I envy those women
who have managed
to harden their hearts
forge their sensibilities
in meticulous practicality
and build a fence
around their dreams
with shiny jadedness

those women who
can bet with their bodies
without gambling
with their hearts
who can dance
to the tune
of a master’s poetry
without falling in love
who can lift their skirts
climbing down the stone steps
of romance
without leaving a slipper behind
who can flip their curls
and giggle carelessly
over burning candles
without catching fire
and gaze at the moon
without going under a spell

I wish I had listened
when people tried to teach me
to take my heart
off my sleeve
and leave it
in a locked drawer
whenever I left the house

but I’ve always been
a bad student
insisting on doing it my way

so I just stay behind
and watch them
surround you
with their
queenly platinum crowns
of cold, calculating shrewdness
knowing my vulnerability
can never compete
with their worldliness
in your eyes

Image by photographer Imogen Cunliffe

Just One Night

Just when I thought
all my bad girl days
are behind me now
I’ve outgrown
Top Gun scene-type
Harley-Davidson rides
at illegal speeds
on Sumulong Highway at 2am
my arms wrapped around
the waist of a man
whose shirts strongly smelled
of laundromat fabric conditioners
conspiring with my dorm girls
to stiff-arm parents’ phone calls
while I climbed over walls
in a denim miniskirt
breakneck heels
and faux butterfly tattoo
an hour past curfew
unabashedly buying ultrathin Trojans
at 7 Eleven on Katipunan Avenue
and leaning over
front desks of motels
whose employees were trained
not to look at their patrons’ faces

Just when I thought
I’ve turned a new leaf
I get into this
lust story
and find myself wanting you
beyond reason
and reciting old litanies
I’ve long since forgotten:
no matter what I’ve said
no matter what you think
you and I are not yet through
not until I’ve had
one night with you

“Tasha” by photographer Darya Maslyuk

When You Think of Me

How many times
have you thought of me
since you first met me?

And when you think of me,
what are you really thinking?
Do your thoughts of me
come as a pleasant surprise
like finding a letter in the mailbox
from an old lover
you parted with on good terms?
Do you let them linger in your mind,
pause in your routine
take off your headset
to focus on my voice
and concentrate
on bringing me closer?
are they something like a trauma
a memo from the IRS
do you feel like chasing them away
with a fly swatter
or want to shock yourself off them
with a cold shower?

I know it may be a little
too soon to ask, but
have you segregated
the bad memories from the good
so you could discard the one
and cherish the other?
Or actually, the first question is
am I worth the bother,
or do you even think about me at all?

Photo first found on WeHeartIt. If this image belongs to you, please let me know.

Use Me

I am an instrument
that longs to be played
I retain the memory
of all the songs
spawned in my womb
and they are many
but they don’t ease
this restless yearning
to be touched again
by your skilled fingers
to have your
untrained genius
pluck at the chords
of my soul
repeatedly fiddle
with the black and white
keys of my desire
and make me hum
to the tune
of intuition’s most
primitive rhythm

this want
to feel myself
in your arms
is deeply rooted
in my hardwood nature
precisely etched
on my shiny brass

I don’t want
to be the author
of any masterpiece
that brings a stadium full
of people
to its knees
if at the same moment
you are busy
someone else’s
I don’t want
to break any records
if it means
I’ll be leaving
you behind

I just want to be
your private tool
I prefer the casual intimacy
of your living room
the scandalousness of the
backseat of your car
the shadow-invigilated
propriety of your
bachelor’s bedroom
to be alone with you
with your daylight
and your night-time
because my intrinsic
stems solely
from the secondhand
of your creation
and discovery

Untitled photo by photographer Rebecca Nathan


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On this Side of the Wall

There’s a wall between us
invisible but there
not a deterrent, surely
I still see you
you still see me
it just makes it
one step more difficult
and I don’t pretend
that it makes sense

it exists
just to tell us
which side
we are in
nothing else
no other purpose

I don’t know about you
I sleep
beyond the hours I should
because you’re sleeping too
and when I hear
you stirring
making your bed, maybe
making breakfast
that’s the only time
I come alive

I press my ear
against that wall
catching your many sounds
torturing myself with imaginings
who you’re speaking to
who you’re making love to
who makes your world go round
who else occupies that space
on your side
beyond this claustrophobic,
suffocated boundary

I have to tear myself away
to be productive
step away from the wall
step out of the room
and into the big, vast world
but I always remember to
blow a kiss
to your closed door
right adjacent to mine.

Image by artist Lord Kevinz

Like a Kiss

It seemed like only yesterday
when I had so many poems
stuck in my throat
and the problem was whether
to spit or swallow

decisions were made quickly
lest I choked

now I feel the inspiration
the one you triggered
trickling away
the spell lifting
I can breathe
and I’m too desperate for rest
to resist

but the last snatches of beauty
before it fades away
are almost always
the most beautiful
or at least beautiful enough
so I make the most of each moment
every second counts
I’m no longer
chasing down the dawn
with my pen
but every second counts

the way you both know
that a kiss
no matter how passionate
has an end
you have to pull away
you have to open your eyes
so you force every last caress
from her mouth
every last nibble
every last pair
of interlocked whispers
and savor the

you’re no longer kissing
and it’s time to do something else.

* * *

I know.
You won’t take the cue
from my hesitation
you won’t grab me back
and pull me close
to you.
One kiss is all
we knew
we’d ever

Image of a statue in St. Pancras railway station
in London (photographer unknown)


Did it ever occur to you
that maybe
you saved my life?

I don’t think
there was any way for you
to have a clue
that on that day
you first saw me
I had my soul
in a sealed white envelope
and I was on my way
to wire it via Western Union
to the Devil’s address
in Argentina
because I thought
there was something he had
that I wanted
and he named his price.

You only saw
a beautiful woman
all made up
you didn’t know what it was all for:
the ultimate act of defiance
a rendezvous with damnation
and you,
you were no angel
but infinitely more harmless
than my original dinner date
with an infuriating confidence, too
if I might add
and you sweet-talked me into
spending my night instead
with you.

And in the morning
I woke up in a strange bed
the sheets reeking
with the power of unspent souls
the pillows moist
and permanently stained
with unsold dignities
so what if you were not there?
so what if my heart
lay broken in the corner
under the heap of my clothes?
You gave me what I needed:
reasonable doubt
to shatter a dangerous certainty
I would not have survived
but could not have been deterred
any other way.

I’d rather wake up desecrated
than in hell.

Your mere physical presence
your being nothing
but who you are
at a certain place
at a certain time
mattered unimaginably

and all you thought you had
was a simple conquest,
a one-night stand.

Image by photographer Carlos LeFièvre