
So here we sit, on American Independence
Day halfway through the second year of
the second decade of the 2000's and
in the final analysis the thing
that will be most stoking, most
inspiring, most excruciating is this:
have I lived, really lived?

In the final analysis, have I
embodied myself - the good,
the bad, the ugly of me with full
authority and furor? In the final
analysis the real question is am I on fire?
Does the life force of me burn
a steady flame, or spark bursts
of heat? When I speak, do I light up
inside and maybe  through the room?
Do my eyes gleam with ideas,

do my lips flicker with their words?
When I write, is the hand possessed
by pen kinetic? Do I sizzle?
Does my life stoke me? Tonight
cities will light up in fireworks
and cheer, but in the final
analysis and  in the spirit of real
talking, to be truly free requires
fire. So when the dust settles tonight
do it. Find your fire. And work it, baby.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Made in the Philippines, Born in New York

We had a family home in the north of the Philippines, in the mountains of Baguio. In this home was a master bedroom where my father, his siblings and most likely their cousins honeymooned. Being a honeymoon baby, I suspect I was made in Baguio. The weather is cooler there, the air smells like pine. Baguio was built so the American officers could have a vacation place. There are golf clubs, cottages of western style, they even have an American school there.

Nine months or so after my parents' Baguio honeymoon, I was born in upstate New York on a crisp September day. At least this is how I imagine it. So like most things outsourced, I was made in Asia and managed to be born in the USA.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Dog Days Are Over

The first part of the year was bittersweet for me.

As an artist, I found a thunderous thread in my voice and this fired up my writing like I have not experienced before. In this thunder I also found community, this formed a bridge through which I made deep connections with my New York family and the reason I am here. And though this has happened to me before, I found myself falling in love again with New York so deeply, I knew she was reminding me I was home.

Tish and Nave at a Brooklyn fund-raiser
As a woman, my partner was faced with a health challenge that has altered my life in ways I am only beginning to understand. It was a tough three-month run for me, and I will never know exactly how tough it was for Navé and how he is having to adjust. The good news is that he has been declared cancer-free, the only mark being a scar to remind him of the grace he has received. As only he would, he is using the experience to inform his artistic purpose, starting with writing a poem a day from the first day after surgery until he gets to 100 poems by July 10th.

The groom flanked by his sisters

Then something beautiful happened. I had to go home for our family's first 'proper' wedding. My baby brother (okay, he is 30 years old and may kill me) got married and I got a new sister.  I got to spend two weeks back in the home of my heart, immersed in the simple and so profound gift of family. I got to hang out with the nephews I am crazy about, and soaked up on all that good stuff only family and long-time friends can give you.

A wedding is always a happy event, and for our family this was a first wedding despite the fact that my brother (the groom) is both the only son and the youngest sibling. I don't really think I'm wired up for the traditional approach to marriage, and when my sister and brother-in-law got married in Barcelona, it was a simple affair and not the 'whole hog' celebration Enrique and Isha were having. So for our family, this was THE wedding. And it was exactly the wedding for this family. Upbeat, young-spirited, very modern and lots of fun. As part of the wedding, the couple had asked the entourage to do a campy flash mobesque dance number to kick in the dancing hours at the reception. He chose a song that speaks to what this second half of 2011 means for me. Not only do I get a new sister, Nave has a 'new' clean slate of health, I start a new job and we have a new apartment in Brooklyn. I also acknowledge what we have gone through and keep it in mind as we dance into the summer sunshiney days and embrace the grace and good times ahead. So sing and dance with me, Nave, Enrique, Isha & Florence and the Machine. For real, the dog days are over!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


The parts of me that needed attention mostly sat on my left side. My left eye was legally blind and ridiculously astigmatic, my spine curves in such a way that makes my relaxed stance skew left. Even the aberration in one of my female parts lived on the left until it made its surgical exit (did it use stage left or right?). These musings are making my mental DJ conjure Beyoncè and shimmy 'to the left, to the left..'

Does everything about me lean to the left? When at a crossroads or literally an intersection do I always veer left? When I bowl does my striking spin favor left? Does the slant in my cursive face East or West?

Then the sensible question of what does this all matter? The values and principles that guide all our choices sit squarely at the core of who we are and the space we occupy. We are all guided by our individual sense of what True North is, and this is as specific to each of us as the thumbprint. As for me, you probably know where to find me... to quote another fabulous female singer, "if you what me, you can find me left of center If you want me you can find me, left of center off of the strip."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ink Agimat

With this new semester comes a new chapter in my adventures as an Accidental American. The chapter involves a refinement of the track I tried to get on when I first arrived here, only this time I stomp the track with far more swagger and savvy. And to remind myself to stay true, to not let myself get swallowed by the American (corporate) machine, I armed myself with an ink agimat which I had done while back in the Philippines on a quick vacation. With the help of the inspiring artists at Republic Tatoo, I marked my skin with battlecry, mantra and story, my virgin skin a blank canvas for art to lead so life would follow.

Getting a cherry popped at 40 years-old happens with far more thought and understanding than my memories of my long gone cherry-popping days of youth. I came with a clear understanding of why I wanted the tattoo and what the message was, mainly to myself. And since it is body art which can be shown publicly, I had even thought of the public aspect of how it would work. I wasn't prepared for the magical trip Oman, the artist, and I went on to take the germ of my idea to a place I can righteously call body art.

Fresh ink in front

My brother in-law Paco, adventure, kick-ass photographer and admitted tattoo addict came with me, sweetening the trip even further. This body art-amulet-agimat of ink on my skin sits on the precipice of where I come from and where I am headed. It speaks all the languages of my bloodline and my spirit, taking a Spanish word and rendering it in the visual style of traditonal Filipino tattoo art of our inked warriors from the North, the region my mother's family is from.

I mark my body by saying "Si." Cutting through my heart, I say yes with one part in front, speaking just to me in mirror image and another part on the back, reminder to those who see to say YES to their bliss.

So fresh and still sealed in plastic

Each life tells a story, and everyday is a chance to tell a better story. This Accidental American, this woman of words is enhancing her story with image. I say YES to my heart. My heart says YES. Corporate America look out, this tattooed warrior is coming with her marks and her bliss.

And you know what, I think you're gonna LOVE her.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In Good Company

Who said 'show me your friends and I'll show you who you are?'

I am proud to endorse this gorgeous project of someone I am proud to call my friend, Geko Jones. Having grown up in a country whose indigenous cultures were trampled upon by a host of conquistadores, I am THRILLED by the respectful, inclusive and festive nature of this project. Cultures evolve, and as we cross borders we co-create aspects of the culture that are universal.

I support the Pico de Gallos project, invite you to do the same and consider yourself in good company. One of our tribe.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An Open Letter to Hades

The first time you came,
you came for my mother.
You made her slip on the slush
and I was collateral damage.
Swaddling me in four inches of blanket, 
her woolen armory a forcefield and foretelling.
She had seen this before, the attack
on our kind. She knew to be ready,

Then you came for my five year-old legs.
An imbalance in my blood attacking
with boils, open sores and such pain
no child should ever know.I came back fighting. 
You cannot keep me from running 
on grass, in mini skirts. Don’t you know?
I am the grasses that green the earth.
I am everywhere  all at once. 
Catch me if you can.

You could not catch me  when you returned
as the 12 year old boy and his shine.
Fingers and lips on my 8 year-old body,
Don't you know? I am out  of your reach.  
My virtue is the air you breathe, I can 
fill your lungs then vaporize inside you, 
in a flash, leave you longing
for the lover you never had,
elusive first kiss, untarnished mouth.

You came back for my mouth in 
high balls and shot glasses.
Johnnie Walker, Jose Cuervo, 
Stolichnaya, Jamieson, Jack Daniels. 
Laphroaig. The one for the road
you thought would break me, the voice
from the bottle telling me I could drive. 
Don't you know? I am black rubber on 
concrete and I stick. I am the long 
and winding road. I always make it home
by curfew, unscathed, still dancing.

Dancing with me those smoky nights
in those red light districts, on my
parents' bed, on the beach, in the
kitchen, on the first mattress I paid
for myself, the unprotected sex.
You came back for my blood by
seduction. You came for my flesh
in fluids, in ecstasy, on all my hot spots. 
Don't you know? I am your orgasm,
I am your release, the humming  of your
flesh. You will never be rid of  me.
I will spend you again and again,
I drive your desire. I am
the lust that keeps the species
alive, the fire that multiplies cells,

I am life itself, an unlikely result.
Six ethnicities race through my DNA,
my bloodline is of warriors, wizards,
and wise men. I am priestess
and prostitute, The first time 
you tried to kill me was the last time.

Before you come back, I have an offer
to make, a dance, a deal. 
Come for me on the summer solstice. 
Come for me in a leap year.
Come for me in a flourish, 
as an ending, a magical cure.  
Come to me as liberation  so women
can take their place at the table
and the troubled can  sleep at last. 
There is work to be done here,
not a moment to waste
So if you are coming, come. 
And bring it.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

30/28: The Inkless Tatoo

She is curious about your markings,
wants to know where they are from.
Wants to know which hurt the most?
Which took the longest?
Her line of
questioning should be familiar,
you wear your story on your skin.
Years ago you were a blank canvas,
then voice found its way to ink
and now you are ink god, confessor,
work in progress. Author, painter
and commander of ink on your body.
You are an architect co-writing a
story on a patchwork of skins we
tell together, but separately. This
woman from the Midwest, she
wants to know more. She asks
Do you remember your first time?
and this is when you realize she is
telling you about her skin, telling
you about her markings. So you
listen to what she isn’t saying, with
eyes that avoid yours and skin
well hidden under clothes hanging
loose on her weary frame. She
gives nothing away. Her markings
involve pain, but no ink. This is not
the story she wants to tell, the chronicle
of bad choices and desperate cling,
of lovers who love inadequately.
So you answer each question
delicately, knowing her fragile
ears are drowning with a truth
that threatens to own her. You
look straight ahead, knowing
her eyes are always close to
bursting and give her a kindness
she might recognize from the days
when she was a blank canvas.
And when a text message
unnerves her so that she has to go,
you finally look into her eyes and
speak clearly You take care now,
and lift your glass to her as she goes.

30/27: The Year of Kissing Girls and Boys

It is the era of Absolut Vodka in the year
of the DVD’s break through.
Tommy Lee is in love with a buxom Baywatch
blonde and Tupac breaks the ceiling scoring
a number one album while he is in prison.
ebay is a newborn and we are plump
with the prime of our youth.
We know little of limits and consequence,
we will  hear nothing of no or stop.
Wild night is calling and this is all we heed.
Thirsty for pleasure, we heed with our mouths.   
Absolut Kurant is our rave, splashed with soda
served in a martini glass garnished with a cherry.
The heat of urban nightlife stokes our pulse and
we are parched. So we drink to our youth
and beauty, and we drink to love. And we
dance, dance, dance. No matter the
absence of dance floor, we are hips on fire.
We know little of guilt and shame,
we will  hear nothing of stop or convention.
Wild night is calling and this is all we heed.
Thirsty for pleasure, we heed with our mouths.   
We are plump with the ripeness of our youth,
succulent lips and supple skin.
Spectacular spectacle, we are wet
with kissing, hot with tongue.
Oh luscious lust, you are our
Church. Everyday is Sunday
and every night, we witness.
we testify, we praise.

Friday, April 29, 2011

30/26: Flowers From Vincent

I marvel at this land you have
walked before, where once
you found muse and anguish.
I bathe in the hues of the sun,
I am yellow princess of this rocky
field of gray. The irises curtsy
in respect of me. By nightfall when
the sunflowers are sleeping
soundly I go barefoot,
ravenous grazer in the fields.
I swallow this starry starry night,
collect fireflies with my hair.
In the morning when I wake,
by my bedside the sunflowers
are aglow. The window
frames a mosaic mountainside
of slate and flowering orchards. 
All this, all for me. From you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

30/25: Makahiya (The Shy One)

I lie in the sun
and slowly open
one leaf at a time.
This is when
you see me,
in this simple way
on an ordinary day.
I soak in your
light and vapors,
take in your rich
words to the deepest
roots of me far
into the earth.
We find a spring
and share a drink
there. They think I
am shy, call me by
different names.
Bashful. Sleeping.
I know you see me,
feel your longing,
let you touch me.
The touch of you
stings my delicate
leaves and I close.
The strength of you
closes me and in
this closing, I find
my destiny.

*'Makahiya' is the Philippine name for a grass that grows there. The word means 'shy' and describes a plant that, once touched, closes. In other parts of the world it is called Humble plant, Shame plant, Sleeping grass, Touch-me-not, and Mori Vivi (West Indies).

Monday, April 25, 2011

30/24: The Shallow Well

What is a woman to do
when the husband
she will not leave
is no longer hers?
What is a man to do
when he loves his children
but cannot live
with their mother?
Dear love,
some days
you are not that
deep or complicated.
Once you’re gone,
you’re gone.
Do you take
the blueprints
with you?
All that’s left
is cataloged in
and a pile
of post-it notes.
After you left our
home, we hankered
for you, fingers
for crumbs in
the cookie jar,
thirsty for
drops of
you in the
I called for
you in whispers
and all I found
was the salt.

30/23: You Could Have Been My Brother

I think of the randomness of circumstance,
of the little we can control. I think about this
as I walk home from the film I have just seen
here in New York City. The film takes me back
to the Philippines, tells me the story of a boy
named Paco, who is now a man in a Spanish
prison. Paco, you are a stranger to me, but right
now I feel so close to you, I feel  that you could
have been my brother. We have the same ethnic
mix, you and my brother are three years
apart in age. I am haunted by the
thought that you could have been my brother.

My brother’s story could have been your story.
Prison is stealing years from you, Paco. But still,
what  happened for my brother can still happen
for you. Let me tell you what is waiting for you.
You will find friendship, you will find advocacy.
You will find people who care only about where
you’re headed and not where you’ve been.
You will come to know the love of a woman who
is not family, then the heartaches that come from
that breaking. You will know the rewards of an
honest day’s work, remember the joy of a
day off and discovery the weekend again.

You will remember how a free man walks on concrete,
build a house without fences, learn how to unlock your
door.You will fall in love again, and buy her a ring. You
will get down on one knee and know the joy of yes.
You will know the joy of yes, the exhilaration of yes,
after fourteen years of no you will find the simple
and profound joy of yes. Paco Larrañaga, you are
an innocent man jailed for no fault of yours. You
could have been my brother, and on this eve of Easter
Sunday, I pray for you as if you were my brother.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

30/22: Fire in Marlboro Country

I catch a glint
in your eye that
unnerves me,
as if to challenge.
This is how I know
you’re the one.
All dark brown stunning,
silky mane
and proud stance.
Today there is
only you. Tomorrow
is Easter and
today, I ride.
I am eleven years old.
I motion to you
with a slight
head nod,
come over
then mount you.
Reins firmly
held in my left hand,
leather straps
in right, I click
tongue to inner
cheek, get up
on my haunches,
nudge you
with the heel
of my right foot
and we are off.

We are beautiful
brown hair blowing
in the wind,
we are
rhythm of
gallop, we are
gorgeous dance
of brute force
and balletic gait.
We are break
away from the trail,
we are abandon.
We are thrill and
We are
my girl gasps
and your beastly
breath. We are mist
on this cool summer
morning.  We are
speed, unflappable

Nothing can
touch us.
Not the skinny
trail, not the
ravine to
our right, not
the rocks
slipping from
under your
hooves, not
the screams
of the pack we’ve
left behind. Not
the cloud of
dust, not the
other on the
leaves latching
on to your
tail. Not even
the sunbeams
can catch
our skins.

Only you
can touch me,
anoint me
wild child,
Only I can
touch you,
anoint you
wise man.
On this ride,
on a trail called
Marlboro Country,
I find fire.

30/21: Old Ways in a New Home

There are traces of
my old home
sprinkled this city
that has
now become my
new home. 
I hear it
in the quirk
of language,
a softness of ‘a’
that gives
gentleness of ‘okay’
or  the
quickness of ‘
please’ at the till,
as if hesitating to
demand payment.
I sense  it in the
comforting  ways of
warmth, in the kindness
of ‘hello’ and the
ease of smile that
accompanies it. 
Some days I slip back
into old ways in this
new home of mine.
The lilt in my speech
returns and my vowels
soften, my hands reach
out to touch skin
and my speech is
punctuated by eyebrow
and hand  gesticulation,
just for full effect.
Here in my new 
home, I am accent,
eyebrow raise, warm
touch, easy smile.
I am rolling rr’s
and softer vowels.
I am loose laugh
and good hugs.
This new home
brings out the best
parts of what is still
of my old home.
They mix here
with the new
parts of
my becoming.
This new
form of
old and new
is coming
to fit me
better each

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

30/20: Chameleon

She is equal parts golden  brown
lion and white bull,  herein lies
her magic spell. The question is
what parts and colors do
you see when look at her?
And what does this say
about you?

On a Monday in the lion city,
upon returning just right
from a lovefest with the sun
someone wanting to see whiter
saw her color ugly, beseeched the
undercooked whiteness back from
beneath the well-done glow.

On a Tuesday in the sleepless city,
someone saw only golden brown.
Saw goddess. Saw beautiful.
Saw home. Saw sister. Saw peace.
Was it the warmth of brown eyes
or the sway of golden hip or the
exotic roll of tongue? What was it
that eclipsed the whiteness that
sat in there with the golden brown?

On a Wednesday in the city of
spring rolls, a man at the wheel
saw a familiar fusion, 
wanted to claim her
for his  prodigal kin.
Saw traitor. Saw deflector.
Saw Westernized.
Saw comrade.
Saw genocide. Blinded
by his history, he could
not see her true.

On a Thursday in an Eastern
city of Angels, after a weary
week of work, a Frenchman
set her mane free, released
her curl by curl. Saw the
strength of spring. Saw the
sparkle of brown.
Saw evolution. Saw neighbor.
In a world of rigid black
silk straightness, he saw fluid.
Saw liberté.

On a Friday in the former
British territory, the Americanized
Scotsman celebrated her bull.
Saw her fight and liked it.
Saw the fire and the warmth
that stoked it.  Saw reliable
and surprising. Saw exciting.

It is only at the weekend that
all of her shines in plain sight,
only at her Saturday laze
and Sunday brunch.
It is only at the weekend
that her notes weave melody
and harmony. When the church
bells  toll and robed folk
sing their praise.
This is when she lets you see.
This is when she lets you see.

30/19: A Lesson in Hanging

You are sixteen years old
and your heart is racing. This
is a big day. You are hovering,
if done right your hovering is
motionless. If you mess it up,
the hovering will be shaky.
He tells you to let go, tells
you he’s got it. Deep breath,
hands in the right places, grit
of teeth, slight nod of head
and then it’s time. Your right
foot presses down as left
foot slowly lets go and he
releases. You are sixteen years
old, he is forty-one. He is giving
you a lesson in hanging.
Soon, you will do this alone
but not this morning. It is a
quiet Sunday morning, too
early even for church. Your
father is teaching you how
to drive, and today is about
hanging. The skill of balance.
Of listening to roar and calibrating
fuel, oil and break. You render
the car beautiful, in perfect
balance, motionless on the
forty-five degree urban hill
of asphalt and yellow stripes.
You are in your groove, and finally
after two failed attempts on
previous Sundays you both know.

You have this down. Left foot
lightens up clutch, right foot
cranks up gas, smooth
smooth smooth, beautiful
smooth move and you are no
longer hanging. This was the
final test, the make-or-break
one, the right of passage
to borrowed car (‘as long as
there is someone of legal driving
age, as your  student license
precludes’ your Papa’s voice constant
reminder in the mix tape in your mind).

Years later and again and again,
every hill of large or small takes
you back to this. To a girl in a
car with her father, both in the
balance of push and pull. To roots
to ground and wings to take flight.
In the hang time of life, the
between to and from spaces,
you remember this morning,
ordinary by all accounts but one.
This Sunday, before ring of
church bells and forgiveness
of sin, you found your groove.
This Sunday, by God's authority
your Papa anointed you road
ready, child of the street, rad.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

30/18: On Resistance

When he says you’ve brought him
back to life, resist the urge to
take credit. Love does what
love does, go back to the coffee
you are making. Heat the milk
while the grounds are seeping.
And when his eyes stay fixed on yours,
remind him. “All I did was show
up, you’d do the same for me.”

When he says he’s found his way
back to his tribe because of you,
resist the urge again. Family is
what Family is, go back to the
poem you are writing. Number
eighteen of a tribal vow, chorus
in thirty parts. The one we all sing
once a day until May. And when
his hand stays clasping yours,
remind him “This was your tribe
before it became mine.”

Resist the lure of mirror, the
seduction of limelight. You
have fallen for this before,
resist the urge and do not fall
for it again. You are not that
little girl anymore, the one who
wants  all eyes on her. When he
looks at you with love, she is not
what he sees. Resist the urge to
give her any credit.  When he
says that you are beautiful,
resist the urge to blush. This
is the woman you have become.
The one he cannot resist.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

30/17: The Girl With the Watery Eyes

So you think I'm Pisces,
something about watery eyes.
I say, 'No, ma'am, I'm Virgo.
Pisces is my watery disguise.'
I am the girl with
the watery eyes.

I could be a Pisces girl,
put these watery eyes
to use. I can see the things
you hide, I weep the
tears you're too sad to cry.
And when I cry sweet
tears for you, I'll gather them
in a teacup of blue. So you
can wash away your pains, and
join the sky when next
she rains.

And when the
morning comes again,
I'll look upon your wounds
that bleed and cry so silently,
so deep for every promise
they have broken and every
hurt they have spoken.
And when that phone
call doesn't come,
don't say a thing.
I know right where
you are aching.
Just look into
my Pisces eyes,
let me hold your
heart so broken. And
when my tears
roll down my cheeks,
let them quench
the parts so bleak.

And soon the sadness
will come to rest,
and you'll find
calmness in your chest.
One by one they'll
come to you,
sweet salty tears
so warm, so true.
Your tears will
come and you will see.
You can be a Pisces
girl, like me.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

30/16: Fifty Ways

There are fifty ways I can touch you. 
My tongue has a word for each way.  

It speaks softly in the dead of the night, when it 
wants to tell you secret. When I'm too proud to say 
I'm sorry, or you were right. Or don't have the strength 
to say promise me this was the last time.  

Firmly, it speaks from the very core of my being, Those 
times when I'm not kidding around, I'll say 
'Dude you messed with the wrong chick here, 
you best be stopping this bullshit. And now.'   

Ravenous, I will speak from my deepest, most 
shameful desire. I will ache the ache of a week's
hunger, I will speak incorrigibly and without poise. 
In clumsy haste, when there's no way I can wait anymore.  

Innocently and with great care, I will ask, 
'let me  touch you.'  When I don't want  to tarnish 
your beauty.  When I worry my myriad flaws and my 
missing pieces will ruin your perfect state of bliss.  

Let me read you with my palm, let me 
memorize  your face. There is a world I can know 
from just touching you. Let my skin feel the skin of you, 
let  the stories our skins hold find release.  

And even when I am peckish, give me just a taste  
of you, a whole meal of you might be more than  
I can handle. With fingers, tongue and lips let me  
sample  you, just a dose will be all that I need.  

I know fifty ways I can touch you, 
I have a word for every single one.

30/15: Camouflage

The only daughter of a wealthy businessman,
she was her Papa’s principesa fluent
in all the romance languages.  The world
she was born into was a walled Spanish city, designed
to preserve the ‘Spain’ contained within the Philippines.
When she came of age, she took a steamship
across seas to attend Swiss finishing school,
then went on  to complete a nursing degree.
She would have made the perfect housewife
to an equally privileged man.
But this is not the way this story goes.
Daddy’s girl followed her heart
and married the love of her life,
a simple man with a killer looks,
winning smile and
ambitions to impress even her Papa.

She wore her hair exactly the same way everyday
(nobody had to know she never  washed it herself). 
Perfectly arched eyebrows precisely placed 
(nobody has to know they're permanently tattooed on).
This look was golf-course proof and husband ready.
By all accounts, she was a lady of leisure.
What her elegant charm and compassionate
grace did not reveal were her
take-no-prisoners-you-can't-stop-me qualities.

The lady was also an athlete of ambidextrous skill.
Tennis with her left to protect her right-handed
golf swing, she paved the way for women
in the most sexist, elitist sport. This alleged
housewife known for her fabulous parties
was expertly hiding a secret. What appeared
to be an expensive hobby was in fact her most
ground-breaking act of defiance, all carried
out with elegance and smarts. Armed in her
golf shoes and dainty pompom golf socks,
she stomped on convention and rules. Flanked by her
comrades, all bosomed as well, their hobby
and skill now a mission. They traveled the
world and found fellowship in women exactly
like them. And now decades later because
of her vision, women like me can have game.
Golf is a small significant corner, whose glass
ceilings she helped shatter.

Beneath the perfect hair, perfect arch of brow
and the scent of her French perfume; beyond
the diamonds and  the pearls my grandmother's heart
was fire and gumption. Daddy’s girl knew
how to get what she wanted, her stride was strong
and her words were decisive.
The moral of Nana’s story comes in many parts,
and today’s moral is this: 
Judge a woman all you want,
for all her looks and finery.
Judge her so and know
this too - you do it at your peril.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

30/14: A Heart With Many Rooms

I am born of a heartbeat that comes in two parts:
gentle hum of Eastern strength, unruly scuffle of Western
drive, my heart beats Flamenco and Kundiman.
I am born of a heart with no home, of monsoon and first snow,
of tongue that knows more than one mother. I am born
of conqueror and territory, my heart is of shifting borders.

I am born of whirlwind romance, my heart knows fifty ways
to say ‘touch. I am born of the pulse of a city, quickstep,
running man and hustle, then the intoxicating ways we unwind.
I am born of a room in a basement apartment, honeymoon baby
in a foreign land; of my father’s hopes and my mother’s ambitions.
I am born of athlete and academic, my heart is of muscle and reason.

I am born of unlikely circumstance, glorious of mix of all sorts.
I am born of survival and progress, mine is the heart that evolves.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

30/13: How to Find A Good Pig

If you are like me you will know what I mean when I say that a good pig is hard to come by. So I've done my research and have made a short list...

How To Find A Good Pig

1. Know your pig parts:
Head, Jowls, Shoulder, Loin,
Belly, Leaf Fat,  Kidney, Ham,
General Fat.

2. Choosing a healthy pig is
highly recommended, after all
a healthy pig is a good pig, is
a happy pig. To determine
how healthy your pig is.
find his kidney, check
for the inspector’s gash.
This will tell you your pig
has passed inspection.
Pigs living  a natural, organic
lifestyle generally
tend to have good health.

3. Eyeball your pig’s prime cuts:
The Loin, The Ham and the Shoulder

Know the difference between the shoulder
and the loin.  Confusing one for the other
could lead to problems in the future.
In a good pig, the distinction is obvious.

Do not confuse the ham for with loin.
If you cannot tell them apart, apply
the two finger rule.

4. Remember cultural subtleties.

These begin at the head, there are
useful muscles here from whence
exotic delights can come - cheeks,
ears, snout. There are indescribable
pleasures that can from enjoying
head. Unless you’re American.
Apparently Americans prefer not
to have head.

In Canada, ham refers to the meat
surrounding the leg; in the US and UK,
ham could be any piece of brined pig.
Much confusion can be avoided by
bearing this distinction in mind.

5. You cannot love a pig with loving
its belly, because you cannot love
pig without loving bacon. Just the
hint of bacon in the air could be
enough to make you swoon.
And don’t we all all know it,
everything’s better with bacon.

6. Similarly, you cannot love a pig
without loving its ribs. The side ribs
make spare ribs and the back ribs
are what become succulent, finger-
licking baby back ribs.

7. Test your pig’s fat by pinching it.
A good pig’s fat will be dense to
the pinch and a bad pig’s fat,
once pinched goes all soft
and gooey.

So that was my list, I’ve checked it twice.
And aside from the list, some useful advice -
not every good pig will be the one for you.
Once you've found your pig, ask yourself this...
Will your pig roll in the mud with you?
On days when you’re running around
in circles, will your pig be there running circles
with you?
And when the pigpen gets crowded, will your pig
leave enough room for you?

Go find yourself a pig,
find one healthy and true
and make sure this pig
is a good pig for you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

30/12: The Delicious In Between

I relish the languor of
these in-between spaces,
the nameless parts of
a journey, so delectably
decadent. The four minute
trance of coffee in the air
as the grounds dance
with water to birth
you the perfect cup.
The nanosecond lull
between lightning crack
and thunder clap;
smelling the rain
hours before
you feel it
on your skin;
the standstill
of morning
as you wait
for your lover
to wake.

There is
delicious about these
in-between spaces;
between to-and-from,
and what-and-how.
The impossible length
of the minute it takes her
to catch your eye as she
touches her lip. The
unbearable interlude from
falling star to
sparkle of wish come true.
The intoxicating moment it
takes for champagne
bubbles to go
straight to your head.
The insufferable 
 ‘Will you?’
‘I do!’

I relish the languor of
these in-between spaces,
these luscious subtleties
of time. Here in the calm
between sunset and
moonshine, when
there is nothing more
to say or do, I will
languish in the
delicious nothing of now.

30/11: For Aiden (on his birthday)

He will not be

this child of
mine, won’t

to expectation, won’t


to calculation, won’t

Accede control
to another, not

even his mother

He is
strong-willed, my
boy just

like his mother, just

like is grandmother,
just like 

It’s amazing
what runs
double helix,

time, through
cells and air, through

Amazing how a boy
in the womb knows
exactly who he is, whom
he loves, when

it’s time, not
too early, not
too late, just

exactly when.

It’s time.

And now you are four.
mischievous child.

Unbending, unyielding,
still not
to be
You know
exactly who
you are,
know exactly
what you need.

There is a
spark in your eye
that that betrays
neurons firing,
thoughts weaving in
and out of each other
birthing new thoughts. 

I imagine roadways
snaking expanses
beneath your thick 
head of hair.

I picture
a network of cities,
and in no time at all,
Somewhere in this
transaction, we strike
a deal. My beautiful
perfect boy
of temperamental
ways and fascinating
notions, I have your
back for as long as
you have my heart.

Which is
to say, I will
love you always.
And always,
I gotcha.
I gotcha good.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

30/10: Coming Home

Beloved, sometimes deep in
the night I crumple myself into
a tight ball and crawl into
earthworm holes so I can
burrow my way back to a
land that haunts my heart.
Back to lilt in language
and the raise of eyebrow
I speak so eloquently,
to no avail here. Back to
the chaotic streets, so
smoky and vibrant. Back
to edge of night, and the
warmth of friendship
tucked inside there. Back
the lap of family and friends,
ever ready, always warm. Back
to where I come from.

In the morning when I wake,
I open up one petal at a time.
I soak in the city and come
alive.  As I navigate blocks
and city  grid, speaking its
language  no longer foreign
to me I fall in love again.
Before the light change
tells me to walk, off I go.
Forward,  always forward.
There is a rhythm here that
keeps me buzzing, even
before my morning coffee.
There is a dance on the
streets that turns me on.
I know the same thing
all of us in this city know.
Beloved, I am home.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

30/09: You Do Not Hit

They want you to hit her.
In fact, they are ordering
you to. But you do not.
You hold your stance,
left fist to chin, right
fist shielding your face.
Knees bent, legs ready
to spring into action.
You do not hit. You tower
over the woman in front
of you, you can take
her and the next one in line.
You know your strength,
so you do not hit her.
You hold back.

You did not hold back
when the drunk driver
nearly sent you off the
road, or when the frat boys
made off-color remarks
about your figure. You did
not hold back when the
douchebag in the bar made
your sister uncomfortable.
You are aware of strength,
know the undoing your
hands are capable of,
know the destruction
your generous hips
can unleash.

There will be none of that,
not tonight. No matter
the boxing ring, no matter
the protective gear.
No matter the permission.
You resist the humming
in your right fist, the
clenching of right thigh.
You steady your breath,
bite your lip, lower your
fists and hold back.
You hold back.

Friday, April 8, 2011

30/08: Prom By Candlelight

By the light of a singular candle
At a time when the world is at war
Power is rationed so a car battery runs the decks that make music
And a boy and a girl, dressed to the nines are enjoying their junior prom

At a time when the world is at war
Young men don battle gear and plan their attack
And a boy and a girl, dressed to the nines enjoy their junior prom
As leaders of the world are in caffeinated conference

Young men don battle gear and plan their attack
The trouble in The Gulf makes the whole world fearful
As leaders of the world are in caffeinated conference
This dark tension will be remembered for years

The trouble in The Gulf makes the whole world fearful
He moves decisively, cupping her face in his hands
This dark tension will be remembered for years
And in this tiny moment, there is softness and warmth

He moves decisively, cupping her face in his hands
Power is rationed so a car battery runs the decks that make music
And in this tiny moment, there is softness and warmth
By the light of a singular candle

Thursday, April 7, 2011

30/07: On My Cousin's Murder

Picture a generic room in a suburban complex
Picture a lone office chair in the middle
Picture a man tied to the chair in this lightless room so plain
Picture four strangers, armed and angry
Picture the contraband scattered on the floor

Picture the pick up, four hours prior
Picture the dark tinted car, its creepy approach, the absence of plates
Picture the car window rolling down just so
Picture a man trying to walk away, then picture them cornering him
Picture the struggle of his thin body, then picture his defeat

Picture a single bullet in the barrel of a gun
Picture the cowardly confrontation, four men on one bound, gagged and blindfolded
Picture the drugs they were forcing on him
Picture his whole self shaking no, no longer wanting
Picture the fear of the drug lord whose face this man has seen

Picture the gun in bony hands, outstretched arms, ready stance
Picture fingers squeezing the trigger, the recoil after
Picture his head thrown sideways, picture blood spurting from the hole there
Picture his thud on the cold tile floor, picture the final tremors
Picture the frenzied clean up, picture the experienced escape

Picture a policeman who comes with this news
Picture an old lady crumple, picture the trembling of all of her
Picture crime scene photographs in her frail hands
Picture her clutching her chest
Picture her eyes go dark, picture her motionless silence

Now picture a wall of photographs
Then picture the section for the dead
Now picture a woman cradling her grandson’s photograph
Then picture it softly hanging there, among the dead

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

30/06: The Things People See

“Just let it go.”
I lay on a table in the middle of the room as she worked
Tentative about what to show and what to hide, then out of nowhere
“You must have strong, painful periods.”

I lay on a table in the middle of the room as she worked
Expertise exploring body parts, passing judgment
“You must have strong, painful periods.”
Sometimes it takes a stranger to make sense of things so personal

Expertise exploring body parts, passing judgment
“I know exactly what size you wear.”
Sometimes it takes a stranger to make sense of things so personal
Oh, the things people see when they really look at you

“I know exactly what size you wear.”
Most days I know I am invisible, this is not one of those days
Oh, the things people see when they really look at you
He is looking at me like he never has before

Most days I know I am invisible, this is not one of those days
Tentative about what to show and what to hide, then out of nowhere
He is looking at me like he never has before
“Just let it go.”

Monday, April 4, 2011

30/05: The Naked Poem

I was fully clothed every time I felt most naked. Every single time, fully clothed.
I am not talking about nudity here, I am talking about feeling naked.

The way the officers made me feel when they pulled me and my
one week old drivers’ license over, tracked the scent  of my nerves.
Straight from school, getting ice cream with my six year old
baby brother in the back seat. Both of us silenced. Naked.

They way the pompadour man made me feel on the city bus. Cheap
Old Spice fumes topped only by backhanded compliment. “You
could be a beauty queen with those legs.”  Head to toe
skimming as I clutched backpack, books and binder. Naked.

The way the Huston customs official made me feel after a
twenty hour flight back from Thailand. Profiled among lines
of  fanny-pack travelers. “Do you have proof that this here Gucci
handbag is genuine?” Dressed head-to-toe in all things genuine. Naked.

The way American junior high school boys going on dates with girls are. One
in four of them thinking that since they paid for dinner, they can
force sex on their dates. One in five junior high school girls agree.
Cute date outfit and hot shoes, but really... Naked.

The way the cops make a woman feel when she has the guts
to report a rape. First, “How much did you have to drink?”
then “What were you wearing.”  Requisite paper pushing,
line of questioning, feigned respect. Naked.

I am not talking about  nudity here, I am talking about feeling naked.
I was fully clothed every time I felt most naked. Every single time, fully clothed.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

30/04: A New Moon Burning

My hands are burning on this night
of an April new moon, so far away
from those tender nights of being
tucked into bed. The soft caress
of your strong hand on my cheek, of 
mustache kiss tickles and heartfelt
night time prayers spoken with eyes
shut, my hand safe in your athletic
grip. Quiet assurance of your love,
rhythmic smoothing of sheets, the
requisite ‘see you in the morning’
before shut light, shut door, shut eye.

My hands are burning on this night
of an April new moon, so far away
from the gray afternoon of that scuba
accident, of unbearable trouble. The
broken speed limits and chaos, the
feeling you so far away, dearest one, same
name, same age as me. Quiet paperwork wait
at the morgue, your still warm hand in mine.
Unimaginable silence, plodding into the city. In
the back seat, my hands trying to soften your
face, now colder, growing stiff. Right palm over
brownest eyes to keep them beautifully shut.

My hands are burning on this night
of an April new moon, so far away
from the summer night of my grandmother’s
coma, three generations in my car. Of my
mother’s ‘Just keep your eyes on mine, Mama!’ My hands
steering gingerly, nervously, responsibly. Of my ‘We’re
almost there, Ma...’ promise from the driver’s seat. Of
my hand on hers as they wheel her mother off on a
gurney. The steady stroking on back of palm, the soft
wiping away of each others’ tears. The hand of priest oiling
forehead. The chain of hand-holding mother, daughter,
grandmother whose eyes will not shut, not this time, not just yet.

I know exactly what it is about moons and nights that enchant me and
burn my hands. I know exactly where this lunatic love of moons comes from.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

30/03: I Am Not The Girl You Want

Do not look at me like that. No
not that way with tenderness. No,
do not look at me like that. No,
not that way with desire. No,
I am not the girl you want.

I am impossible to love and impossible not to love.

I will fall in love with you on the 6 train
because we are reading the same book and
get off at the same stop. We will say they
are signs. I will ask you if you know
the neighborhood bar, and you will. We will
go there and discover we like the same
single malt and I will fall so hard for you
my mother, ten thousand miles away
will choke on her third coffee. It is always
light and easy, the way I fall in love.
Before last call, we will both be walking
on air, our mouths watering with
the sweet impossibility of finding
love like this, in a city like this.

It’s the loving me that isn’t easy.

It will be a gorgeous fall day, or maybe it
will be a dreary winter afternoon. We will
be on the 6 train on our way to the
neighborhood bar that has now become
our bar. I will spot his book, and it will
happen again. He will know about our bar,
he will love our single malt.  And my
eyes will widen, and yours might too
at the discovery of our kin. Our
embrace will make room, and
before Mama  can choke on her
coffee again your mouth will water with
the sting and spice of  knowing
what it is to love a girl like me.

It is impossible to leave me.

I will fall in love with you for
the againth time doing something
mundane with you again. We
will smile our soft smile, the one
was save for these quiet times. I will
tell you I’ve decided to spend the
winter with my family in the tropics, or
the spring in Paris. I will tell you that
if you get lonely while I’m gone
you should fall in love. That it’s cool
and this time it’s your Mama who chokes
on her coffee as your mouth waters with
the delicate flavor of the easy honesty
that comes with loving a girl like me.

Know that I am going everywhere and nowhere,
because I love, and love so.

30/02: On The Skin

You sit at the end of the bar
and tell me you just want to talk.
Tell me it's cool, all you want
is to hear my story. I tell you, sure.
There are stories I tell on my skin.
Stories I spin, lies I tell and truths
I cannot hide, all there on the skin.

Like the time I scraped
my knee on coral for want of a
closer look at an impossibly
unremarkable school of fish. Far
into the depths of bluest seas, no
boatsman would take me there,
not even the fishing boats for fear
the reef would damage the hull. I go
out of my way for the mundane like
that, I will never tell you this but if
you place your ear here, on my skin
you will quickly find out.

Like that time in the Bangkok airport when
Filipino men were flying back home from a
neutered struggle as engineers in
the Middle East. It was a scorching
summer and much skin revealed
the Spanish hues but not enough
skin for them to see my Filipina
undertones. Speaking the motherland
tongue, they made unsettling
remarks about my breasts, my
thighs and what they might do with
either. The rest of me played along
with the story of un-Filipinoness
these men had conjured with their
desirous out-of-practice eyes. I go
out of my way to protect my kind like
that, no skin off my back.

Like that time when I was six and
allergic to Philippine grasses, and
boils forming on my legs and feet
told scary stories that kept my friends
away. I built a cocoon around
me and my skin, not a cocoon
in fact, a healing fortress of bandages,
strong medicine that made me scream
and kisses to make me forget the pain.
I go out of my way to get it right, like that.
The story is written there in plain
sight, on the skin of my legs. If
you listen closely I will tell you.

Only, we both know these are
not the stories you want from
me, not this night at this bar.
Only, we both know the only
stories that will be told tonight
are yours. So I keep my sweater
buttoned up to my neck, point
to your nape and ask about
that tattoo right there, on the skin.

Friday, April 1, 2011

30/01: The Kind of Love That Leaves Marks

The sounds in room 270
coat the darkness with
a comforting soundtrack
tonight. To my right
the ticking of a clock
to my left, the hissing
of a device, overhead
the tapping of a monitor
and just across me
the beautiful familiar
humming of your
deepest sleep, then the
disruptive occasional snore
mimicking the biggest
sound of the baddest drum.

This afternoon as surgeons
sliced you open, legions
of poets, artists, eccentrics,
fundamentalists, and regular
folk sent love and light to
fill your every space with
amazing grace. Nothing will
ever be the same again.
And to remind you of
this miracle, a new mark
now runs down the
middle of you, starting
just below your navel.

Soon, a scar, sculptural
reminder of the beauty
that came your way today.
I remember as I graze
my scar from the
morning steel skated
on skin, breaking flesh.
A fantastic burst
of red figure eight,
crimson arabesque
into graceful lunge
in shades of brown.

We are both marked now.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Joy and Sacrifice

The country where I grew up is one of many Catholic conundrums that resulted from the Inquisition. I am not sure how much of this is based on my interpretation, and how much of it is based in truth but I have always leaned towards the joyful, passionate side of faith and spirituality. The three core beliefs I carry forward from my indoctrination (eleven years of Catholic school should, in fact make me a master!) are: free will, love, and divinity in my own humanity. In any given situation, the answer to the glib question of WWJD (what would Jesus Do?) will be anchored in any combination of these three.

We are now in the Lenten season and Catholics everywhere are making sacrifices and pulling back from too much joy-making. I wonder about this. In many ways joy and sacrifice are two sides of the same coin. Here in America, the pursuit of the elusive dream entails a degree of sacrifice made towards the pursuit of joy. At its best, it comes with as joyful sacrifice. It engenders a deep sense of pride. And if we are truly honest, it isn't sacrifice at all, it is strategy. And it can be beautiful.

The promise of the American Dream has seduced many of my kind, the immigrant kind, to come with our own hopes, our own beliefs and yes our many faiths. We sacrifice the familiar for the foreign to pursue a better life, which means as many things are there are people who partake of the pursuit. One key difference may well be this: it is almost always a joyful sacrifice. It is almost always done out of love, for family and loved ones, with deep sense of purpose. It is almost always done by choice, lovingly and fueled in divine humanity.

What else gives a mother the gumption to leave her own to tend to another woman's family? What else gets a son through a long hard day in the orange groves when he could be an engineer back home? What else gives a father a deep sense of pride doing work other men deem lowly? Tough times have befallen America, and many are having a hard time. I cannot help but wonder if they realize just how lucky they are. I cannot help but feel sorry not for their suffering, but for this misguided sense of entitlement.

Where I come from, no matter what your station in life, you work hard. You don't take anything for granted because economies and governments never find their stability. You don't count on anything but yourself and the people you love. And while you need to be self sufficient, you know you are never alone. There is so much we can teach America, if she cared to listen. We can teach them actually, paring it down to one or two cars and just one TV is nothing compared to uprooting yourself from the country you love. We can teach you that giving stuff up for the benefit of family and loved ones is in fact more joy than sacrifice. We can teach you that you have so much more than they realize.

If America wants truly to be 'the land of the free and the home of the brave' then she better grow a tougher skin and a more joyful heart. When people make sacrifices in America, they are almost always guaranteed joyful rewards. Not many parts of the world can say this. Take it from someone whose country is ruled by lies and corruption in the hands of a government run by oligarchs who continue to enrich themselves at the expense or progress. America, the next time you think about complaining,I suggest you come visit my country. See what it's really like to sacrifice and do without. Then be baffled at how, despite the desperation, love of family and faith keep us joyful.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Touched by A Filipina?

Wherever you are on this good earth, chances are you encounter a Filipina. You may be completely clueless of this, but it is true. There is a good chance a Filipina is on the other end of your customer service hotline or chat consultation, helping with a credit card or airline question. Chances are you or someone within your six degrees has experienced the gentle caring of a Filipina nanny, nurse, physiotherapist, doctor or friend. Chances are at one of the last ten hotels you've been to, a Filipina was there to serve you at reservations, at a restaurant, at a bar, as part of the lobby/lounge band.

We are hard-working people, and we work hard for our families, for better lives, for hopes and dreams. We do this with grace, and at our best with a smile. Even a song. This is a video that friends of mine put together. It mirrors much of the way of the Filipina does what she does: from the heart, with grace and a smile, getting it done and infecting you with her charm.

It is Women's month. Now you know you've most likely been touched by a Filipina. And now I am telling you, because of this you are all better for it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Discovering My American Family

Through my migrations, or what my partner refers to as peregrinations, one constant has been my family. My sister has lived in Spain, my brother has lived in London and Spain but for the most part family has lived in The Philippines. Just a month ago, I returned to the US from a 2-month vacation in the warm embrace of my family in the Philippines. We are now back in the States, and we are facing a big bump in the road.

Like any crisis, we imagine that it won't be easy but we will be fine. We are finding out as much as we can about the situation and working on a plan of action (I'm a planner, it's what I do). And in my effort to be as prepared as I can for what's up ahead of us, there is one thing I was absolutely not prepared for: discovering my American family.

There is the family of origin, whom I love dearly. Then there is the family of friends I have made through my younger years. And now, I have my American family. A stellar cast of poets, film makers, friends, writers, artists, top grade people. And as overwhelming this can all seem, in these very early days there is already such an outpouring of love and goodwill. What a beautiful surprise, what a profound blessing. There are no words to express what this all means, and how deeply grateful I already am. I know we are in early days. Still, it really means a lot to have this beautiful American family of friends.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Reclaiming The Church of the People

There is much discussion back where I am from about legislation that promotes reproductive health, sex education, access to information and choices. You see, I come from one of the last stalwart Catholic nations. Church and state still mix and mingle, indeed the Church men still have a misguided understanding of their role. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and certain Catholic groups have raised a big bratty stink, trying to repress information and keep the country from participating in the modern day discourse of responsible sexual activity. The latest feat is a shaded threat to refuse communion to church goers who support Reproductive Health Legislation. There are too many ways that this is wrong, there are too many levels on which this stand is oppressive, repressive and misogynistic.

I do not know where to start with this, it is a disturbing abuse of power and influence; a sickening degree of oppression. These thoughts refer to a note below which makes very sad. But it also makes me angry. It angers me that men are coming between me and my God. It angers me that these men, who have no idea the plight and struggles of good women, have not even engaged in discussion with us. It angers me that men feel it is within their remit to take away the free will my God so lovingly bestows.

Free will and free choice are God given. When the Church goes out of their way to suppress freedom and take away our rights to choose, they have gone too far. The double standards are hypocritical, they have never gone out of their way when dealing with the countless adulterers in their parishes, or the astounding number of corrupt officials, thieves and liars. Is it perhaps because they are men?

This no longer feels like the work of God, instead if feels like a desperate power trip of men in positions of influence, with hardened hearts. Men who refuse to listen. Jesus was a man of compassion and understanding. Ultimately inclusive and feminist, He would never stand for this misogyny. He would sit with women and listen, understand our needs and enlighten - not block us from information.

The Church and The Faith belong to The People. It is now up to us to guide the lost leaders back to the true purpose of The Faith. It is not about power, suppression or abuse of influence. It is not to meddle with laws or legislation. Ultimately it is about compassion, truth and love. These are tough times, they call for tough love. The Church leaders have lost their way, it is up to The Church of The People to light the path towards compassion, understanding and love.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love in A Time of Expense Accounts (Manila, 1995)

This was the scene at the bar every night. To your left, beautiful homosexual men, big swanky bar in the middle. To your right foreign men and the women who fancy them, whom they fancy. A mix of morally questionable sorts. Loose women, some say. The kind to cohort with foreign men. The kind like me. I loved this bar for that reason, once inside you could be in a different country. There was no sexual repression in here, and the best part - this was a high end bar in the heart of the central business district. Not shady, not dirty, just free. Everyone was equal here, gay and straight, commercial sex worker or not, all were equally welcome. We would mix with no issue - we weren’t after the same kind of love, after all. All secrets were safe. In here, everyone was loose and free. Sex was in the air and in the bathrooms, electric and intoxicating.

One night, David Hasselhoff walked in and picked the left side of the bar. He leaned on the counter, his proud derrière calling out through his ahead-of-their time Skinny Jeans. Nary a gay hand took advantage of his ignorance of the order in this bar. In here, in this urban jungle called Giraffe, everyone was safe. Unless it was danger you craved. In this case, you needed to be a regular to know the secret rooms and secret alleys.

Shola was a regular. Formerly a man, she had made her money as an entertainer in Japan for years, now she was a textile manufacturer trading her textiles and her love to foreign customers. Shola had a body to die for and she knew it, she paid good money for her female parts. It is said that Japanese plastic surgeons are the best. Just about the time Shola danced on the high tables would be just about the time to go, this was the cue, this was the point where decadence would tip over to damaging. But we are not there yet, no - the night is young, the drinks are flowing and the hips are swaying. And Shola? She is still plotting her dramatic entrance. Or taking her HIV meds. All part of her preparations for Saturday nights.

My thoughts are interrupted by his hand, here on the small of my back exposed in this little black dress I am wearing. He is new to my country and he is getting off on this scene. He is getting off on finally finding somewhere that is as classy as it is untamed. He is my first foreign lover, all six feet six inches of him, we are of the same tribe. A mix of three unlikely ethnicities, he is beautiful, olive Isreali skin, strong Danish jawline, muscular North American build. We are on fire. I explain to him the lay of the land, remind him that some of the women in our company may be prostitutes - he should be careful not to take sips from their drinks. I remind him to look at a woman’s shoes, this is the give away. Only a pro knows what a real hooker shoe is, only they get it right.

Where I am from, the salable prostitute is exotic. Beautiful brown skin, full flowing black hair, big expressive eyes, small feminine frame. This is where some of the distinction begins. The Filipina beauty is a powerful thing, in me these features are diluted. The Spanish lightening my coloring a tint or two, the Columbian giving me a distinct suppleness of breast and thigh, I am not sure where I get my height from.  And I am well spoken in three languages, well educated, well traveled and impressively employed.  American Express corporate cards will pay for all the cosmos the women are having tonight, only in my case I have paid for the first round since Paolo bought me dinner.  None of this matters.

Tonight, we are all the same woman. All casting spells on men who are drunk on the rawness of the night. And we like it like that. We are in this together, the men don’t see the raise of eyebrow, purse of lip. territorial kiss. Smart women work with each other, you see. We mark our territories, we plot for success. In a country where English is spoken, this is what the foreigners will never understand. The subtlety of signal, the protectiveness over our kind. A prostitute gives me a look and I know what I need to do, I take Paolo's hand and we make our way to my nameless new friend. I ask her if she wants a drink and we go to the bar. Paolo begins speaking sports to her male companion. All is diffused, she smiles her thanks and finds new prey, her former date too drunk to care, he has transferred his rage to a Lakers’ losing streak.

The drinks keep coming, the not-so-secret joint we are sharing in the bathroom, body parts touching in discrete and flagrant ways. It is a Saturday night in Manila, capital of the Philippines, Catholic conundrum and democratic experiment. Some of us in this bar will probably be at church tomorrow, none of us will be confessing any of this. This white boy who is not so white, he can’t dance but he can certainly move. He knows where to place his hands on me, he knows where to place his breath on me. As the bar fills up, we are at that place where everyone else is starting to fade into the background, we are at that place where it is becoming just him and me.

It is time. Shola has walked in and they are clearing the tables. And just as she ambles her beautiful long legs towards her tabletop dance, just as she proceeds with her internationally renowned exotic dancing and just before Shola flashes her perfect breasts made by skilled Japanese surgeons, we leave. The night has turned romantic now, in the smokiness and sin of this morally ambivalent city the only breasts that matter are mine. The only foreign relations of consequence are ours. All acts worthy of  confessing are going down; on a cal- king sized mattress in a five-star serviced apartment that Coca Cola is paying for.