The Next Savepoint

The hotel room overlooked the lake shore;
your daughter’s innocence overlooked your tears

and somewhere, here, your heart broke
and you gave yourself permission to be wrong
about the wants long buried, the maroon and
navy blue faded by ten years of California sun,
the Vivaldi that was never played in your wedding

and our laughter kept running back to that
save point, reverse-walking through the bruises,
to two adjacent armchairs at Benton Hall
circa 2001, two girls who both thought their
hearts were breaking, that that was what
heartbreak amounted to, with the whole unknown
future a distant mountain and the tears enough
to fill up the deep void between the stars.
That wasn’t the only thing we got wrong back then

that would only be revealed to us after we’d
climbed that mountain and realized that tears
were scarce on the other side, that we’d have
to work up to the requisite vulnerability
if some weeping was really in order, and even then
you get spent quite easily and the truth, once
imposing and immutable like boulders, now falls
casually into the silence while we talk, unfazed,
about our sins, those that have been killing us
inside and those that are fully justified—
those lists are not mutually exclusive, FYI.

And our hearts still break as they have
a thousand times before in a thousand lifetimes
but it’s just another day,
just another day.

How far away from home we are, here,
looking wistfully at the pieces,
how far away from ourselves that
these confessions could only cover
half of the way back.

We are so much alike, you said,
holding up your mirror to my pain.
But I think that’s hardly remarkable.
I think this hotel is full of
identical states of disillusionment,
of foregone past selves.
The city in fact.
The world.

Sisters in Autumn

Deciphering the outline of
the city through the smog,
uneven columns of luminescence
playing tricks with
my sleep-starved eyes,

avatars of what I’ve lost.
Pains I would have loved having
as memories, postmarked
the places I’ve never been.
There was a time when it meant
they belonged to someone else,
when everything that was yours
couldn’t be mine.
But now, look at us.
Both of us knocking
on the same door,
our precious bundles disparate
and our paths out of sync.
Both of us knocking
on the same door,
so divided and so equal, finally.
Could it be we’d always
dreamed the same dreams?
When you look out the car window
to watch the skyline shifting
do you hear the same riffs
escaping, as it seems,
from the rooftops,
island-like and lonely
in a tone-deaf sea?

Your roots are my roots,
though we’ve since conceived
different colored fruits.
Your mistakes a permutation
of my own; our detours
a zero-sum game.
Wasn’t it only yesterday
it was warm enough to
say the words without
dressing them in woolly,
woven preambles?
Both of us knocking
on the same door,
like identical winters
courting the earth’s firstborn.

The Design in which we Intertwine

Coexisting, an erasure poem,
wash of black and unwanted phrases
sent back to the chaos,
strangers and intention’s
second cousin once removed
forming new allegiances
across the muffled void
band of harvested meanings
trying to evoke new colors
prejudices smashing against
the desert of white margins
power of a pronounced absence
forcing a connection
a negotiation of
an inhospitable environment
with invisible, deft stitches
suggestion of emergence after
surviving a surgical purge

Coerced confession, exit wounds
edited to the point of bruising
postmortem revelations
the future trying coexist with the past
on a scaffolding of eyes wide open
faith ripped open
and bleeding on the carpet
violation unbound like a drawn weapon
mezzanine floor of acceptance
half-truths in the half-light
sensibilities spattered in
the place where the other shoe fell
chalk outline
thirst for answers,
then the answers

Co-dependence, shifting sands
unreliable maps to mark the oases
temperamental winds
of the once loved
rendering confessions into finer parts
that they might fit into an hourglass
insurmountable realities
in three-minute increments
a comfortable drowning
we get ever closer to the water
if the water doesn’t find us first

Toasted and Freshly Brewed

(For Adee)

For some months, you were successful
in creating a sanctum where
we could sit among the virtues
of the morning. A grotto
of drywall and pastel cushioned
seats like a board game we were
unbeatable at as children.
You understood sunrises and
the essence of beginnings
outside the squares of
the calendar days. There
was always breakfast,
freshly toasted, scrambled,
fluffy, blended, brewed,
no matter where,
no matter what time I asked you
to meet me so I could run
my latest crazy idea by you.
We would cross into some
mandala-shaped discussion over
the most garlicky silog or
the richest champorado choking
on powdered milk, about trusting
life’s timing even though you
really can’t stand tardy people.
What I never said was I never
did mind waiting for Gerry
because those hours with you
made me feel like it was possible
for alarm clocks to synchronize,
that between the two of us we
could extrapolate how many eggs
the world had ever cracked
to make omelettes and that
that number was important,
somehow, that you didn’t have
to be Balagtas to find poetry
in the Monday rush hour.
You’d stand in the middle of
the complex traffic of our lives
and orchestrate possibilities
between people, as if we were
lightning rods of opportunity and
only needed to wait for the current
in the air to strike. You used
people’s passions to their benefit;
that’s the most morning-like thing
about you, even though you often
raged at idiot drivers on EDSA
and their idiot parking habits.
You pursued things.
Rays of new-ness,
of there-ness,
of always-ness, would
radiate from behind rooftops
and break through the trees,
to punctuate your seeing things
to the end. You color-coded
the mugs at Agahan so the servers
would know who could get free
tablea cocoa refills, and when
you shut down the restaurant I
bought those rainbow mugs from you
to remind myself to always
keep the inspiration flowing.

We’d both figured out without
each other’s help that our first
meeting was probably by fate, but
there’s this place in Wicker Park
where three roads meet
that always reminds me of you,
how between you there
and me here, we have a lot
more mornings covered.

Young Woman at the Met Cloisters, NYC

The light frames your face
just so, chiaroscuro of
soft sunlight and remembering
dyeing the strands of your hair
with touches of persimmon,
diffusing into the unaltered
sky behind you.
There’s a hierarchy to things,
much like the crossing
of colors as messages
through a photograph:
honesty before war, perhaps,
the rising of the tide
before the nakedness.
I don’t assume you walked
across all those years unscathed,
though the feathers you shed
from becoming to being
found the right stones
on the worn path
to nestle between.
Ballet shoes and an autumnal
beholdenness to horses,
felt-tipped hours drawn
on a digital map,
X marks the spot.
It defines you by not
entirely missing you,
as does the afternoon gold
over your left shoulder,
the world on the precipice of
either revelation or ruin
held at bay by your
intelligent eyes.

Complex Fractions

On nights when Netflix streams are turbid with
smog and the taste of waiting has hints of apple
cider, I stumble on you like September stumbles
on fall. I want to be your friend. I want to run
parallel to your cubist sunrises and draw graffiti
on the white marble silence that stands between
us. Sometimes it’s your name and sometimes
it’s stories too long tucked away you could see
where the moths have made an opening. The
incomplete retelling is to them like a glue that
reconciles mistakes made in the past. From back
when this place was nothing but a picture on a
postcard. And the love you loved was a question
akin to Schrödinger before they opened the box,
and I was busy finding my next beautiful
destruction. Two mutually exclusive circles, like
a Venn diagram. And then, a verse of Exodus
that reads like a chapter of the Psalms. And
now the hours are plaited like Egyptian hair, but
all the intersection points are smoothed by fear
and taboo. As if there weren’t enough loneliness
in the world.

Wall of Polaroids

And I wonder now if
you have replaced with silence
my old familiar presence,
my slightly annoying,
but endearing,
loud presence, or
if you have found a mix
of company with parts
that add up to sound
like me, so that nothing
feels like it’s missing

did you all find a way
to each move a fraction
of a way around the table
so you don’t notice
that now empty place
I used to sit

and have you finally
sealed the gap in time
or has enough of it passed
for it to matter?

I’m the one who left
but somehow I’m the one
who’s standing still
watching the old faces
tracing the lines
of past conversations
having no alternate images
to help me realize
you are no longer
the way I last saw you,
that the world hasn’t
stopped changing

and that if we ever
see each other again
and resume what
we used to have,
it will be in the future
not the past