Poems found

here— as if words written

on tissue meant something.

truth, if it allowed itself to be

relative, would reveal the same:

“I have never given it thought,”

And yet, still. But because.

perhaps —say it— during breakfast,

despite the cold, we become. We

let Friday settle in our shoes so it

can turn into dust. Unless songs, one

without feet to play it, can

exclam: “Be yourself”. Maybe then.

permanence never was; it only

existed in fragments. And I’ll 

remember which table,

when it drops.

The cost of swallowing your words

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Photo credits: suwalls.com

You stand before the judgment of whoever it was you believed was above you. You tell yourself to keep you head high, to look out the windows if you must, so that at least you could say a part of you fought for something. But your lips, trembling, gave you away. Though your heart was hammering against your chest, rebelling against the control you’re trying to enforce, you knew you’d say nothing in the end.

You weren’t the type of soldier to keep guns in your back pocket. Instead, you carried a flag and a glass of cold water. More than anyone, you knew that there are injustices worth speaking about and people worth breaking the silence for. You wore your principles like a rosary around your neck, that to tuck it out of your shirt would be as powerful as a prayer.

Maybe, you felt like survival meant being quiet in a jungle, that to travel at night and adhere to the rules of the king would be the only way to get out alive. You’ve scraped your knee a little too early when you sang with your inside voice, and that sort of betrayal felt more painful than having nothing for breakfast. There’s something unspoken that followed after – shortness of breath and constant second-guessing.

Now, your teeth are turning yellow and your name is trying to escape. The thoughts you used to be sure are yours sound like another person. Your mouth is dry; your tongue has reverted to its cave. And you feel, with everything you let be and keep inside, you barter a chunk of your soul for temporary comfort.

You cannot avoid conflict. War travels in the air as a given. If you cannot fight for your heart, fight with it.

The significance of comfort things

 

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There’s a reason why it’s red.

 

When asked about dreams and

limits, she resorted to

the cage inside her head

and the

shackles that bound her

to the darkness she tried to reign.

 

It was in a milk tea shop.

 

To think she could be

anything, only if

she believed in fairies again

and tried to

fix the way the puzzles fit

like building

blocks in her muddled brain.

 

Pillows, in plural.

 

She finds that it is easier to

fool the self

to perform the impossible with

things you buy in a store

that you

develop an attachment to.

 

Give me spaghetti in September.

 

In truth, the mind dictates

the possible and

accepts what it is that can be,

and can be

learned, for faith is a matter

of acceptance.

 

There’s a reason why it’s blue too.

In which we attach meaning

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When you look at it this way, it’s easy to say that power is all in our head. After all, it is in our head that we give someone or something the power to mean everything.

Say for example, you find yourself walking home under unlit streetlights at an unholy hour. Your knuckles are turning white and your legs, jelly, and the only thing you feel is keeping you safe is holding your breath until you reach the gray gate you can hide behind. Of course, once someone jumps out to drag you and stuff you inside a rice sack, you’d have no choice. But in desperation, you cling onto beliefs, actions – that gush of air you aren’t willing to release – that you think would illogically save your life.

On a lighter note this time. Say, you were a baby and say, you were sad. There’s that one thing, be it a pillow, a blanket or a stuffed toy, that smelled like Mom, and it fought the monsters away. It made you braver, stronger and at one point of your life, it was impossible to let go. Until it’s gone, because, older now, it didn’t matter to you anymore.

There’s that piece of candy you’ve hidden away in one of your wallets and an old coin in one of your socks. Stuck between your favorite book is an old convenience store receipt and under your bed is a Grade 4 art project. At the bottom of your inbox is a message with a smiley at the end dated five years ago. You have a slightly worn-out shoe losing its pair and a woolly red shirt you aren’t ever going to throw. Unable to keep what they represent, you hold on to the physical; it’s all you are capable of.

In truth, we just want to get pieces of what we cannot have – our life, a smile, a moment and the beyond.

So comes the attachment. Other than naming, this is another that denotes value and finality. It means to distinguish that something ordinary is special without any special reason. Just because you said so. Doing so, also gives a false sense of permanence that the value stays and it does, as long as you’d like it to linger.

In the middle of the night, you look for a star and even if facts say it is different, you insist on the sameness and ask it to grant you a wish. We see what we see. And we love who we love.

Right now, I have a rosary bracelet around my left arm. It’s loose, barely breathing and I could almost hear it warn me to brace myself. Something is coming, I don’t know what, but the thought of my shield wearing down scares me. (I am excited to discover where finding a new one would lead me though).

The things that have power over us, those that mean the most, are valuable the way we are because we say so. To be attached is a choice and so is to escalate meaning.

It makes the world more complex in a way other than just a dumpsite of possessions. It explains why people are greedy and stubborn and materialistic. It keeps superstitions alive. It facilitates the transfer of emotions and the rest of the intangible. And, interestingly, it can even give value to what we can achieve as ourselves with a simple change in mindset.

(It’s a lovely thing, these brains of ours).

To belong to someone (a poem)

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Photo credits: images.fineartamerica.com 

Her footsteps are heavy, imprinted on
Sans; perhaps, she wore a cloak
of secrets; perhaps, she stared
at the burning
concrete for too long.
Wasting away until she, black under her
nails, stopped bothering; maybe it
was instinct, or maybe the
ancient need to
be heard somewhere.
But the collar, like a camping song around
fire, encased her neck; perhaps she
was a little desperate; perhaps it was
fear of actual contentment
that comfort
washed over her despite.
Her breath smells like soap, boxed until
needed; maybe that was the
system of change; maybe time hits
like motorcycle-wind
and the thrill of adventure.
Gazing at the blankness of tonight, she
sleeps; perhaps the signals meant
no harm in trying; perhaps
she knew
how to walk now.

In these foreign parts

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Taal at twilight

There are noises in the background. It’s a blank slate. The floor tiles are woven by the shadows lingering in my dreams.
Sometimes, I hear crying. The sweat trickling down my spine does not understand what is going on. Stars swim in my eyes, and the vision of the doorway grows weary.
“The number you dialed is out of coverage area,” said the phone.
We are a mix of red and blue. I imagine me being time, forever stretched but never as elastic. If you paid enough attention, you would have heard the buzzing. Glass only allows one to see through.
It is the end. My neck has twisted itself in an assortment of directions. The sky is no longer blue; instead, a variety of oranges and purples. The table I now sit on fits only one, and I am shivering.
“Medium or large,” asked the cashier. “Regular.”
Plumbing is unheard of in these parts. The strange thing is clowns no longer smile too. Unsoiled boots could only do so much.

The poem I wrote as I faced Taal and hid from my emotions

The view that inspired all this

This is where I found you –
in black ink,
on a blank sheet of paper,
stuck to a green-tinted window.
My name was number seven, I think.

This is where I found you –
in mid-air,
at the back of my head when asked if I trusted you,
amongst clammy hands struggling to soften the fall.
Blindfolded, everything was put into perspective.

This is where I found you –
beside me, no longer hiding, drenched,
in front of me, forming a pyramid of sweaty kids and more noise,
around me, wet on an impossible school day.

This is where I found you –
in Tagaytay, Lucban, Tuguegarao and Vigan,
in all the places I never hoped to go to
when I was satisfied with the solace offered by my room,
during late nights when a bunch of cards and lipstick meant everything.

This is where I found you –
inside an empty office that made a mess of itself,
in the sound of printers jamming and doors creaking open,
under the table I never got to sleep in.

This is where I found you –
everywhere.
I stared at the lakeside volcano hoping for comfort.
You were everywhere and I have to go anywhere but.

“This is where I leave you” –
it would’ve been a good conclusion.
I waded through the shoreline the morning I wrote this poem.

This is where I found you –
in myself, coffee-induced and barely quiet.
I miss you, at the back of my head still,
and that’s okay now.

This is how I feel about the 2016 Philippine elections:

the dragons no longer lick the

wounds are unkempt in secret

she grows urgent and ill-

gotten wealth has caused us

to believe that she is dead.

 

what is the use of spirit amongst

open legs and moan of youth

tries to be strong amidst scorn

pray he calls back after three

days belong to the sun alone.

 

feverish skin light up with droplets

of raining cats and moose chewing

on grass in tall circular fields

the smoke catches me off guard

as I inhale, we die.

 

I like the way I write.

Listen to the poem here! (Election 2016)