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Month: May, 2014

The Blurring

I woke up this morning
with a knife on the underside of my body,
felt the hurting below that part people call the ribcage
but I insisted on calling a disaster
waiting to happen, and this morning, it did
just when I rolled on my side
and faced the sky facing me
all this time with its furrowed brows
and the cruel blue eyes of his
glaring down on my suffering as if to say
I told you so. I wanted to send a complaint letter
saying Dear Mister Sky,
just because ‘rain’ rhymes with ‘pain’
doesn’t mean I got what you’re saying,
you have to be clearer than that—
but since I had no pens and I was running out of words,
I went to the window and made a medicine cabinet
out of my apartment front, plucked a leaf and called it a gauze,
swabbed the flammable rainbow like an antiseptic,
downed a birdsong like a painkiller, picked a slab of concrete,
led it to my room and called it a friend, gave it a name,
told him, Andy, I was hurting, and he told me
he was hurting too, and the next thing I know,
every crack in the entire expanse of my street
is at my doorstep asking to become my friend,
told me stories I do not want to hear,
stories about how they became
the way they are: a week’s worth of rain,
an aftershock of a jackhammer, a history of feet,
and erosion, erosion, it’s always erosion. Erosion
and rain. Erosion and gravity and rain.
One of them told me he fell in love
with a fallen dead weight, and I told him
“Everyone on this goddamned street fell in love
with a dead weight.” And a voice was calling
from the outside but it was only the rain.
I saw the blurring of the asphalt with the shadow
of the rain, and the blurring of the rain
with the whitewashed sky, and in between these
the blurring of the shadows, and in between
the in between, the wound flourishing, and me,
in the middle of everything, watching myself
and the street and the rain and myself
and the wound becoming one

Seaside Elegy

Until recently, this is all we do: sympathize.
I always knew if our soul is in an analogy of the world,
it would be the ocean, and our bodies the shoreline.
I cross a threshold where I can claim a foreign sadness
as my own, and all I had taken home are words

until recently, this is all I did: write poems
with borrowed words, take somebody’s grief
and magnify it into dangerous proportions
as if anybody with hands can do that.
As if anybody with a soul has the right to do that.

Until recently, I thought I am greater than grief
but see, I am selfish, I am proud. I thought
I have a spirit bigger than death can grasp, thought
I can gather the sea in my palms without drowning
but there is nothing I could do to bring you back.

Maging langit

“like where else could you fit the sky
but the sky?”
— Bob Hicok

Isinisiksik ko ang isang buong langit
sa ga-dibdib kong pananalig, dahil nais kong ibalik ang
lahat ng mga lumisan mula sa lupa—lahat ng
naligaw na lobo, bawat ulap na singlaki ng kamao
ng Diyos, lahat ng panalangi’t hiningang
nalagasan ng balahibo’t walang muwang
na lumilibot sa walang hanggang bughaw, dahil nais kong
saklubin ang daigdig sa aking palad, maging haligi,
maging bubong, maging tahanan ng narito’t wala,
maging ang pinakamalawak na bulong, maging hudyat ng
katapusan sa aking pagguho, dahil tao ako, at sabay akong
humihigit sa kung ano ang naiisip ko, at hindi

To speak somewhat figuratively of S., Bob Hicok

We went up to the top of a building to jump off.
She could no longer deal with having been raped.
I was tired of falling asleep by looking forward
to never waking again. It was a perfect day
to watch a documentary on famous parachute-
folding mistakes. Then we had a final meal, final smoke,
final shower with the window open and pigeons watching.
Are you sure you wouldn’t rather shoot the man
who did this, I asked, adding that guns are easier to buy
that “get well soon or whenever you want” cards. Of course
I knew her mother would never forgive her
if she shot her father, she’d have to shoot her mother too,
which would anger her sister, also raped, who’d wonder why
she didn’t think of that herself. The only time
they talked about it, they were drunk on the steps
of our brownstone and throwing peanuts at cabs
until one cab backed up and a man got out
who was three feet tall but his arms were eight feet long
and it was the arms that did the talking. They ran.
A three-foot-tall man dragging eight-foot-long arms
is an interesting nightmare to watch run. They ran the whole night
together, all the way to Brooklyn and bloody feet
and crying most of the way out and laughing
most of the way back, I think what’s known as a bond
was formed. Still she wanted to die and I wanted
to be with her, so we went up into the winds
people don’t realize are in love with tall buildings
and debated a long time the virtues of taking turns
or going as one by holding hands and not shouting
Geronimo. I’ve often wondered why people shout that
when they jump and not Ulysses or Grover Cleveland,
I’m sure there’s a reason like I’m sure her father
could explain himself if she held a knife to his dick.
We didn’t jump—this is a poem—but she’s still raped
and I still wish I could articulate the point
of breathing and her sister’s still fun to have around
because she juggles really well and they lean
against each other in doorways without knowing
they’re the only two trees of a very small forest,
in which I think of myself as a wild animal
sheltered deep within their shade.

The Tiny Men in the Horse’s Mouth, Matthew Olzmann

“Never look a gift horse in the mouth? But what if on the horse’s tongue there’s a tiny little man playing piano? Why would you not look at that? That’s incredible.”
— Dan Cummins

It’s why the gift horse is a gift,
and there is always a tiny man inside,
though sometimes more than one.

You should look; peer as far back as you can,
because if he’s not playing piano,
he and his friends might be sharpening
blades inside that dark, inside
the horse’s belly, inside your sleeping city.

Twenty men crawl out of the gift: you’ll want to see this;
you’ll want to see how they spill out
and open the gates, and paint everything
the color of burnt flesh.

The war is ending. Achilles is dead.
Paris lives on in shame.

And one man
plays piano as the city burns.

I’ve been there. And because I didn’t look,
I never saw it coming.
The phone calls in the middle of the night.
Hospital beds. Friends staggering in,
and the worlds on fire. The horse’s mouth.

Pry the jaws back
and stare through the phlegm that falls
between teeth and the hallway of the throat.

Whoever told you not to look at this is hiding something.
because the world is beautiful,
haunted, and begging you to receive its offering.

May you never find such music again.

Poetics for Death Poems

Let me tell you now I fake a lot of things. My favorite emotion to fake is sadness. I always thought it was a state of existence more than a thorn on the side of my body. But I pick at it like it never heals. This doesn’t mean I was never sad. When I was twelve, my cat died. Her fur is white and her eyes are of a different color. I rubbed the tire marks off her torso as she rapidly breathed herself to death. By now you might think this is about death but really I am just finding an excuse to put my cat in a poem. Here I am sitting in a corner of a well-lit room and your parents are probably picking your clothes, something that would go well with the color of your coffin. Eggshell white. Golden handles. Cherubs embossed along the bottom like that of the holy covenant but what do I know. This is your funeral and this is just a poem. It means nothing to anyone except for me. Call me solipsistic then. At least being in a box is something we have in common. I’m sorry. I keep telling people I am sorry for X. Replace X with a variety of sins. X is not knowing you enough. X is not telling you how I always loved you. Looking at photographs of you smiling and remembering the last time I spoke to you and whether you were happy and if you were, were you happy because of me. X is forgetting. I am playing the role of your friend. Am I convincing yet?  Tell us this isn’t real. My cat is still dead but this isn’t about her death anymore. What has changed will remain that way until further notice. For now, everyone is in their own well-lit rooms, eyes red with X. Whatever this is. Come back. Your friends are shaking their twig-like ribcages, plucking their hearts out, ripe with grief, prying them open with their hands. They’re giving it to you. Eat it. Take it with you. This is how we’ll remember you by.

Pagtakbo sa Liwanag

I.

Matagal na simula noong nawala ka.
Matagal na simula noong huling beses
na lumabas ako ng silid na ito.
Mamayang gabi, matutulog na naman ako
nang mahimbing, ngunit nawawala pa rin ako
sa ginawa nating lungsod. Nilalakad ng aking haraya
sa tuwing hindi ako matulog. Nililingon ko
ang bawat bintana, tumitingin sa salamin
ng aking pangungulila, umaasang makita ka
sa kabilang dako, ngunit walang sumasalubong
kundi ang sarili kong mukha.

II.

Noong hapong iyon, pinanood kita sa kalsada
habang unti-unti kang nilalamon ng abot-tanaw.
Patawad kung hindi kita nahabol.

III.

Maraming bagay ang mas mabilis
kaysa sa aking pagtakbo. Nakatingin ako ngayon
sa orasan sa aking kwarto, nakadantay ang kamay
sa dibdib, kinakapa ang marahang pagtibok
ng aking puso, at kung paanong sumasalimbay
ang lahat ng bagay sa silid na ito, kasimbagal
ng alikabok na nag-aalimpuyo
sa liwanag ng araw.

IV.

Noong hapong iyon, napakabagal ng lahat:
ang buhok mong nilalaro ng hangin,
ang paglubog ng araw mula sa malayo,
ang pagpintig ng pulso ko habang dahan-dahang
dumadatal sa aking isip ang katotohanang
hindi ka na babalik.

V.

Maraming bagay ang mas mabilis
kaysa sa iyong paglisan. Hindi ang aking pagtakbo.
Hindi ang mga salitang hindi ko nasabi sa iyo.
Ngunit ngayon, kasimbilis ng liwanag,
bumabalik ang gunita ng hapong iyon,
dahan-dahang tinatanglawan
itong mga gusaling nilalakbay ko
sa tuwing ginagambala ako ng alaala mo.

VI.

Matagal na simula noong mawala ka
ngunit kung marinig mo ito ngayon,
nais kong malaman mo na tuwing gabi
tinatakbo ko ang mga kalsada nitong lungsod
ng aking pagkahapo, pinapakinggan
ang pagkalabog ng aking paa sa konkreto,
hinahanap ang landas na magdadala sa akin
patungo sa iyo. Patawad kung hindi kita nahabol.
Sadyang maraming bagay na mas mabagal
kaysa sa iyong pamamaalam.

***

Day 30: Write a farewell poem.

I always love farewell poems that are more of the unrequited farewells of sorts. Because I’ve not yet been in that situation. At least not that I know of.

And I always know that at the end of everything, language will always be not enough, and the best of things cannot be expressed in words.

(Yes, that was a fitting end for NaPoWriMo 2014! So glad I get to write 30 poems in 30 days—and even more, because I also finished a collection! April is the cruelest month, indeed.)

Kundiman sa Karinderya

***

Day 29: Write a poem using Jim Simmerman’s “Twenty Little Poetry Projects” as a guide. I tried incorporating as many as I can and ended up with quite a mess of a poem. Go on, find the ones I used.

Also, if it’s not yet obvious, this is evidently heavily influenced by Richard Siken, except it’s in Filipino and I think it’s not as good as his poems. I absolutely love Crush.