More Real from a Distance

Home of my muse
I used to call you,
the personal Paradise
of the half of my heart
that knew I would
never belong
never really be at home
no matter how many sunrises
I witness sitting under
your palm trees,
no matter how many hours
I spend staring at
your mesmerizing fountains
pulling literary masterpieces
out of my soul like thorns
with trembling fingers
and laying them on the table
all bloodied and painfully free,
no matter how many nights
or rain showers catch me
encased in your glass walls
celebrating life through tears,
angry conversation, or
a tortured wait
for the phone to ring.
There was something about
your beauty that always
felt foreign to me.
You were more of a state of mind
than a place where taxicabs
stop even after midnight.
I drank your coffee when
all I really wanted
to imbibe was your spirit,
so intricate and so alive.
I sought your stars
and your crowd of faces,
tried on your shoes
though I could never
buy any of them
and learned all I could
about your silences,
but I was always careful
to leave you exactly
the way I found you,
as if you were merely
a dream I was borrowing.

It seems to me all my memories
of you are mixed up with
some part of my identity
that was under repair.
You were a symbol,
I understand now: a metaphor
for the journey I take
to get intimate with myself.

It is a ripe age of night,
right now,
upon your travertine walks,
while here, where I am,
the light is lustrous
and edged in bright sapphire.
The other half of my heart
that I carried with me
insists you are somewhere
I can return to,
and trusts that you will
remember me
when I do.

Last Flight Out

I’ve occupied the same heart
for several lifetimes
several deaths
I’ve been broken many times
at the same places
and there is a pain I know
like the back of my hand
a pain I’ve lived with
intimately, stubbornly
like a pet knife
that’s been driven into my flesh
at the same spot
wounds of varying depths
that I’ve mastered how to heal
into overlapping welts
like I knew how to breathe
and it occupied me,
the healing,
the ashes from different fires
each of them burned its own way
my feet, bare and brave
walked on, but never away
from the same place of tragedy
like they couldn’t get enough

cursed to stasis
and possessed by inertia,
I was an artist of staying
staying the same,
staying in place,
staying in wait
for the eventual return
of something, someone,
hurtful but at least familiar
things and people I stayed for
in the same profession,
the same city,
the same e-mail address
so that if any of them ever
changed their minds,
they’d know where to find me
and we could go back
to the way things were
before change happened,
the scariest thing in the world,
and everything started
being so painful

willingly stranded,
I wasted so much time
but like that Nigerian prince
in my spam folder
had promised,
I just needed one switch
for the damage to be undone
and make it all worth it
so I lived, and suffered,
in the same mad, beautiful state
of being
where you one day found me

and you
you are the man
that moved me.

Kintsukuroi (金繕い)

Because the total escape
can cost too much

you can’t buy a new you

because the world is small
and there are only
so many places you can run to

I reinvent myself
I recycle the same ground
I overwrite old memories
with new

I heal this way:

I can’t fly away
so I return
to the place where it hurts
and make it stop hurting

I stay
moving only on the inside
where I am afforded
new eyes with which
to see the same tired things
in different ways

I don’t give up,
not here

everyone deserves
a second chance
exactly where they are

you are never limited

all the dead ends and detours
don’t need to put up
walls around you

you just get a finer, more
nuanced rhythm to dance to

the music, madder but
more beautiful

you grow
you live more gracefully
and forgiveness is the virtue
that feeds your soul

same parts, but
a more exquisite whole

you reach far
but you remain close,
at the heart
of all that matters

you are past and future

and you are worth so much more
for having been broken before

Singing After Dark

To piece together the night,
you break rules.
You cross streets at
the wrong places and
pause at the wrong
intersections, to see
the same buildings at
a different angle.
You remember old songs,
those relieved by time
of their burdens and
are now as light
as the occasional
breeze that blows
past midnight.
You rearrange the
prerequisite madness and
walk backwards along
the path you had taken
once, when you
fell in love
with innocence
and tell your heart
that tonight,
just for one night,
it is free,
in the name of the rain
that you will not
shield yourself from,
for once,
and just let fall,
it is free.

There are parts of
the skyline whose edges
fit the silhouettes
of two people standing
face to face,
their souls juxtaposed,
and nature has excesses
that seek nothing but
the untended gaps
of memory,
and if you let
the day’s random
snippets of beauty,
of possibility,
evolve by themselves,
they will come back to you
of their own volition,
whether or not
you take the time
to preserve
the moments that
first brought them.
Like butterflies,
beautiful things that
die fast,
the secret is to not
hold on too tight.
Bliss will recognize them
and gravitate towards
the way they shine.
And the streets under
your feet will be
reborn before you as
you walk,
one city block at a time,
and you suddenly have
everything you ever lost,
whether by force or
by choice,
restored to you
to do with as you please

Late Light

I echo the late light
with all its honest
flourishes catching
on the drops of gold
on my pierced earlobes
forged by the jeweler
in the shape of sea shells
24-karat memories
of songs of oceans
come in a velvet box
and to conclude another
conversation with evolution,
I wear them unabashedly,
now. I’ve also learned
to poise my body
in the chair sideways just so
and smile properly
for photographs.

Still I chase the belated light,
colors of 6:05 crooning
as they lean against boundaries
between desire and regret
and clip their tresses up
to greet the descending hours.

I have a story
and I will tell it
if only because
I have the option not to.
And it will not be like
this waning light that tomorrow
will be regurgitated from
the bowels of night.
Feet and fossils
will overrun it and no,
I will not wait for
the tree to fall before
I ask whether someone heard.

The Evening Summer and I Traded Places

after the sun set
after the night fell like
caressing arms on
a yet unproclaimed miracle,
the two-way glass allowed
both a view of the
mathematical chaos outside
and a faithful reflection
of us, at a pause and
jazz-shrouded within.

The moments become breathless
in spite of themselves,
peeling away from
the soft wind that,
in waiting for the right
moment to touch,
lost all its chances
to the acoustic hours
who have the discernment to
not play hard-to-get with
what has always been
impossible to resist
dancing with.

I feel that if I
loved you enough,
time would allow itself
to be talked into
slowing down.

I feel that if I
were honest enough,
I could be like that glass:
a symbol that both eye
and poetry recognize
as the boundary between
the warm August air and
the eight corners of
this cube filled with music
whispering in sign language
with the soul.

Come Home Every Time You Can

You begin by remembering,
how you did it.
You walk all the way back
to where memory feels
less like a weightless burden
that paints dust onto
the day’s tables and ledges
and more like that
solid brick wall that
prevents you from
seeing what’s behind it:
remember as far back as
when you took the chance
without knowing how green
the grass is on the other side.
Remember as far back as
when you didn’t know how green
the grass is on the other side,
and it could still be greener.
You need a reference point
just so you can
look at an old familiar thing
for the first time
in a long time, again.
Ask yourself if the fire trees
are the same bright flame,
if the moon still bears
the same thumbprint of sorrow,
or if the subtitles to
the movie in your mind
have managed to shift
when you weren’t looking,
and you haven’t looked
for a long time.
Dodge the stampede of
thoughts from recent days
that will confuse you like
routines on a treadmill.
Remembering is a walk
whose distance can be tricky.
You have been blind for a while
and can no longer judge
distances properly.
But you’ll know when
you’re close to the memory.
The palm pressing on your heart
starts to feel like London fog.
And the paper will feel
like the street you walk down
each morning.
Hold on to them, those nights
in your life that make you
keep coming back.
Hold on to that particular
snapshot of yourself that
made taking note
of the details so natural.
Because you can’t be
in two places at one time,
and no matter how far you get
and leave it behind,
you’d rather be there.
Carry that with you.

The City That Knows Me

Without it,
I’d be in some nowhere
with a name;
but without me,
it will still carry on
beautiful and complete
inspiring millions
of others like me.
For it, each sighting
of my commonplace face
is a welcome visit;
for me, each crossing
of the threshold
to enter it
is coming home.

Still, I refuse
to call this love

and if you ever stop
telling me
that you love me
it will not make me
love you any less
but at least I will know
exactly where I stand.

And I Say to Myself, “What a Wonderful World…”

See I have a weakness for pretty places, the way some other girls
are addicted to nail polish, or eyeliner. I always told my friends I
avoid sickness and disease not with vitamin pills, but with
giddiness. I feel myself reborn on the act of getting off the bus on
the corner of EDSA and Arnaiz Avenue, making my way to
Greenbelt for some breakfast and good coffee, and every day the
beauty is so breathtaking it never fails to bring tears to my eyes
and make me believe that something wonderful is in store for me
today. I stay spiritually healthy that way.
today. I stay spiritually healthy that way.Maybe it’s kinda hard for
you to understand how I bond with the streetscape where I stand
and stay in touch with myself; so in tune with all that surrounds me
that I always find myself at the right place at the right time, right
within destiny’s reach. Whatever its plans are for me will be sure to
find me.
find me. And the view from the fifteenth floor speaks to me audibly
and sometimes when it rains there’s zero visibility from the office
and it’s still all good, to be lost in the clutches of the
elements where
someday, I shall return. And if they ever deem me worthy they’ll
bring me back as a feather or a breeze and I will recognize the
rearrangement of the dismantled wonders of the world I loved so
much, so much that when I was young I used to fear that this
devoted attachment to life and all that it offered meant that I was
going to hell on Judgement Day, but now I don’t think so anymore.
Because I see God suffusing this
contemporary polychromatic
jungle with primal power and I think He meant for us to witness it,
to be open for it, to be permeable in mind to absorb, hold for a
while and inevitably let flow through every possible experience. I’m
on a front row seat in an
on a front row seat in an epic, cinematic, open-ended story with
awesomeness to rival any movie, a titanic painting upon the clouds
zoomed into with the lens of an SLR set in Impressionist light.
zoomed into with the lens of an SLR set in Impressionist light. I no
longer lament that at (almost) 27 I’ve never seen Paris or Bali or New
York or Kyoto or Rome or San
Francisco because I have enough
splendidness around me to meanwhile keep my heart busy and I am
not going to wait until I am rich or famous or well-traveled to learn
how to swing around a rain-slick lamp post and throw my arms
around a tree and lay my head upon the lap of contentment.
I know the world is my accommodating oyster and I its priceless
And all in God’s time it will be all mine to hold in my hand.

I Always Think It’s You

When I am grabbed by mimes’ white gloved hands from the navel of a complicated dream and hurtled back into my bed and the coal-black opacity of night in the blink of an eye, and an unnatural silence startles me and I lay listening for the phone to ring or the world to end, and it takes several deep breaths to dispel the suspicion that my pillows and blanket are in some conspiracy with the Russians in a plot to assassinate me,

I always think it’s you,
I always think it’s you, somewhere

When I make good every chance to spend my mornings in front of the closed cinemas because it feels like nobody unpleasant could find me there that early and if I ever ran into anyone who recognized me it would be a good, good friend I knew from way back, and I am always tempted to ask a passerby to snap a picture of me standing in front of the poster of The Celestine Prophecy,

I always think it’s you
I always think it’s you celebrating the serene beauty of my solitude with me
I always think it’s you solitude that, once upon a time,
I always think it’s you simplified me immensely
I always think it’s you and complicated you terribly

When I cut in a straight line across the cavernous lobby of Tower One and pass by its two-storey high Christmas tree and feel an opera-like melancholy like a pioneering UFO must feel after a bumpy landing on earth, and want to have a soft conversation with a Muslim just because all the talk about St. Nick and Bethlehem and thirteenth month pay gets too parrot-like and robs my birth month of its intrinsic beauty, when I zip right under Ayala Avenue and up into the maze of The Enterprise and be spat out into the sky walk hurrying as if the sexagesimal partitions of time were a matter of life and death,

I always think it’s you
I always think it’s you that I’m running towards
I always think it’s you or running from

When I think about those classy bracelets I hastily purchased without thinking from that boutique when I was already half an hour late for Darlene’s birthday dinner and I still didn’t have a present, and get haunted now, a week later, by how much I really want those bracelets for myself and couldn’t for the life of me find that boutique again, when I drop by Fully Booked after work to check whether the Billy Collins book of poetry I want to buy on pay day still hasn’t been bought and I come out of High Street slightly disoriented from the euphoria of being surrounded by so many books and not knowing the way to the bus stop,

I always think it’s you
I always think it’s you who rearranged the world

And when I allow myself the addictive torment of looking at your picture and for a handful of crazy moments feel like writing a poem that starts with, Do you think maybe we can start again… just because your soulful eyes and half-smile are still as disarming as they’ve ever been,

I always think it’s me
I always think it’s me you’re looking at

I always think it’s me you’re looking at when in all probability
I always think it’s me you’re looking at you’re probably far, far away
I always think it’s me you’re looking at from the way we used to be
I always think it’s me you’re looking at and don’t even think about me
I always think it’s me you’re looking at and don’t even think about me at all