When Safety is Foreign and Calamity is Home

Nine thousand miles from the grasp
of hands of ash, I feel the weight
of dormant decades violently broken
pulling down on my nonexistent wings
phantom itch on lungs that haven’t
choked on that lakeside air for so long
phantom burn on skin

Is the gray of your sky
the same shade as mine?
I have reached a reluctant familiarity
with winter, though with strong
gusts of wind it still causes me grief.
It’s what’s falling from your sky
that’s foreign to me now;
I was too young to remember
the last time, though I’ve read
so many heartbreaking stories
shrouded in that color of everything
we want to forget, scratched raw
across the pages by pieces of glass
spit out from the earth’s soul
that handfuls of it materialize
inside my shoes, in between my toes
or on the flat of my tongue
at unexpected times, usually when
my self-worth is disoriented and
my faith is shaken at the foundations.

Much has been said about us
being rebellious children of
storms and saltwater; we forget
we are igneous when our troubles
and tectonics are asleep. Most of us
are too young to remember the last time;
those who have firsthand wisdom
have left us with stories. Sometimes
it terrifies me that those stories
are the heaviest anchors of my being
and everything else would rust
or be undone by the wind, some wind,
of which there are plenty.

The lake was calm when I last saw it.
The horses were wild and regal
in their beauty when I last saw them.
Now the sky is swallowing lightning,
summoning to the surface
our worst nightmares
and I’m too far from home
to feel the earth rumble.


(Sending prayers and love to the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption.

Inkblot 2

The road is infinite
and our time is so short
the algorithm of missed chances
deconstructing four minutes
into minutiae
of furtive glances
and reciprocated smiles
and a familiar road suddenly
becoming foreign,
a place for discovery,
a hunt
for glitches in memory
staring at space where just
the day before there were
a million things you could have
done to materialize a desire,
not even a number,
just a name
and so much would have begun
wishing the matrix would falter
and toss a morsel of source code
onto your lap, fold time into
something manageable
not the same dream
repeating and ending
at the same intersection where
he and his car disappeared
before he could
snap your heart open
and answer one question
like a conjuring trick
a temptation delivered
and you’re all alone,
finally,
with neither beauty nor sin
telling anyone who would listen
you want the one thing so badly
you would pay for it
with the other

Inkblot 1

The road is short
and our time is infinite
statistically speaking,
history will repeat
we will one day remake that moment
and this time have it mean something
back in the day it was all I needed
a moment
two intentions intersecting
like strangers on a zodiac
and one thousand and one nights
just follow
I was Scheherazade and I had time
we had all the time
to make every night different
to make the stories worth
falling in love for
and if the heart breaks somewhere
it was just a casualty of summer
it’ll recover
the seasons come back around
so many symbols in our hands
like nuts and bolts
and little firecrackers
potential sparks
or fatal conflagrations
and we ignite at a moment’s notice
now they tell you
the length of the movie
down to the minute
you arrive with just enough time
to get popcorn
and the kissing is dampened
even if it happens
and subtlety is dead
and I’d just as soon drag your
number on the screen towards
the little trash can icon
and forget you
for something you said
and sleep soundly because
everything that breaks is more
expensive to repair than replace
and the little seeds and sea glass
in my pockets
bear no weight compared
to the boulder on my shoulders.
But I come back to this same part
of the road at the same time,
every day.
Sometimes in search of you.

Night as Scripture

When the difficult questions
go home and slip out of their armor

become softer

When even the most rigid lines look up
and acknowledge the otherwise faint flicker
they occupy in infinity

When unconditional compassion for
a long buried, never spoken shame
rises from underground

an imperfect redemption

and loneliness runs in torrents
down the streets
like howling misfits

the piano keys disconnect
from the dainty hammers

the dancing shoes are abandoned

survival is an olive and gray Hopper painting

shadows and footfalls are language
and not everyone speaks

There are no messengers
or prophets locked in debate
over what the verses mean

When all conversations are in free fall
gravity being the only truth

Which of these silent stars
is the right word for found?

Rome

One day I will see you.
One day I will connect the dots,
the constellation of decisions,
paintings I can’t forget,
moments of déjà vu,
songs that won’t let me sleep,
that make up the continuum
of my life finally leading me
to your cobbled streets.
One day I will deftly put my thumb
over your pulse and listen to
the marching and the drumbeat
from old wars that made you
who you are and shaped your story,
even the outlying voices that
protested your dark surrenders.
To love you properly, not just on paper.
To feel your sensuous syllables
on my tongue and tease
the etymology of every nuance.
Catch the ghost embers
of your past lives on fire.
To drink the Aegean breezes
that gather in front of your
temples and basilicas
and seek, in person,
the poetry of your goddesses
and try to be worthy with my own.
To weep at your sunsets.
To trace the contours
of your twilight haze and
be able to recognize your face
in photographs, from every angle.

Notre Dame Cathedral is on Fire

and I’m thinking about my
Francophile friends for whom
seeing that icon up close
had been a personal milestone.
They have come far
from the hot, muggy nights
at a cybercafe in Ermita,
agonizing over a high school
paper on Claude Frollo,
to dressing to the nines
and proposing to a girlfriend
at the grand lobby
of a Singapore theater,
still high on the encore
of “Do you Hear the People Sing?”,
to finally getting that Schengen Visa
on their green passport
so they could set foot at the place
that began all that stirring,
all that passion.
I still have the postcards they
sent me, pushpinned to my half-
heartedly maintained vision board.

I also remembered to feel sorry
for myself for not having made it
to Paris yet at age 35, broke
and still not having the prospect
of travel on the horizon.
Does this mean I missed my chance?
There is a scar, a blotted out
paragraph where a dream used to be.

Finally I say a prayer for the
locals and the faithfuls,
for whom this tragedy, I’m sure,
is an infinitely sharper knife,
the aftermath an infinitely
larger wound to heal from.
More than the setting of novels,
but a backdrop of lives, home
of flesh-and-blood memories
now in danger of being erased.

Mes condoléances.