Monday, April 30, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
This morning, for instance:
there are some words I said to you then
I'd like now
to suck back into my mouth and bury beneath my tongue.
But I can't, and so
what I'm doing instead is
just letting you know
that I don't like the tinny feel
those words left in the air between us.
You scream, waking from a nightmare.
When I sleepwalk
into your room, and pick you up,
and hold you up in the moonlight, you cling to me
as if clinging could save us. I think
I will never die, I think I exude
to you the permanence of smoke or stars,
my broken arms heal themselves around you.
I have heard you tell
the sun, don't go down, I have stood by
as you told the flower, don't grow old,
don't die. Little Maud,
I would blow the flame out of your silver cup,
I would suck the rot from your fingernail,
I would brush your sprouting hair of the dying light,
I would scrape the rust off your ivory bones,
I would help death escape through the little ribs of your body,
I would alchemize the ashes of your cradle back into wood,
I would let nothing of you go, ever,
feel the clothes fall asleep in their hands,
and hens scratch their spell across hatchet blades,
and rats walk away from the cultures of the plague,
and iron twists weapons toward the true north,
and grease refuses to slide in the machinery of progress,
and men feel as free on earth as fleas on the bodies of men,
and lovers no longer whisper to the presence beside them in the
dark, O corpse-to-be ...
And yet perhaps this is the reason you cry,
this the nightmare you wake screaming from:
in the pre-trembling of a house that falls.
In a restaurant once, everyone
quietly eating, you clambered up
on my lap: to all
the mouthfuls rising toward
all the mouths, at the top of your voice
your one word, caca! caca! caca!
and each spoonful
stopped, a moment, in midair, in its withering
you cling because
I, like you, only sooner
than you, will go down
the path of vanished alphabets,
to the other side of the darkness,
like the shoes left behind,
like the adjectives in the halting speech
of old men,
which once could call up the lost nouns.
And you yourself,
some impossible Tuesday
in the year Two Thousand and Nine, will walk out
among the black stones
of the field, in the rain,
and the stones saying
over their one word, ci-gît, ci-gît, ci-gît,
and the raindrops
hitting you on the fontanel
over and over, and you standing there
unable to let them in.
If one day it happens
you find yourself with someone you love
in a café at one end
of the Pont Mirabeau, at the zinc bar
where white wine stands in upward opening glasses,
and if you commit then, as we did, the error
one day all this will only be memory,
as you stand
at this end of the bridge which arcs,
from love, you think, into enduring love,
learn to reach deeper
into the sorrows
to come – to touch
the almost imaginary bones
under the face, to hear under the laughter
the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss
which tells you, here,
here is the world. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones.
The still undanced cadence of vanishing.
In the light the moon
sends back, I can see in your eyes
the hand that waved once
in my father's eyes, a tiny kite
wobbling far up in the twilight of his last look:
and the angel
of all mortal things lets go the string.
Back you go, into your crib.
The last blackbird lights up his gold wings: farewell.
Your eyes close inside your head,
in sleep. Already
in your dreams the hours begin to sing.
Little sleep's-head sprouting hair in the moonlight,
when I come back
we will go out together,
we will walk out together among
the ten thousand things,
each scratched too late with such knowledge, the wages
of dying is love.
Monday, April 23, 2007
I love when two poets speak to each other across space and time. I love finding these concurrences, hearing the infinite echoes, the way our memory and our imagination set up a perpetual motion ping-pong match of minds.
Let me show you what I mean:
John Berger - from And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos
What reconciles me to my own death more than anything else is the image of a place: a place where your bones and mine are buried, thrown, uncovered, together. They are strewn there pell-mell. One of your ribs leans against my skull. A metacarpal of my left hand lies inside your pelvis. (Against my broken ribs your breast like a flower.) The hundred bones of our feet are scattered like gravel. It is strange that this image of our proximity, concerning as it does mere phosphate of calcium, should bestow a sense of peace. Yet it does. With you I can imagine a place where to be phosphate of calcium is enough.
Jeffrey McDaniel - "The Archipelago of Kisses"
We live in a modern society. Husbands and wives don't
grow on trees, like in the old days. So where
does one find love? When you're sixteen it's easy,
like being unleashed with a credit card
in a department store of kisses. There's the first kiss.
The sloppy kiss. The peck.
The sympathy kiss. The backseat smooch. The we
shouldn't be doing this kiss. The but your lips
taste so good kiss. The bury me in an avalanche of tingles kiss.
The I wish you'd quit smoking kiss.
The I accept your apology, but you make me really mad
sometimes kiss. The I know
your tongue like the back of my hand kiss. As you get
older, kisses become scarce. You'll be driving
home and see a damaged kiss on the side of the road,
with its purple thumb out. If you
were younger, you'd pull over, slide open the mouth's
red door just to see how it fits. Oh where
does one find love? If you rub two glances, you get a smile.
Rub two smiles, you get a warm feeling.
Rub two warm feelings and presto-you have a kiss.
Now what? Don't invite the kiss over
and answer the door in your underwear. It'll get suspicious
and stare at your toes. Don't water the kiss with whisky.
It'll turn bright pink and explode into a thousand luscious splinters,
but in the morning it'll be ashamed and sneak out of
your body without saying good-bye,
and you'll remember that kiss forever by all the little cuts it left
on the inside of your mouth. You must
nurture the kiss. Turn out the lights. Notice how it
illuminates the room. Hold it to your chest
and wonder if the sand inside hourglasses comes from a
special beach. Place it on the tongue's pillow,
then look up the first recorded kiss in an encyclopedia: beneath
a Babylonian olive tree in 1200 B.C.
But one kiss levitates above all the others. The
intersection of function and desire. The I do kiss.
The I'll love you through a brick wall kiss.
Even when I'm dead, I'll swim through the Earth,
like a mermaid of the soil, just to be next to your bones.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I am here, now.
And these are the nights, now, I want to remember, nights that follow days of fins and masts and lying in the grass. Blue eyes. Without words, we are becoming our own language.
We wade into the water so cold it hurts, and I listen for your song.
Friday, April 20, 2007
She lends me her arms. Sinking into the basin, we both watch. They are far beyond rescue, dry and crackly from the dehydrating scour of the yellow and blue soap. I stand there with my own arms behind my back, so they leave an open space between my elbows and my sides. My mother pushes her own arms through that space, like in a comdey act, and cringes as she searches for the dishes at the floor of the sink. I have always struggled with humor. She is behind me the entire time, telling me that I should remember the way this is done. I can only look down and think about her words, her advice. I wonder why I should know how to do this, if my father does not.
“this is how grandma taught me.” And I picture my grandmother behind my mother, my grandmother’s mother, all the women before them with their arms extending from behind the arms of their children, a great succession with each new generation wondering why, why us, why have we been chosen for this duty to go first.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Sunday, April 15, 2007
God doesn't mess around with chores.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Sunday, April 8, 2007
we are eight. my cousin describes to me a devotional figure of the Madonna, pasted to a ceiling fan blade in the house he grew up in. I never visited the house in manila, but in a way, the superstitions he whispered to me after sunday school revealed a house of his invention, one impossible to visit without his stuttered, meandering voice.
sitting indian-style on the blue carpet of the First Anglican Church, he begins by twirling his pointed index finger around in circles, gazing up to the ceiling.
he says she blesses the room with each turn, each successive gust of wind, strong or weak, full of her wisdom, forgiveness and compassion. I am amazed, and i laugh. it isn't funny he says. but i don't think it's funny either, i think it's special, and i ask if i can go see the blessed virgin-of-the-fan sometime, when i visit him. he says no, that they're moving, and that no one knows he put her up there.
one day when my uncle was painting the ceiling of my cousins house, he left the ladder out, amidst a canvas tarp and assorted shades of beige that turned to fatty colored mud on the walls. when his father left, my cousin moved the ladder over the ruffled terrain of canvas, avoiding the pints of sweet smelling paint, until it was under the five-winged ceiling fan. climbing up to the fan, he carried the tiny statue in his mouth, biting onto the figurine's head. a necessary act, one that had to be decided upon in an improvisational manner.
i am full of questions for him. how he secured her to the blade, how it could be that no one found him out over the years. he just smiles though, raises his hand to tell me that these are things that i do not need to worry about.
there are still times, today even, when i look up at the ceilings in my own house. each home having its own particular kind of ceiling. some very smooth, others with rough specks of plaster in which i can see animals, nation-states, faces, a man with a beard. but i ignore the images. i focus on the tints of the white, the shadows coming and going, into and out of each other. the space becomes vast in that blankness, and I see the light fixtures, the places where the walls and ceiling meet, the corners, the cob-webs; all the time waiting for something spectacular to hit me in the face.
“Unsettling” is not quite the right word. Or it is…just not in the way we’re used to hearing it.
Un-settling…things are shifting. I am shifting. I am moving, and I am moved…by you.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
But it was not a gnashing, splintering, snapping break, a false memory of which I carry deep within myself, much like my memories of riding in an open helicopter and walking on wooden stilts, memories that are not my own, in this case a bone breaking and crumbling into a thousand tiny, powdery pieces, puncturing tender sinews and skin, painful to my ears somehow, like wet bricks.
And there is something of myself there, in that perception of a memory, in that bone that did not break, those bones that do not break, but I don't know what it is.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
And I can recall my father telling me that poor circulation is in my blood. Curious—my blood circulates poorly, because there is something poor inside its design. I think of those genes, those schematics compressed and reiterated, slowing down in my feet and condensing into pins and needles, weighing down my extremities. It’s numb, but I feel it so much more strongly now: its weight is new, alien, like it has grown suddenly into a giant’s foot. I can’t move, and I can’t articulate the deep sensation that stirs from the center, almost from the bone.
That blood isn’t moving. I wonder about the other things that live in it. The likelihood of heart disease, cancer, the slow and resilient deadliness that started somewhere in the unperceivable past, inched forward, a different kind of relative of mine waiting inside tender tissues my entire life.
My granduncle died of “ghost itch,” so they say. My dad has a photo of him inside his wallet, sitting in a wheelchair, missing his right leg because of advanced diabetes that in the Philippines went untreated for decades. He was a shoemaker, like my father’s father, his mother, his aunts and uncles and their mothers and fathers. He used to sit under a Banyan tree with a tiny hammer and tacks with heads the size of ladybugs. In the photo, the tree looks familiarly exotic, only there is a spot on its trunk worn from the backsides of my ancestors.
On the way home from the hospital, after his amputation, he said that he could so clearly hear the sounds of the cars, dragging their exhaust pipes, the skipping wheels of bicycles, especially the ones that had baseball cards fixed between the spokes of the back wheel. He said he could feel the wind on his missing leg through the open side window of the ambulance, later, through his bedroom window. The strange feeling of goose-pimples, the tiny hairs raising, the numbness we share, the terrible itch that’d kill him. He would describe many lingering senses in that long gone leg, even the cramps he would get in the knee just before stormy weather.
The feeling passes eventually, the pressure on my nerves subsides and the blood seems to flow normally, back on its course. I try and imagine a greater course, one outside of me. The one my brother has, the one my sisters would have had, their arteries and veins stretching beyond the body and forming children, filling them with our shoddy blood, circulating poorly. I can feel the itchy skin of children absent in the future, my future, but others’ also. The unrealized, infinite possibilities of sense—I feel the lack of the visual pleasures they might know, the taste for sweets, the sound of the radiator coming on, and the feeling of that numbness as well; pervasive, deep, given for all of us to bear.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Some of the greatest violence is done with great subtlety.
We spend our lives trying to control what can never be controlled.
Wholeness is not the same thing as healing.
We want to know God but we don't want to know each other.
Let those with ears hear and those with eyes see.