I slice into it every morning,
lengthwise, with the same knife
I use to spread butter on my toast.
A thin film of it covers everything,
a spell of haze getting thicker by the day.
I don’t taste the butter anymore,
and it stops mattering
that I hadn’t had white bread
since 2013, maybe longer.
All this whole grain on my palate.
All that fiber in my digestive system.
I used to count calories and pounds.
Numbers had arms I could run to,
for comfort. I wish
health could be quantified.
The odds of beating this.
The odds of living.
The odds of sitting in this dubious silence
with the variables I couldn’t begin
to write down leaking from every
piece of plumbing in the house.
Drip, drip, drip.
Sometimes being out of control
is a still life painting. Texture of breakfast
under patch of light, neutral, unpolitical.
The hands poised to assume a gesture
either of mad destruction or surrender
but from this side of the canvas
we can’t tell because the enemy
is one we can’t see. Or hear.
Drip, drip.

Blue like the Aegean

It was the purest thing that
ever belonged to me
that even now there feels
to be no sin in remembering it.
A touch born out of ether,
the desire to align
almost elysian: you sought
a world of perfection,
of perfect beauty through
mathematics and armed rebellion;
you are like Thor over Bifröst.
That purity, oceanlike.
Somebody should tell the moth
there might be something
more worth its time
than the flame,
that one could be mesmerized
without fearing for her life,
that we could be old
and still be talking
about elliptic curves
and the ouster of fascists
and never have come close
to burning
but transcending
like a straight-shot arrow
skin to soul to dream to
the effervescent universe
and the flesh is nothing
but a philosophical construct
when the pleasure
is in discovering
not how deep you can go
but how deep you are,
there is no drowning
only getting lost, but the kind
of lost you’d love to be,
in a place where every
third left turn leads
to the sea

I Forgot to Ask

Tell me you knew.
After all this time,
after all that was
not said,
give me that as a token
of a neat ending:
that you knew,
that you had found my confessions
somewhere, written on some wall
in some city I’ve never been.
That the circle was complete,
radius unknown.
When we danced that
hundred-year dance
of sacred words,
of perfect words,
and their symbols for infinity,
that you knew we were dancing.
February and June locked
in tango across the spring rain.
That I had fallen among
the deltas and epsilons
while your haikus watched.
That you gave me copies
of the letters you wrote
to other people about me
because you knew words
were my oxygen, and I only
required a handful of lines
to construct a Paradise.
Not that it was something you
wanted me to have, or
didn’t mind my having.
You don’t need to go
that far; just that you knew.
That I shared with you
more than books; that you
had also been turning my
pages with those hands.
And that day when I came
to say goodbye for
the second and last time
to the world that you occupy,
to everything I failed
at being,
you kissed me on the cheek
not once, but twice
because you knew.

Self-Discovery is a Tree-Lined Winding Path

They built an amphitheater
in the place where I’ve chased
hundreds of sunrises
back when there was dawn
in my step and the rest
of my life was still a secret
that fate was withholding,
all the probabilities glistening
on the edges of each blade
of grass and I could hear
the impeccable pink hum
of time in that two-foot gap
they left on the footpath so as
not to disturb the running creek,
a constant reminder to always
look where we’re going. Every
morning during typhoon season
I would rescue the snails that had
wandered onto the damp concrete
and reverently place them back
in the safety of the green earth,
away from crushing death by
running shoes or bicycle wheels.
Those creatures’ lives were
little petals of karma I collected,
and after six years exchanged
for a lush garden of good favor
from the cosmos in the form
of thunderous applause for my
then boyfriend, who was an
aspiring reggae singer and
got to perform in campus
the songs of revolution we had
written together. It was that
place where one late night I
witnessed a bullfrog the size of
an adult human head battle a snake
to the death, and I was mesmerized
and paralyzed by awe and drunk
from the cocktail of discovering
life and traversing the Science
Complex Park with Diana Cerzo,
who was brilliant in graduate level
abstract algebra, a field that both
terrified me and enslaved me with
its perfect beauty. It was also
that place where a professor, who
twice humiliated me and once made
me cry in class, tried to talk me
out of my decision to quit
mathematics as we walked
side by side to the jeepney stop,
which short circuited my heart
because he inspired both despair
and hero worship in it. And I can
pull out a dozen more memories that
liked to call that place home, but
suffice it to say, they built
an amphitheater in the center of it,
and it is glorious, a hat tip to
the genius of ancient construction
and understanding of acoustics,
a landmark on a timeline
parallel to mine, a world that
excludes me, that I will always love.

A Path of Silk

One of those delicate things—
Japanese folding fan
with zigzag creases and
opens up like a pond lotus
into the shape of a cardioid,
r = 1 – sin θ, 0 ≤ θ ≤ 2π,
stirring in the humid Midwest air
sleepy, slow motion memories of
the summer I lived with
undergraduate calculus,
fretful about the future
and drunk on dreams.
An icon from another world,
image of a leafless
tree branch in the winter
unsymmetrical and gracefully twisted
and the perfect moon a little
to the side, rendered in
calligraphy ink or watercolor
or some other medium that gives
the illusion of bleeding.
It’s the heart of geisha era Kyoto
translated into English
a time when they achieved
the ultimate artistic rendition
of human souls and the flesh,
draped in painted silk,
danced to epiphanies in the
whispering glow of lanterns
and breathed in moments that spoke
to painters in alluring tongues
of the unpaintable

Spring’s Entourage

In the rain
the earth shivers delicately
as if scared of the words
that might come out of her
having buried so many
sacred secrets
sleeping worlds
gestures of majesty
now pelted with questions
and watery spheres
of impatience
seeming to force her hand
and pull revelations
from her fertile spirit

but she has always been
about perfection,
and timing
as precise as blades of grass,
each unhurried petal
a measured step
on her walk down the aisle
into the arms of spring,
a solemn ceremony of
the different shades of love
from blushing roses
to the most passionate violets,
the choreographed coronation
of the goddesses of
inspired thought

under the raw, emotional sky
the horizon is the color
of a late night rendezvous,
too preoccupied gazing
at the beauty that is yet to come
to focus on what’s at hand
that you could run towards it
and catch up with the light
at the vanishing point
and get the distinct feeling
that you are standing
at the far edge of a flat world
right before it wraps around time
like a möbius melody
and everything

The Miracle That Has Your Name On It

I think the people who make decisions based on percentages and statistics lean towards the idea that our lots in life are passed out at random and there is no greater power we can call on, one who knows our individual paths and can distinguish each one of us from the rest. But if the numbers say there is only one chance in ten thousand for something to succeed, but that one chance was meant for you and your story, why should the 9,999 chances of failing matter to you?