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.

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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.

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.