Teaching my Left Hand how to Right

You know how things go, tender one.

You believe you are here for the sole purpose of supporting your sister’s shit.

Maybe it’s because of natural order

that you were considered inferior

so mama trained you to compensate in appearance.

For the longest time, you remained soft, smooth, and clean

decked with the finest of gems,

shelled in the warmth of a velvet pocket,

only for the small price of following someone else’s directions,

holding someone’s extra weight,

and picking the less important tools.

After all, she wasn’t named right for no reason.

 
You know how things go, tender one.

You have already resigned yourself

to a life that is easy just because you obey the order of the universe.

It’s a credo you have long since memorized

while your sister, your other self, upsets the balance by

flipping the bird and deciding to collapse

for an indefinite vacation

leaving you all alone in this house

to fend for yourself

without any last note or technical know-how.

 
You know how things go, tender one.

Life shits for the weak,

but I just want you to know

you have always been strong even now.

 
Grip.

Your limbs are capable to carry weight and open doors.

Maybe not as powerful as your sister’s

But strong enough to pick empty beer cans and unhinge a few locks.

You can still wash dishes, dust furniture, pull blinds

Purging this house of sheltered ghosts

As you let visitors in.
 

Grip.

Don’t mistake your softness for weakness. Your naïveté for ignorance.

There will be nights when the curve of your palm will be home for someone else’s.

Someone whose hands are roughened by a day’s work, calloused by life’s grievances

will find solace in the cushion of your tenderness.

You will be this hand’s stronghold

as its bones melt within your embrace.
 

Grip.

When dust gathers at the pads of your fingertips,

you will find yourself nimble to lift a pencil and shape clay.

Probably not yet adept enough to create a statement

but you can always start with tracing the shape of your name.

Learn its strokes, its intricacies,

your long loops, and abrupt stops.

They are imprints of your own making.

You are not your sister’s handwriting.
 

Maybe your sister forgot to tell you this:

Making lines is an intentional cut through time and space.

Keeping your existence entails work.

So grip.

Flex those tender muscles.

Do things that only those who are left alone can only do

instead of obsessing on how to be the next Ms. Right.

Because you can never fill in her gloves

but you can always choose not to be left behind.

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Kiss Mark

Goody two shoes, you still cannot
dispel the magic that protects you from being
touched by a lightning bolt.
You are oil slipping through a sea god’s hands. A bitten fruit
whose seeds are untouched.
Do not forget
how you once wove a garment with your prayers
as you stripped before the eyes of the wild,
letting course hands run through
your breasts, your thighs–
pulling them into depths of consciousness
as you were being plunged into oblivion.

 
Now that your task is complete, your offerings have reached the deity you serve
and you retreat safe into your space
intact, unaffected.
Sleeping
as rain pour in heavy torrents
burying the land that sacrificed you into a deluge.

 

Let the storm rage, as your own seep out of your pores
break into the cracks of your character-
a mask of timid smiles and coerced amens.
One day these bite marks will heal
and the kiss that sealed you from being touched
will fade as the mist clears away.
Yes, the land will be fertile again
and you will rise like any other women
to plough
to sow

Tropic of Cancer

Pride-nourished bones:

An ivory head

cut clean and chiseled, crammed full of highway street smarts

smoothening the traffic of the senses.

It sits straight on the spine

made up of countless women’s cartilages,

a lumbar trail for the uninitiated,

stepped and compressed

to compensate for that extra rib.

Pelvis juts out in calcified defiance,

taunting anyone to a test of strength

tries to hide its soft parts within its sharp edges

honed by years of fear for an unknown intruder

that might just be herself.

All these weight are shouldered by these thighbones

trained to hold the added baggage

that my upper extremities refuse to put down

(I still had room for another pound in my heart).

 

I am proud of my home.

These bones

have built this self to stand tall,

strong in itself, strong on its own

A bedrock amidst the shifting sand.

 

But like all houses unfazed by summer storms,

mine begins to simmer inside.

 

A spark of lightning at the base of the skull

creeps a long way down to my spine.

It lingers at my loins,

feeds at my thighs

until my body roars to an uncontrollable furnace

a never dying pyre for the self.

It gnaws at its marrow

unsatisfied.

 

Pride-nourished bones:

My body is a bundle of fire wood-

a cruel insurance policy

in case of these internal emergencies.

Build your house with the sweat of your brow,

pay in blood when it burns down.

Remind me again,

What do dwellers do when their house wages war against them?

When the body betrays itself?

When elements crusade to convert

materials into beings

and beings into materials-

who should arbitrate on the matter?

 

My first ‘amen’

was probably breathed from

the heavy smell of a rising tempest

What used to be a tell-tale for refuge

Becomes a fragrance that lures

the self to strip naked,

to provocatively dance on fire,

to open windows and doors

and to surrender to the hurricane

allowing the tide to wash these bones away.

My house becomes a wreck- floats for

all the things I slowly let go of

as waves lap at all open wounds

salting bruises, cleansing pores,

dissolving all in the whirlpool of unlikely grace.

 

Sometimes what it takes to get out is to give in-

to rely on strangers,

or even storms

and believe that

these pride-nourished bones

will continue to drift on.

 

 

 

 

Oceans

Child, there is nothing to fear in darkness.
You
do not need to protect yourself
from what is unseen-
from what lurks around when night falls.
Your monsters need not be killed.
You can always drift them
into more appropriate places
where they are needed.
You are never meant to fight for space. You are
the expanse
that the land is envious of. Release yourself
and let your waves wash out mountains
of unforgiven trespasses.
The night has never stolen anything from you.
It gives
back the fire that rises from your body-
the one you willingly yield to others
so that they can live.
Let it return to your hands
so you can share it again
without any regret or resentment.

Trinidad

I.

My life.

is firmly rooted between three distinct places:

Church, school, and home-

growing under the watchful eye of holy trinities.

The protecting pillars of my personhood

against the thief that may come at night time.

You see, I have been told that I am quite precious-

a jewel in the rough, so to speak,

hidden for a noble prince willing to climb over this orchard-

Though I don’t know if I’m the diamond or the pearl kind.

While waiting, I fill my interiors with books, trinkets, and decora-

souvenirs from places I have never been

dropped by polite visitors who stop to smell the flowers

My hands always let things bloom- hoping that one of them would be lured

to brave the forbidden

and dig this land.

 

I have long been buried here.

 

They always get distracted though-

already satisfied by a single flower, or an interesting artifact

when the garden is quite vast.

There seems always room for more- I have never explored it entirely.

Have never even measured the limits of myself

as I stretch and crumble the walls from within.

My eyes are buds, so I let my vines do all the groping

to reach the sunlight.

 

II.

What I know upon receiving sight:

I do not have a mother.

I was born from a sea foam.

From a plane crash. From the jagged propellers of a kamikaze jet plane.

Scorched by the sun for attempting to fly high,

I was casted to drown at the coldest depths. To remain restless

for refusing the fixated earth.

I’d like to say that the sky and sea are my parents,

But though I may seem like their prisoner, they have adopted me whole

Hardening my wounds with salt and spray

until I have finally submerged and become.

I can always rise and break structures down. This is my form of play.

Now I am storm. I am the monsoon.

I am the wave that catches the lightning, the cloud that broods over ships-

reading people’s lives as drifting leaves on a teacup. Eager to see how things

would unfold. If I stir,

Sailors mistake my passion for rage, my laughter for thunderclaps.

They appease me by throwing everything at my feet

Just for them to live. But I have no need of drowning men

Nor of their fancy baggage. All I want is for someone

to survive my tempests.

 

III.

The truth is, I am too old to be a child.

Yet I am a part of myself that remains here in the womb– an overdue embryo

making picture books out of a monochrome crayon pack.

 

Waiting to be born.

Wanting to be cradled. To be called by my real name.

To be here.

 

Just how can I give birth to myself?

My sisters have long been rubbing me to come out. It’s easy, they say.

You just have to break in. Push open the glass doors with a smooth swoosh.

See, everything is ready. Everybody is here.

The cake is sliced, candles are lit. The guests are now giggling in the dark

and your body floats ripe in a tub of cold water

All you need to do is to cut the fucking ribbon.

 

But my hands are jelly.

 

I do not know how to hold the blade with my fists

Less caesarian my way out of my body

What if I’m the one who needs to be broken?

So that I won’t be stuck here

 

Weaving worlds out of empty words to fill in the void of not knowing

Swimming in a dark finite ocean

Already content with the stories whispered into my ear

 

IV.

Three things I could still remember:

  1. Water breaking
  2. Waking up from a warm dream
  3. Welcome home

 

 

Grafting

Here, a piece of flesh.

I offer you a part of my skin, a patchwork of muscles and sinews, bared open to you like a live wire. Trace the green and purple cobwebs oozing with spurts of red. Watch how a tiny spider crawls its way in, weave itself a home, and be choked with its own trappings. This is my body

Which unravels before your eyes, and I break it for you whilst lisping a short prayer that you would not draw back.

No. I’m not asking you to heal me. Your hands are as cold as mine. Your sores blooming its way out underneath those layers of worn clothing you call skin. It calls out to me, latching on my fragile nerves, while I suck and drain both its poison and its blood.

We cannot make balms out of open wounds. I know, because I’ve tried.

Instead, let our skins be garments of each other. Let it weave a gauze on its own- a third skin that would hopefully wrap the scabs that we repeatedly scratch open. For the time being, lend yourself in mine, as I let the rough parts of myself patch your tender ones.

And when the time of leaving comes, when daybreak pierces through what we have made inseparable, let us peel ourselves away from each other- not out of repulse since we’ve already seen the repulsiveness of one another- but out of respect.

As beings who have been under the same skin.

Advice to Daughters

For the longest time, we are forced to play
the role of a mad woman– the woman in the attic,
the deranged lover, the desperate mother looking for her lost children,
the loveless nymphomaniac,
or else, the crazy cat lady– only because we have found ourselves
to be too intense, too carnal, too strong
to be contained, that we choose to be let loose
into a cage of this character sketch.

But wild one, we have stayed in this space for far too long–
finding solace in each other’s complexities and wickedness
that we forget that there are other acts, other parts,
and other stages waiting to be created and be played. Leave
and make yourself tender again
just as you have entered bravely
despite cold feet and countless rejections.