Footwork

what spectators don’t see in dancing
is that every movement is an act of vulnerability.
every pose and gesture
is read and translated
as a language
of reliance

exchanged in hours of pains and prickles
spent waiting on one’s toes;

developed in a gasp for breath
before the shifting of weight
from one foot to another;

still hoping
that an innocent misstep
would not crush the other’s foot.

there is no easy way to dance, they say

but we’ve waltzed over the first few rounds
like pros
never minding forms and conventions
dictated by tempo.

lover,
this isn’t the first time
i have been swept off my feet.

i have long been passed
from one partner to another
in some bizarre round dance
i was half aware about,

but you stepped in
at such perfect timing
to pull me out of the loop
with your offbeat footwork
and awkward coordination.

when the melody fades into a blare,
will you still be there
to hold my hand
and match my two left feet?

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State of Undress

A/N: i don’t usually give context about the poems i write about, but i’ll make an exception for this: SOU is a piece made to reconcile the horrible experience of finding myself naked, alone, and bleeding in a hotel room. It was one of those bad hookups that my friends warned me about, but i ignored because the person seem decent and easygoing.

I am already tired of using pain as an excuse for writing, but I need to exorcise this one. Yes, there are instances that writing about hurt hinders the growth of art, but there are also times that hurt must be grieved over and be exposed for what it is: an open wound. This is my attempt to to stop and disinfect the bleeding.

Hopefully the next poems I will write will be from a state of joy. From a place of security and affirmed affection.


What seemed to be relief last night,
became glaring curse at morning:
this darkness
courtesy of a middling hotel room,
an alternative go-to,
in case we’re too proud to admit
that we’re cheap
enough
to sell our skins by the hour,
to be rubbed raw,
in exchange for a stranger’s soul,
either too naive or too hollow

For hours, I’ve lain awake
over and under the dim’s thin blanket,
wondering
where shade’s light is,
where warmth should come from
in the absence of a body

How many people were there last night?
two? seven? fifteen?
twenty four if we combined all the ghosts of our pasts,
us, our two, included?

How many people have i made love to?
Screwed over and fucked by,
only to be left hanging
on an empty chair, a limbo
between second-use and replacement.

I have lost track of figures

in my pursuit of transcendence;
I have managed to detach
my mind from my heart,
my heart from the body
which continues to disintegrate and float
on the vast ocean of this queen-sized bed:
appendages, limbs, torso,
and at the core of the shipwreck— my sex
weeping blood in its wake.

Get dressed, my mind tells me. Take a shower.
But my body has long drifted,
farther and farther from this hotel room.
It searches for light
in the nooks and crannies
of every lover it once had.
Begging for an ounce of sympathy
or even pity
from what has been stripped,
fondled,
sucked,
slapped,
bitten,
stretched,
and made vulnerable.

There is nothing
but the red stare of the digital clock
reminding me of the time
to check out.

What the ravens told me

(1) how long will you sit at the marketplace, selling your flesh by the pound for such loose change?

(2) how often have you found yourself lying at the roadside next to a waiting vulture?

(3) how much pain are you willing to tolerate for the sake of art? or are you only using poetry as an excuse for self-destruction?

(4) where is your home? how far is it from here?

(5) who are you now? do you still know yourself?

Pilgrim

My feet are scarred from all the walking.
I have treaded pebbled paths
sharp enough to leave a trail of my own blood;
I have pitched my tents on cracked soil
that begs for the company of my tears;
I have lied awake at the roadside
patiently waiting for death to pass
but was only sustained by crumbs from strangers.

It is still surreal to believe
that this hardened earth-
also lends itself to the existence
of lush forests whose grass tenderly kiss the blisters on my soles;
of loam that yields itself to the turn of the seasons;
and of fine sand still clinging even if i shake them off.

The heart of a pilgrim
is always indecisive.
Torn between making a home in a place you feel loved,
and knowing that there is no permanency on any land.
Only continuous walking.

Skin

The ripping of thread from the fabric
is a revolt in itself.
This single fray meant
the expansion of flesh,
the resistance against
age-old structures we impose on our very bones.

im still amazed
at the wonders of elasticity
that our skins possess.
These stretch marks bear witness
to every near death experience
i managed to brink over:
summer nights when i had to tuck
my knees and ball-curl
as i blanket myself with my own;
lean days when i have to flex
and carry both water and earth;
monsoons when i need to walk through hurricanes,
only to glaze myself in a forest fire—
this skin remains taut and undaunted,
soft and pliable in its strength.

When he saw me undressed,
his eyes were mute
to the stories tattooed onto my flesh.
His hands were blind
to the knots and ridges that marked
the miles my feet have treaded.
Instead, he beckoned my body
like a boy holding a heavy porcelain.
Eager to feel my weight fall
on the curves of his palms,
but afraid to run his fingers on the cracks.
Unaware of the history that this vessel possesses.

The ripping of thread from the fabric
is my silent invitation
for us to unravel.
Here, lover.
Breathe grassland on my skin.
Taste the salt of my sweat.
Sink your teeth and find honey
buried under crusts of film, muscles, and sinews.
Bite hard.
You will not ruin me.
Open your palms and read my runes
as i bare myself and trace yours.

And when you yield,
i swear not to hold anything back.
Lips on scars, fingernails on scratches,
i will peel layers of yourself-
stories of where you’ve been to,
the names you were called at,
the random dreams that freckled your body
like stars on a vast sky.
i will rip through the garment you have made for yourself,
one thread at a time.
Secure in the feeling of being vulnerable,

i will find you beautiful.

Thirst

What makes me grateful on a rainy Tuesday afternoon
is this parched throat—
dry of saliva, tonsils sore
tongue scraped dry from overuse
still hungry for some form of affection
that it couldn’t give to itself.
No sweetened juice could quench it.
No honey can ease the pain
for every lump of rejection it has swallowed:
forehead kisses and unreturned calls.
 

Meanwhile rain pounds on glass windows
in fat desperate drops,
pooling the balcony floor
until it can find its way in
until the unwilling invites the persistent visitor
and water comes and drowns the room
making heavy furnitures float
washing all pressed memorabilia
and breaking open doors
that have long been shut
because its hinges are in desperate need of oiling.
 

A tongue sticks out as an extended hand
Waiting.

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.