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the poem has a beginning exactly as you’d expect it:
pa in sweatshirt, ma with purse; the funny thing is
i never used to call them those names:
always found them too cowboy-ish,
too un-me, un-like

us: who held chopsticks before dinner time and shared
stories of how grandpa came over from china.

ii. (at the dinner table)

there is no symbolism here. there has been none
for a while now. this household eats and
eats in quiet. my grandmother is a poet but their
books all burned down

back in ’45 when mao stormed into fujian and
all her uncles could eloquent on was that
“the communists were coming!”
“the communists were coming!”
and instead of poems took with them their
children, and their gold to pawn

and their clothes on their muddy
mortar-stained backs

and the japanese


my grandfather now comes twice a week to the
hospital for chemotherapy. it is a nice hospital.
good view of the cleanest part of our *****

city. there are lights and white folks now. two things
my dad said did not used to be there. they

used to be spanish. they tilled
our rice fields and spent the money on living rooms
with lots and lots of space to sleep. we on the other hand,
worked. he claims.

your grandfather and his grandfather and i


awake every sunday morning at precisely 8:30.
made to go down to the temple in kalesas
and told to fetch the office paper for
noontime reading. see we weren’t spoiled: grew

up just next to the pasig river which back in
the 70s did not smell as bad as sin only

and the sweat we soaked them in we reeled along
steamed fish heads and chopsticks for picking at them with
and bowls of rice we never really ate with spoons.

v. (back at the dinner table)

i listen to my mom and dad
sweat profusely in the evening heat only we can have here
he in his sweatshirt and she
with her golden purse,

preparing to leave - a wedding party awaits -
an jacket draped over his shirt just like grandfather used to do it
in a sense,
but gripping the chopsticks delicately for all us
to see:



it is not cowboys that give us our names.
reverse engineering:

i will know still your voice,
how your silence splits words
into pieces, as you break me
with your collared sweaters and polka dot
socks: tell me i am floating,
question my Gods, forbid me
from touching your church elders; your parents’

i will know your laughter, a tad frail:
the voice of an unsteady
deity - your fingers - never stilling a pen,
nor sketching a hand - whittling
my own: your chin trembling as you chide me
for their largeness; i show you their erasures:
your lack of wayward lines; your work
of an artist.

i tell you to sing, you tell me not to -
you arm yourself and lock away in your room,
say your poetry terrible,
wrong, un-joyful, cross-averted; they cracks
in all the wrong places like your flimsy
hands, like your hopes massive-disintegrating
like the feebleness in your dust-allergic bodies; your lack

of lungs: brittled long by heavy-handed
words and thin brushes: you with death -
the un-wayward stroke: You
who are sickly, whose quiet breaths reach
where we cannot find

and find the places where
our gods long to be touchable.
My mask covers me
For my sins
Because I am wicked
Do not look at me
This mask I bear
Brings me shame
Relying on myself
Is all I can do
Remembering love
is worthless
All my sin
Placed in a bottle
All my tears

How much more do we deserve?
An unfailing love
that is pure and genuine
Such a thing exists
According to God
Eternal life and everlasting joy
are given to those who believe in Him
A new life, a new mask
A different perspective
(Read from the bottom up once you've reached the end)
For volleyball games with our kids*

and the grit of dirt slipping through your teeth
like a pancaked hand flat on cement surface.
Ball. Court. It is a good morning and
the sunrise rises to give life to the game. This game:
ours. We run and jump and sing; old bones

made to jog its memory. Bounces the ball and we run
again. Laughing like children. Next to the children.
Leaping after them. Watch as the ball rises high
in the sky next as outstretched arms give chase
to them: its hands caked with dirt; gravel on nails
from the swept cement rock and line paint. This we

share like a communion, a church service. Young
and old, here and not here we rise and we
fall prostate next to the prayers of the net, the brush of fingertips
against fabric against rubber, each palm
of the ball a Sunday chorus stretching, congregation, religion,

swept from the sky and made to kiss ground where
the gods of our sweat and grit belong.
We were the kings and queens
Standing tall and proud with our scraped knees and missing teeth
Wielding illustration board swords and construction paper crowns
As we ruled our backyard kingdoms with justice and innocence

We were the greatest heroes that ever lived
We donned our stark-white towel capes and sprinkled baby powder pixie dust on our backs
Our feet never left the pavement
But we soared higher than the cotton candy clouds

We were astronauts orbiting the cold darkness of space
Protected only by our tin foil and cardboard helmets
We spent hours counting every twinkling star and hitching rides on each passing comet
Marveling at the earth with eyes as bright as the nebulae that pierced through the velvet blackness

We were builders, inventors, creators
We built up and tore down skyscrapers with the touch of a hand
We formed galaxies that dripped from our tongues like honey
The earth itself moved along with our bodies that never seemed to tire

But we were only ever seen as children
They told us to stop horsing around, to stop our nonsense
But this “nonsense” was the only thing
That had ever made sense to us

“Grow up.” Those words stung like a slap to the face
“Grow up.” They left sticky teardrop trails on our cheeks
“Grow up.” Repeating over and over again until they made our ears bleed
“Grow up.” Until we had no choice

So we took off our crowns and left them to rust
Crumpled and abandoned at the bottom of our backpacks
Collecting pencil shavings and pad paper debris
Crushed by the weight of our responsibilities

We removed our capes and robes
Dropped our swords and shields
Leaving them to rot in the very closet
Where we sought courage to fight the monsters that we used to be scared of

We traded our tools and scepters
For textbook rifles and good-grade grenades
And our feeble little bodies could barely take the load
We were drafted in a war that we were too young to fight

We tucked away every trace of our childhood
In the pockets of our ripped jeans and underneath our briefcases
We hid them from prying eyes and jeering tongues
Hoping that the blossoms sprouting from our minds wouldn’t be seen through our hats

We lost touch with our past
Like an childhood friend who moved away
And although you never saw him again
You still remembered his name

Why are we so afraid to let our minds run free?
Do we fear the goldfish bowl of judgement so much
That we do our best to make it seem like we have nothing from our past left to show
And we only end up ripping up our imagination to destroy the evidence of its existence

But child, I hope you find bits and pieces of it
Whether they are wedged in between the pages of your favorite book
Or folded neatly in an old shoe box
Or perhaps sitting in your mother’s attic, gathering dust

Maybe you’ll find it in a series of knocks on your door
And I hope you let it in
And listen carefully while it speaks
Let it tell you stories of when you were royalty, a hero, an astronaut, a builder

And when it hands you a crown
A cape, a helmet, a sword
Please don’t be ashamed to use them
Don’t be afraid to remember

But if you tell it that you don’t need those things anymore
And that you no longer need them to dream, that’s okay too
Because growing up never meant letting go of your imagination
It only meant turning it into your reality
A piece I did for our school's music and poetry event called Voix.
They guard our gates. We are ruled by mechanised gods.

We are not free.
We are not real.
We are not awake.

Our mornings wake up to dew and smoke. We wake up and pick up our broomsticks and sweep.

You and I are made to sweep.
And it is through these sweeps we dance our fated dances.

Dance to wake the castles,
and water the gardens,
and venerate Emperors long dead and gone.

“This,” we say, “is our duty.”
“To belong.”

“To bow together.”
“To hope as one.”

We, all key cogs in the machinery. Everyone has a broom and dustpan. Everyone is made to sweep.

"Is this the land," we ask, "that we sang for and dreamt our feverish cartoon dreams for?"
Perhaps not. Our stories exist only in a land beyond time.

We’ve been there. It is a mechanism for the gods. They too hold brooms.

They too sleep in shrines of stone.
They too live in temples of steel.

The gold ones have long ago burned.
It is impolite to wonder
whether the hot air balloon in your
lungs have begun to deflate,

Whether you wish to float away.
Dad said you never feared flying -
dad said nothing about it, rather.
But I fear for you.

You are old. Older than I can ever imagine.
You are frail but for the globes rising
in your chest and stomach; they fall
with each frail breath.

Let it carry you away. Do not
let these wires hold you down. They do not
pump poison into your body. They do not
let the heat escape.

If it must, it will, grandfather. The ceased oldness
in you expanding and contracting
at will. You will not die without a fight,
grandfather. Oh you will.
Was never close to you. But you're an intriguing study. Very grave.
If the world were to end today,
I’d probably say to myself.
wow, looks like I only have 24 hours left in this world huh?
I’d spend the 1st half by grabbing my family members, give them the tightest hug I can give, and tell them that I love them, and thank them for everything. I’d probably apologize too.
And I’d probably start to shake, like a child craving for sugar.
All jittery, shaking from the thought, that I will only have 24 hours to figure out,
how to muster up the courage to tell you the things I’ve been wanting to say.
I’ve already done the math, and I’d be spending 2/3rds of my remaining time here, just getting to your house a midst the traffic.
and 3/4ths trying to bring you to the nearest mountain for us to watch the sunset, as the world crumbled away beneath us.

If the world were to end today.
I would grab my heart, whisper all the things I love about you,
seal it and then bury it into the depths of your existence.
In the hopes that when God is digging through the mine cave of your heart, he'll find it, and then open it like a time capsule, filled with all the things that we enjoyed, like cheese, long walks, spontaneous hangouts, and like our memories.
That when God opens it,
He’ll see a yellow sticky note, requesting Him to read it to you.
attached to a letter written in orange ink that I wrote specially for you.

If the world were to end today,
I’d like to get lost, In the spirals found in your eyes.
Your eyes is the number 1 thing in my list of favorite things.
Because they remind me of space, and galaxies that I would never ever get the chance to explore, knitted together by constellations that spell out your name.

And dear,
Our kiss will be like 2 galaxies colliding against each other,
Giving birth to a new galaxy.

But you know what, that got me thinking.
And I remember that when the big bang happened, or when a super nova happens.
That wasn't really the end of everything.
They all seem to signify a brand new start.
So I guess
The idea of the world ending, wouldn't bother me as much anymore.
Cause with us fading away,
Our molecules, atoms whatever we're composed of, will eventually find it's back to us.
And when that happens,
I'd be like a brand new star.
Because I know that i'd be able to see you again.
Like God saying again, "Let there be light." And there was light.

And for me that's like God saying again "Let there be you." And again there was you.
Inspired by Sofia Paderes' work "A To Do List: End Of The World Edition"

Written as a letter for someone who used to be special.

And was performed at the last open mic of Sev's Cafe "Ang Huling Kabanata", before they closed their doors indefinitely.
we are not butterflies
wings splayed flat across tables
like specimens. we are
not fluttering in the wind
like figurines. we are

and love, and hope and
faith floating eternally
in the distance, just
and beneath our grasp. past
the skies we fly still,
splayed across blue
like specimens. poised
to spring to life
like figurines. we

are beautiful. we
are strong. we
are feeble, and plastered,
and nailed half-folded
to surfaces that scrape against
our cheeks but still
we fly. still

we are not butterflies.
for my brother who still chooses to fly away.
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