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.

Advertisements

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.

Waking up at unholy hours

3 AM. A jolt from a weird dream
that I couldn’t even remember.
Instead, I am reminded of
messages- morsels of myself-
waiting to be returned
to my inbox.
Today’s just Sunday.

Yet my body is more impatient,
than how it usually is during a regular work week.
This is not the first time i woke up
at such unholy hours,
disregarding the laws of biology
manufactured by xanax.
I should have been sleeping
uninterrupted.

4 AM. My friend stirs beside me,
her soft body, a driftwood i cling onto
in these moments when my mind
resigns itself to a hurricane.
Her breath becomes a metronome
as I try to lull myself back between
fragments of memories and dreams:

When i asked my mom what love is,
she told me it was divine intervention.
Like Mary hearing about the future
from a cosmic force
she couldn’t really say no to.
Were you overjoyed? I asked.
She shook her head, and told me no.
Loving your father took a lot of time.
But it paid well in the end.
You just have to hold on
to the word promised to you.

5 AM. My friend shifts into another dream,
Her sleep talk both precious and incomprehensible.
I realized how frightening words are-
They are meaningful and empty.
A tangible collateral that can mean nothing.

My father once told me that the fear
of my mother’s absence
prompted him to fulfill his vows.
Love, he said, is when you realized
you have lost someone
and you couldn’t be the same again
until that person comes back.
When the side of your bed becomes
a vast desert,
you begin searching for water.

All this tossing and turning has made me thirsty.

6 AM. Maybe it was just a mirage,
but I certainly heard the church choir
as the town begins the day
with its series of masses.
I uttered a short prayer
before checking my feed for signs.
A short drizzle starts pattering on the rooftop,
but I didn’t mind.

It was time to sleep, my body says.
Go. Return to the world you are deprived of.
Today’s just Sunday.
No one gives a damn

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.

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