Transient Dreams

Maybe all I am looking for
as I sleep around in people’s houses
is one that finally says,
Stay.

You are no guest here.
You have long left your clutter
in the nooks and crannies of every room
This house will be robbed empty without it.

See, the dogs whine whenever you’re away.
Flowers grope blindly in search of sunlight,
and the side of the bed gathers dust,
stretches itself to a white desert, blinding
without water, without warmth.

I have always left my keys pressed on your hand.
Open those tight fists and let yourself in.
No need for any ceremonial fanfare,
or seemingly polite declarations of entry.

Just kick off your shoes. Unclasp your clothes.
It has been a long day.

Stay.

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Fatty Heart

When my grandfather joked
to all of my relatives
that i do not have the makings
of a dancer
because of my belly rolls,
i felt my body go stiff.
Possibly from comatose.
I could still remember how
his laughter blared to my ears,
muting my world into white noise,
unplugging me from the show girls
-my virtual playmates who pirouette
at the melody of heartache.
i was only seven.

When i was ten, my parents lamented
about my size.
Twice big for my age,
Twice young for aunt’s hand-me-downs.
She’s just large-bonedtita assured my mother,
so i was dressed like large-boned women:
office ladies in slacks and starched blazers,
nevermind if i rip or sweat through the garment.
i was the most behave in Sunday school
for sucking the tummy in,
in fear that a button might pop out,
and i have to bleed my fingers
just to sew it back again.

At twelve, i was asked countless times
what course was i taking in college,
and would i ever be interested
in applying for a car loan?
i would laugh at their faces and tell
that i was just in grade school
before scurrying home to take off
these grownup clothes
that fit my body just right.

At thirteen, a miracle happened:
my mother discovered
the surplus section of the department store.
Here, I bought my first pair of jogging pants
They were quite long, and very much blue
like the sky when swans fly.
It’s stretchable so it would fit you,’ the saleslady piped,
and the material felt velvet on my thighs,
clinging to my skin as I flit from one errand to another.

In my extensive knowledge of cartoons, I finally understood
how fairies shimmy gold dust
in their wake.
But i did not blind anyone.
Not when a number of drunk workers
traced my footsteps home,
calling me ‘juicy’-
a word printed at the rear pocket of my pants.
For a week, i drained myself
in the bathroom,
bleaching my sky blue pants
into the color of crushed cherries.

The subsequent years were lost
in the layers of mass I wrap around myself.
For every man who would follow me at the mall,
or for boys who would attempt
to write on my uniform,
I would swallow my inaudible prayers with a tall glass
of double chocolate milkshake
Thick enough to stifle
the many names i was accused at.
Sweet enough to coat
sensitive regions of my fatty heart.
I could not feel anything
I only need to be safe.

At seventeen, my security measures backfired.
i began to realize
that the fortress i built around myself
was too cold from the inside.
Slowly, I started to dress less,
trading my elephant jeans into shorts,
my scratchy shirts into sundresses.
Not for the attention of anybody,
but to the girl gazing at the mirror.
For the first time, I fell in love with my thighs,
the curve of my body outlined by a thin blazer,
the swell of my breasts,
the way my hair falls at mid-length—
framing not covering.
Surprised at the wonder staring before me-
how her body grew without any care or apology,
how she was hidden and bubble-wrapped
for the past years of her life,
told not to play with fire
because she has grown a forest out of herself,
and now she’s discovering
parts and parcels of her
that make her feel happy.

Alas, the apparition was only brief,
disturbed by the voices outside the fitting room.
my friend moaning to herself
that she has grown
from size two to four,
my mother complaining
about how could i ever afford to grow larger
when i couldnt even feed myself.
I wrapped a jacket around my heart
who suddenly got a chill from wearing less.
Half-convinced that she would appear
in my dresser the next day,
i probably drowned her when i dumped my sweatshirts to the laundry.

For years, i tried to search
for the ghost of my seventeen year old self
in every funhouse mirror
of friends, lovers, and crashed diets.
She was nowhere.

At twenty four, i gave up.
Resigned myself to a lifetime of recluse
after failed attempts of losing weight
or losing my body to strangers or to accidents.
I decided to strip and lay bare
this flesh of a heart
just for the last time,
prolly let it breathe a little
before it immures itself for decades.
I watched myself undress.

She was there, waiting.
Tucked inside the folds i subconsciously swathe myself with
for every rejection or predatory invite.
Aged, yes. A bit overweight.
But still has the same zest for life in her eyes.
She took me by the hand, wrapped it in hers,
I could hear my heart thunder in my ears.
I could feel my pulse fire in my fingertips
She smiles and welcomes me inside
to this home
to this heart
to this body.

Providence

Nights like these:
when the last traces of sunlight radiates
from your hand
into my cheek.

Salt in tears:
the base ingredient
for both joy and sorrow.
Felt in our tongues,
twisted layers of silent repining-
something we had to share
and go through
to realize the bittersweet taste
of departures.

Comfort of solitude:
Wandering through the desert,
making homes in makeshift tents,
acknowledging the fire within my body,
and finding means to tend its flames.

The gift of birth pains:
Learning the art of breathing
as water breaks from within.
Just when I was about to drown
in an ocean of self-induced penitence,
Life springs forth from the swell,
bursts the bubble,
and cries out for my name.

Bodies

You told me that this house is too small for us to live in. So I built us
a mansion: this funhouse of mirrors.
Now we live on opposite ends of this vast space, comfortable at the edges of our own loneliness,
merely acknowledging the presence of the other
as a next door neighbour
when there are thousands of uninhabited rooms between us,
waiting to be opened,
broken down and passed through.

I long to breach the distance that traps us in an endless hallway of what-ifs–
possibilities that could have materialised
should one of us break this truce
and step on the shards of existences we have shed behind.

I have left a number of broken beer bottles
at my passing. They carelessly scar on
the thin carpet of my skin, warning you
of every landmine I have set up at my defense.
I don’t know how to undo them
so I just pretend they never happened
but from here, I can still hear the sound of the ocean in your room,
the rattle of prayer beads that barbed your front door–
your lifesaver
from the continuous cry of the phone receiver
you left hanging in god knows where.
I know you are still there- breathing
sometimes floating, sometimes drowning
like I do here at the other side-

Oh how we have baptized ourselves over and under
in salt or in liquor
waiting for the sweetness to come
maybe in some guise of an intruder
who’s insane enough to ignore
all the caution tape we have weaved on our fences.
-I guess we are both insane to still believe onto each other
so we wait for one of us to come willing
to lose her place in the process of finding.
It has become quite a game
we are both patient enough to play.

Maybe on particularly good days
when we are almost sober to feel
the dust on our fingertips, we would be able
to grasp the door handles and turn open
each other’s knobs.
Discovering that we are just in adjacent rooms
with a secret door in between.

When that time comes, I will greet you
with a kiss of thousand words unsaid.
Years of longing and loneliness
cleansed away by this very second.
Tears on our cheeks,
hands in your hair, lips on my ear,
flesh pressing on flesh,
nails scraping skin,
mouth drinking from the wells of another–
We will make mad love to each other
tearing these rooms, screaming
through these swelling walls that made us apart.

Until then, this house becomes intact.
A shell for the winter that brews from within.
A body of fragmented personas

wanted: home

Tonight, i can’t write poetry. The verses are at the tip of my tongue. I can taste it. They are waiting to come out, but I cannot spit them. They don’t have a home to rest their weary bodies to. They are restless- swirling ever so slowly, until it creates a hurricane within. When it becomes powerful enough, it will force its way out, tearing my skin in the process. I wait for it to happen. This is how I self-destruct.

I often pride myself in being comfortable in my own company, but there are times- especially these times- that I just can’t bear the extreme loneliness and the emptiness that comes with it. I can’t fit in- no matter how hard I try my best to. All my friends are physically distant, and it’s quite hard to traverse cities when I have a 12-hour demanding job that keeps me stuck to my desk. Peers from work are approachable, but it has almost been a year, and I have rarely been invited to an after-work snack date or dinner. I tried initiating- but they were either too busy or our preferences are quite different. I was often there when they were discussing out-of-city trips or vacation plans, but the invitation was never extended to me.

And yeah, maybe it’s my fault for being this shy. But i really want to be included this time. Not just a second option when someone can’t make it, or there’s a gaping space that needs to be filled in. I’m sick of eating the leftovers from a party that I wasn’t even invited on the first place— just because it would be too bad to waste food. I’m tired of saying yes to requests in exchange of people’s favor. More importantly, I ABSOLUTELY HATE IT when, after a long day of trying to be this person that the people I like wanted, i get to hear it from other people that i am at my worst. That i have never lived to their ideals. That all my efforts, my sleepless nights, my tolerance of pain, my denial of self…they all amount to nothing.

I hate it when my life story gets twisted, and nobody bothered to hear my side about it. Just because im young, or new, or because im a girl- im considered as unreliable. Just because my faith is different from others, im branded as wicked. A witch made to burn with the fire from her own wounds.

Sometimes, i muse: what would it be like to suddenly disappear? Will these people ever look for me? Will there be a hole in their hearts just as they have bore on mine? Will I just be a facebook post, a memory that they can easily exorcise with just a tribute message and a selfie pic? I know life moves on for the living, but somehow, I also want them to die just a little at my passing.

My heart has died a thousand mini-deaths for each friend who grew distant, for each co-worker I couldn’t befriend, for each potential romantic interest that just couldn’t work out, for every time my family forces me to submit to their own versions of who i am to them.

I still couldn’t die. I’m too afraid of death- of what comes after it (due to my childhood conditioning). They say it takes courage to live, but all I feel now is just weariness and emptiness for trying my best to be. Life now is just an endless hamster wheel of tiring yourself with work, looking forward to weekends, being anxious about the upcoming week, and reliving the hell of performing again. I don’t think I can still last for a year with this kind of life.

Message through the Blackhole

Dear God, hello.

It’s I—
Your errant kid who still sits at the back of church pews,
having trouble in the women’s section of your long dining table,
questioning the dress code, trying my best to chew with my mouth shut,
and also wondering if I am legitimate here?
Are my queer friends here too?

While I’m at it, can I also ask?
Is this a personalised course meal, or can we select anything from the menu?
Because my mother keeps on playing with her soup,
silently hoping that the next meal would come
before she scrapes the bowl dry.
All the while, my sister is being berated
for her impetuousness of having steaks
for breakfast.

Regardless, i would like to say grace
for having the banquet table constantly filled.
We just ain’t sure if you like us to eat it.
I mean, we sorta developed
a post-traumatic disorder for picking
one of the fruits in your garden.

And because we are not sons,
we are double-shamed for every china piece
that got broken
for being too loud, or for liking something else,
or sometimes for forgetting to say
‘pretty please’ and ‘thank you.’
I even heard one of your boys say we ought to eat the crumbs
that fall from your table.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why some
of us here have grown extremely meticulous,
trying to prove their worth by
depriving themselves of the joys of dessert.
While others just swallow what is given to them
so that nobody could question their presence
turning a blind eye from predators who warn girls not to touch
that black forest cake
just so they can secretly pluck
the cherry toppers for themselves.

Still, i thank you for the abundance of fortune cookies
which you made available for each and everyone
who tries to find reason in the chaos that we made for ourselves.
They make up for the rest of the dinner conversation
while we all wait for You
to chime the glass bell.

I would also like to apologise.

I know it’s bad manners to tell you, the host,
these kinds of things.
I was taught to smile and trust that everything will be fine,
that this party is the best, and im sooo fortunate
for securing myself a seat,
but some of your close friends say
You’d appreciate our genuine feedback

Im also sorry for the times when I asked you for something
Only to change my mind
(i.e. my job)
Oftentimes I find myself not too sure
if my tastes have significantly changed,
or was I just influenced with what others are eating.
I don’t find milk as appealing as wine now,
but thank you for being aware of those nights
when i need my chocolate chip cookies
dunked in full-cream milk,
and for those aperitifs best paired
with your hand-painted sunsets.

Thank you for giving me time to chew
before I can fully swallow the magnitude of your presence,
for being invited to your party
despite my introvert tendencies,
and for seating me beside people
who have different ways of looking into things.

Thank you for letting
parts of you be embodied in metaphors
that we guests cannot fully grasp
try as we might.
And for not answering all queries or everything at once,
but assuring us that there is order at the head of the table
even though how far-placed my seat is to you.

Whitewashed

Maybe it’s just the wine talking, but let me confess:

when you echoed the words I have long spoken into thin air

I felt the universe answer my lost prayers—

For once, the mountains moved, and the earth opened its wells

for rain to kiss its cracked cheek.

For once, there was no malice in the exchange. Only a conversation

picked and continued after years of white noise.

And when I thought the sun would finally stand still,

The boon was suddenly taken back, jolting me from my trance—

All I have are just prayer beads spilled on the cold floor

As if the plea was too sinful to begin with.