Bequests from the Departed Light

It’s not the poems the stars write
that give the night its soul
not the light the moon
borrows from the sun
or the breath of silence
stirring between the trees

it’s a fragment of the blue
coaxed from the heaving tides
from passion’s forgotten oceans
and remembering having once
craved for rest when all
the city could spare
was a lonely furnished room
lit with your tamed vices

it’s the texture of that moment
when it came up in conversation
with a trusted friend
how best to spend the small hours
trapped between your skin
and the fire that claims
to be the estranged daughter
of the song no one else but you
could hear.

The Reunion Dinner Roll Call

I miss having friends.
Shared skies,
lifelines that intertwine,
conversations that walk me home.
But the people who know my
simplest joys and darkest fears
are a continent and an ocean away;
they are asleep when I am lonely
and living their lives while I sleep.
I wouldn’t mind getting out there
and making new connections
but this isn’t the season;
the air is a wall of ice
and people are frozen inside
and I can’t drive
and the city buses don’t go where I live
and the hours have been cut
at the ends with scissors
and taped together to overlap
that I can hardly read
the writing on the the to-do list
and really, who has the time
to bare their soul
when the pot roast is in the oven
and the timer is set,
when the clothes out of the dryer
have to be ironed and folded
to fit in drawers where
I have stashed my passport
and all the things I used to be
before I gave them up
to be here?

But please, if you knew me
from way back then,
and you go out together to sit
under the clear night sky
to dine on ocean feasts
cooked outdoors
and rant about work
or plan your next frolic on the beach
or quote from the last
John Lloyd and Bea movie
or discuss the RH Bill
or the atrocities of the Marcos Regime,
think about what I might say
if I were there
and say it,
imagine what I might feel
caught in the fabric
of that scene
and feel it,
be lost as I would
in the tangle of stories and voices
against a backdrop of OPM
and jeepney horns

tear for me a small corner of that page
leave all your fingerprints
and mail it to me, with words about
how the evening got a little warmer,
tinged with what thoughts
you could pull from that drawer
of memories about your old friend

and I would be so grateful
to have been almost there
and not forgotten
until the time
we see each other again.

The Lonely Hum at Flatline

The past that binds us
no longer exists,
or at least, all tangible proof
has been wiped off,
painted over,
carried away in pieces
when you packed into
meticulously labeled boxes
the reality that used to breathe
in the space where
our mutual betrayal
took place long ago,
although we both like
to call it by different names.

It’s all gone now,
the partitions for the cubicles
where my sense of oppression
paced like a caged animal,
that regularly polished glass case
where you showed off
your precious awards,
four of which I won for you,
those gizmos at all the doors
that registered with a beep
the exact second we left and entered
to compute each payday
how much we were owed,
all those powerful machines
with which some of the most
brilliant minds of my generation,
together,
at your bidding,
created magic and turned
it over to you to do with
as you pleased.

All of that is no longer there.
All of them have left,
I hope, to create magic
somewhere else.
Nothing remains but an empty floor
to be rented out to someone else
at a steep price,
in a premier office building
in a city where dreams are dreamed

and sometimes spat on

that, and, I guess,
some questions that will never
be answered, filed in drawers that
are no longer where I last saw them,
and a million anecdotes and
old conversations that will
from now on be floating
in the void where
intertwined lives used to be,
scattered in the memories
of two hundred displaced employees
on their two hundred new,
different paths,
without a physical place to run to
if they ever get homesick
and wish to visit

a hole in the city
scraping at the sky.

An Indelible Map of my Sky

I am haunted by roads
those I had danced with
on heavy tread
and carefree feet
on cruising rides
and breakneck speeds
a million times before

like sleepwalking my way home
along edges of places
faces of things
the highways and footpaths
paved towards destinations
I’ve repeatedly arrived at
and once-coveted states
of past minds
a mile at a time

certain bends and smooth turns
of Ikot jeepney routes, for instance,
under the indomitable acacias
the last few manicured blocks
before the stops of the Fort bus
the knotted bridges
and tunnels along historic EDSA,
the gnarled shadows of Dimasalang
punctuated by incongruously bright roses
a view of sooty, disheveled Taft
from up the train
and the steel and glass cradle
that is Ayala Avenue
adorned with little palms
and glitzy billboards

the abused roads
and the preoccupations that made me
blind to seeing what was around me then
taking for granted
those same flames of color
that gleam of once-ordinary light
that unspecial nick on the sun-faded wall

they come back,
like the flipping of old pages
perforations on my life’s
worn rolls of music
so known to the piano’s hammers and pins
so often caressed at the soul
so long ago

I’d enter the Dan Ryan
or emerge from a dimly lit car park
or idle to a pause
in a strange suburban intersection
and there it would be,
a patch of old road
the heart of a young me
unraveling
manifesting
becoming everything
until nothing else is real

and none of these places
this wanderlusting spirit now traverses
is ever new,
only the same music
and glimpses of what
had always been there,
waiting for me to notice.

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.

One Child Survived the Village Purge

Here
are all the goodbyes I never
got to say,
those that had many chances
but were always held back,
set aside for another day,
another late-night conversation
under the eaves of
a shared misery,
hanging on the glowing embers
of another drag
from the last cigarette
before we’d part ways
and catch different cabs
to where our separate
lives-under-repair
were waiting…

Always that one goodbye
left unspoken,
the repeated gamble that
there would be tomorrow
to share,
to have the same four walls,
the same artificial light
surround that festering brokenness
upon which we had built
a matchstick tower of co-dependency,
of sacrifice and selflessness,
and of growing in the knowing
of each other
even if there was never
really enough time,
and of the illusory moments
when we believed,
despite our jadedness and our
mutually exclusive agendas
that we were friends…

The goodbyes that never
got the last contact
we were entitled to,
that last drunken, defiant
“fuck you!” to the world
after which we might have
high-fived or fist-bumped
or toasted what we had
for the last time
for luck
have dried upon the cheeks
with the bitterest tears
never shed, scrawled
on a million words on paper boats
floating away down a flood
and on paper cranes swallowed
over and over by a burning sky,
where our once entangled existence
scared the Big Brothers so much
they obliterated every last word
we might have exchanged.

But it lives in my heart all this time,
and I keep these goodbyes warm
with all the soiled honor
and tamed belligerence I have left.
Call me a fool,
but maybe someday,
in another place,
I’d turn them all into a new hello
with all of you.

My Books are Now Available on Amazon!

My first goal for 2014 has just been ticked off the list! (Oh, joy!) I have successfully listed my books on Amazon.com. If you enjoy my work posted on this blog, I humbly request that you check the listings out (just click the images or the book titles) and consider buying your copies.

(And to those who have done so already, thank you so much, from the bottom of my dreaming heart, for your support. Please take the time to rate/review the books on the Amazon pages to help guide the prospective buyers.)

fever_WPpostBeautiful Fever
Read it on a Weekend Afternoon

This book was first published on September 2012, and was launched in a happy and successful unveiling party at Moonleaf Tea Shop in Makati City. Here, I have compiled 88 of my poems that dealt with the complexities of falling in love, relationships, heartbreak, identity and personal evolution. Many of its readers have been brought to laughter and tears from reading this book.

cognac_WPpostCognac for the Soul
Read it on a Friday Night

This book was released at the same time as Beautiful Fever. I’ve always liked to work in twos, and for this particular collection I have segregated the 91 more mature, more risqué poems that explored the darker aspects of love—illicit, obsessive, destructive, and, in the end, redemptive; as well as womanhood and the struggle to balance sexuality and spirituality.

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espresso_WPpostThe Espresso Effect
A work of fiction by coffee lovers, for coffee lovers.

This is still my most ambitious work to date. The Espresso Effect is an illustrated novel (a.k.a. coffee-table novel), printed half in glossy pages and half in luminous parchment. To sum it up, it documents the dialogue between the universe and a girl addicted to coffee. It combines 20 incredible artworks rendered in coffee by the painter Sunshine Plata, with the wondrous tale, half love story and half metaphysical speculation, presented in blog format and made vivid by city life photography by Jin Joson. It was launched at a coffee painting exhibition and book signing event in 2010 at Bo’s Coffee in Taguig City.

A Lifetime Supply of Blank Pages and White Canvas

The artistry of your life has touched me

where every heartbeat is deliberate
and every pain is masterful
like brush strokes dipped
in forty-two shades of blue

how your every indulgence is a poem
and your every addiction is
the opening chords to
a soulful song

how your failures are part
of the rhythm of living
and you never stop dancing

how the contradictions
in your character are the edges
of the tiles in a glorious mosaic
each of them burning with life
each of them bearing a story
how in pieces, you are complete

I almost envy you
the way you wear your purpose
tattooed to your every choice
and you dye your hair with
the individuality that
no frame can contain
or hang on a wall

knowing you is enough for me
to put my own existence
in perspective
and understand that there are
different kinds of friendship
and that the kind we have is
that of transcendence
we will always share a memory
that we can recreate in many
shades and shapes of beauty
and as long as we can flow
we are connected

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
mingling,
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
patiently
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.

Nemesis

I used to think of you
as my destroyer
and I swore I would rebuild

and prayed so hard
to be delivered
from vindictiveness;
karma does not forget
and I should forgive
at least myself.

But the hunger for closure
is a bitch
and as I walk this new road
I’d find myself looking back,
craning my neck to see
if the truth has caught up on you
and made you pay for
everything you’ve done.
Deep inside
I want to scour your ruins
and take back the part of me
you’ve stolen,
never mind if it no longer fits,
never mind if it will
now render me uglier.

But see, that’s just
wishful thinking.
There wouldn’t be a tragic
downfall that finishes you,
no bankruptcy or incarceration,
no mutiny to overthrow you.
Real life rarely indulges
in poetic justice; it is more subtle.
Instead, you will never rise
out of mediocrity
and shall remain in obscurity.
You will try hard, but accomplish
nothing of value. Your name
will fade unremembered.

That kind of existence
is my worst nightmare, see.
I’d suffer anything
just to not be irrelevant.
And if I ever learned a thing
from that abhorrent memory
we now mutually mutely share,
it’s that you and I
are so much alike.
You are my alter ago.
You are what I almost became
if I hadn’t been
as vigilant as I’d been.
You represent the worst that
life could have brought out in me.
In an alternate universe I am you.

This version then, I know now,
will deprive me of the sweet,
definitive taste of revenge
in catching news that life
has crumbled you to dust
and spat on your dreams
the way you did to me and mine.
But you will pursue those dreams
in circles
and never see them come true.
Neither of us loses,
neither of us really wins.