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.