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Words: My Valentine
smooth down and over skin,
finger-dip the shallow scoop
warm stars, hot land)
(silk and black)
circle lips inside the wrist,
dark with shine
I’m theirs, they’re mine:
Bound, never going back.
If I named you mailap,
could you hear it as harana?
or would it keen pahimakas,
an end of words between us?
My songs are not pagasmo,
silakbo sirens, melodies to manipulate.
Poem-fingers do not form you, shape you,
only offer language, habiliu, into your curling palms
You alone will forge yourself
gunita is more malleable than a poem.
This kundiman, pula bughau tula, can bind us both
or simply effervesce,
so many fluttered wingbeats
fading from the soul.
Go Ask Alice
Go ask Alice, she’s got a tale to tell
you can find her in the back shelf in the dark.
Take her home, her covers seeping into your hands,
and in secret, hold your breath and read.
But with the opening cover, an opening world
one which can never be shut again—
you can burn your clothes, tear your skin, burn your hands,
but the infection can never be cured.
You cannot starve her, or leech her,
cannot run away to new rooms, or new homes:
these are games she scoffs at with glee.
She knows you were hers the moment you touched,
and she is inside you now, infinitely,
your world branded—incurably— with her name.
You slip like a fish
silver-darting in that circular cyclone of
If I touched you, I think you would peel like scales
(green and grey), and they would grow into a mountain under my shaking fingers.
I would climb you, sticking my pinky between your papery fish-bones,
and pry my way up and up toward your black, outward-fixed eye.
With my shell-knife, I would scoop out your pupil and put it in my pocket,
to later mix into soup, hot and watery—
which I would sip, very slowly.
she was a lover,
I fed her my dreams, and we together drank shadows.
we were fairy light and pixie dust,
we were lighter than air.
I don’t write her name with a capital letter
because I know she wouldn’t want me to.
Capitals are too big and broad for her (my isla)
not fragile like she is.
she is so pretty and breakable,
we were so delicate, so small.
I miss her, my isla,
how her hand was so tiny,
how we could flicker, fade inwards,
how we could even disappear.
through her eyes, the world became smaller
and like spirits, we went where we wanted
in and out, there and here, eyelash to eyelash.
I dream of her at night (in the deep and the dark)
I see her in rose petals.
she dances, shimmers on yellow,
little nymph, tiny and frail.
If I come too close, my breathe blows her away;
just one of my tears could drown her these days,
things I see are too bright for her eyes.
Sometimes I see her when walking,
perched (so tiny, so pretty) on the eyelid of some other girl.
I watch them together, know they see and feel only in white—
and I remember.
I go to sleep tired, my clothes heavy,
and I leave my windows open wide.
In the morning, I walk, write my name with a B.
In black boots, I crunch fire-red leaves,
my hair loose.
I say it over and over, I am here.
Sitting by an Open Window
The air licks my legs like popsicles,
and, peach and lime, I freeze outward in.
She’s stayed close by, mole-girl,
digging tunnels in the way she’s been carefully shown.
Light-blind, she reaches out scoop-hand by scoop-hand
tracing home routes anew from below.
I come home above ground, shadow-cheeked and dirt-poor,
with one notebook and a string in my hand.
Fumbling, I reach for the switch in the dark,
untuck the end of the fluffy white comforter.
Within moments, I am asleep with light on, bare hands splayed,
my grimy feet free.
I wonder how it happened, the carbon monoxide.
Like an old man, maybe, his back bent from
carrying sugar bundles on his shoulders:
they piled up so high they rot-dissolved his spine
melted it like teeth in coke (the way they showed to us in grade school).
Or if not like him, then like the skin that wags around
the oven handles of his cheeks: a soft decay
that smells of cigar rolling papers, and tastes
sweet and rancid, the leather casing of too-old pears.
I can see it in this way, the gas, seeping in old and yellow, as if
the room is black and I need to filter it with age.
There is nothing young left there (even the ghost,
asleep on the couch, has slept by now a lifetime)
only crooked, mismatched etchings on the inside
of the kitchen doorframe, to carefully mark
the height of a girl who never grew past purple.
for Katie, rip September
it happened in her sleep
on a faded couch, or maybe it was new.
I think there were tulips, white ones
(but that was later)
I would have brought a daisy.
I met the eyes, they were blue
and foggy (not like hers)
and in a church where life is sanctified
we sing a symphony of rosebuds.
Like figurines, we tiptoe, hushed,
eat tiny cakes, drink tiny drinks
(her dreams are too big to handle).
We toast with tea, hug the smaller, neater copy.
She is so pretty, sleepgirl.
I sit with memories (like hers, now mine)
my rosewood coffin clear as glass.
We reach out dreaming, each asleep, but our fingertips don’t touch.
It happened in my sleep
on a faded couch, or maybe it was new.
outside she sits, outside she sees:
warm tulip light, the tree that grieves;
with ink and flash, the story weaves
her painting bright on turning leaves.
I did see you, curled up like a cat
in the second row, your grey paws crossed.
I saw you wince when I couldn’t remember the words,
And flick-frown in that tongue-tip corner way you do.
It’s funny, really, because I love cats,
but you aren’t one to slip and sleek around my calves.
Instead, it is I who circle you:
I rub against and move around without ever losing touch.
It’s guttural, my pleading: I shake until I begging purr,
and press and press against your legs
though I find them hard and solid.
At night, my tiger stripes come out, and I scratch and tear those foul posts,
waking with splinters instead of claws.
The words forgotten like shredded newspapers
pad me as beetle-curled, I sleep.
Beneath me, no one will see them, or remember,
lining the catbox of my dreams.
You look at me crisply as the world blurs out around us,
your eye filled with pictures I try vainly to see.
Do you not see the colors spilling together?
I want to jump into a river in winter, feel the ice freeze my bones.
I want to run into an intersection, hear the horns slice the air.
Can lightning catch images, make me a negative, white and black?
Can it print me, burn my edges,
in a room lit only by reds?
I reach out in the night and I catch the top of your arm—
it bleeds as my nails spin from the skin far too fast.
Like splatter paint, a horizon opens between us,
your canvas and mine.
I pick up my fountain pen, let the ink swirl and spill—
this is time in a prism.
Ride with me, Dad, trust my eyes.
I will write you a poem.