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Erratum and Apology: Author of “Valid Measurements” is Ria Valdez

Editor's Note by | March 3rd, 2015

We published the poem last March 1, 2015 under the name of Darylle Rubino. This was in error. The author of the poem is actually Ria Valdez. We have corrected it and will run the poem again in March 8 with the right attribution. Apologies to Ria and Darylle.

A Brief History of Body Parts

Poetry by | March 1st, 2015

Six years ago, these hands wrote your name on pages
after blank pages then colored it with the brightest fireworks
of January first and February fourteenth; like a quark soup
of admiration brewing a new artificial universe of bliss
then a sudden Big Bang and falling for a cloudless night
when the stars are out to trace lines in the sky to form
your face as the newest constellation along with metaphors
equivalent to “Can you be my girlfriend?” and “Yes, I love you too.”

Five years ago, these lips whispered Shakespeare’s love sonnets
within shared breaths where inhales and exhales rhymed;
when at every exchange of air from hope filled lungs
our tongues were mutual in longing for each other’s that tasted
like wines aged to serve one and one purpose only – to salivate
sacred liquors that flowed from breasts of euphoric gods.
This skin was yours to conquer with satin soft touches,
where surrenders were automatic; where losing was a glorious resolve.

Four years ago, these eyes wondered in awe at the morning light
caught in your snow white cheeks until your theatre curtain eyelids
open up to another day dreaming in a sunrise warmed bed
of promises of thirty-minute forever’s and eternal first times.
These feet wandered about the seven wonders of your hips,
the wake after the earthquake that destroyed
five Catholic churches in an apartment for one;
the plains where harvests of “You are my everything” sprouted
as plentiful as the abundance of what was once Fertile Crescent’s.

Three years ago, these arms held on to a thin thread trust and these palms
felt how brittle honesty can be when distance didn’t mean peace
like the white walls in my mother’s hospital room but only silences
after questions patterned to “Hoy! Naunsa na ka diha?” and time
bound assurances, “Paabot lang; mahuman lang ni nga problema
magpuyo na ko diha. Pramis!” and other frets frolicking about the four corners
of what was once we called home, with the cracks on its foundations
multiplied by infidelity born out of “I can no longer stand missing you
every day anymore.” On your other side of our world, the wallpapers
were peeling off while your room was emptied to welcome a new pseudo
infinite; painting the walls with the colours of a name that wasn’t of mine.

Two years ago, this liver had to survive long and multiple
episodes of misery induced alcohol intakes, drinking the past
as if every shot were one by one the strands of your hair
that were soft with nostalgia and black as the cruelty of fate.
These kidneys suffered sleepless days to work sadness off,
this stomach thinned from gastric juices over a diet bordering
to an ulcer of you and anticipated slow suicide over hunger
while waiting on these knees that fell hard to the ground
at every begging for a miracle that you’ll come back,
and this head, in the midst of everything, went mad!

One year ago, these hands were just hands without a reason
or a name to embellish except to write “bitch, you left me
when I needed you most.” These lips dried out from screaming
“Dili ko bitter!” and “Kulcob! Kulcob mong tanan!”
These eyes saw only sepia colored sheets on cold lonely beds
and greyed out apartment walls with no frames to hang,
with no color to match but only blues and solitude. This right foot
walked towards Polomolok while the left I have to pull out
from a grave with your name on the niche.

Now these hands just wrote this poem.
These kidneys, liver, stomach and knees are all doing fine.
And this head, this mind, knows very well that the dead
is supposed to remain dead

and that you

[in time and space]

the previous universe,

is just and ever changing feeling.

Darsi performed ‘A Brief History of Body Parts’ at LitOrgy 6, held at Cork and Barrel in Obrero last month.

Valid Measurements

Poetry by | March 1st, 2015

You said it was for PE Class.
Then you handed me a tape measure,

and I smoothened out the numbers
and the lines between them,

trying to get your fingerprints on my thumbs,
before I placed them on you.

Face width:
The mole under your left eye,
was six inches away

from the tip of my eyelash
and one inch above my thumb.

Face length:
The new scab on your chin,
and the unnoticed paint smudge

on your forehead was seven inches away
from the sweat forming on the tip of my nose.

Arm length:
The rainbow loomband around your left wrist
was five inches away from my hip bone

six inches away from my thigh
which was three inches away from your fingertips.

Shoulder width:
I was breathing four inches away
from your neck. You didn’t complain.

And after taking all these measurements,
I realized how far we were.

*Ria Valdez performed Valid Measurements at LitOrgy 5, at Saless Bar Tekanplor last year. LitOrgy is an annual literary event organized by the Young Davao Writers. *

A Programmer Attempts His First Poem

Poetry by | March 1st, 2015

Let me be straight:
when it comes to typing away
string after string of code
I can be quite verbose
but sadly, not poignantly so.

Now, I’m trying my hand at something
less mechanical,
(“less” here, I’m sure you’d agree
would be a gross understatement)
more evocative,
more personal,
and therefore more than I’m capable of
at least for now.

Feel free to write me off
on account of my newness at this craft;
but fault me you can’t
for lack of trying.

Hello world!

James lives in Cagayan de Oro City and, at the time of writing, is taking up Chemical Engineering at Xavier University. Occasionally, he wishes he majored in English instead… But meh. He writes, for the most part, just because.

A Leap of Faith

Poetry by | March 1st, 2015

1 2 3…1 2 3…1 2 3

Footsteps walking towards her
thunder and rain banging on the roof

Hide inside the closet
too dark to see

Knock, knock, knock

Too scared to get out
“Won’t somebody please come and save me?”
Heart beats fast, blood starts to rise
trying to get out of the darkness

1 2 3…. 1 2 3…. 1 2 3….

close your eyes
take a deep breath
trust no one but yourself

1 2 3…. open your eyes
free your mind
no one can save you but yourself
take the risk
get out there

believe that you can

take your leap of faith.

Ayessa is a graduate of Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Mindanao. She currently works at Offsourcing.

When a Ladyboy Loves a Foreign Man

Poetry by | February 21st, 2015

The art of seduction begins in the language of the lips.
When she says “Hello”, she means “you are attractive”.
When she says “You sound like a quintessential German”,
she means she has read Marx, Adorno, listened to Bach, Bethooven,
Pachelbel and could enunciate VolksWagen in the accent of a native philosopher.
When she says “adventure”, she means “a lazy afternoon
spent at the window overlooking the falls in summer.”
And when she says “But I’m a ladyboy”, the revelation rolls out of her tongue
like an exotic idiomatic expression any foreigner would be tempted to use.

For him, it seems like ordinary online dating.
For her, it’s laying down her magic cards
she has been waiting to open.

When he says he’ll keep in touch, he is in Brazil,
in a little town called Goais, and she is in Surigao.
Or he is in Toronto, driving downtown to attend a book launch,
and she is in Nabunturan wearing an apron and listening to Ella Fitzgerald
while preparing lunch for her father’s guests, and he is intent
on getting the book signed by her favorite author.
Or he is walking down the streets of Paris in winter
and she is in Davao, staring disconsolate at the mirror
mastering each fine stroke to lift her droopy eyebrows.

When she says she’s waiting for him, it’s twelve hours ahead of his morning,
she’s half-asleep at the computer. He is outside taking a picture
of sunset and eating focaccio, drinking wine with friends
and an hour later he remembers and staggers back into his room,
opens his phone where her messages await.

When she says “maybe tomorrow” she means “until when her anger
turns into longing” which usually happens three or four days
later. When she says, “I will be away for a month,”
she means she’s seeing another man. On her absence.
begins complaining and calling her names.

Years later, when she says “I love you”, she is in his arms
for the first time at the airport, wearing a flowered dress.
When he loves her, his word comes in flesh. He doesn’t complain
that she’s spending hours on herself at the mirror,
but only when she’s trying so hard to look unfaced
while wearing high heels obviously in pain.
When he loves her, he finds a bench for two where they can
have each other like common lovers.

When she loves him, she maps a trip in Camiguin,
making her love more obvious in a long red dress and native earrings
even only to swim shortly on a fine February afternoon
with the noise of fishermen coming ashore like a laughter
of astonishment in the landscape of scarcity and envy.
For him, only she exists. And her desire exceeds the ocean.

Some days language fails her.
What else can he do but study her silence?

When he says, “Distance is expensive,”
“so is my time,” she replies, attractive as the blue
velvet cake she’s baking for him.

They quibble on many things.
“You’re just too intelligent for me,” he says.
“I didn’t say I deserve a wedding ring,” she shouts at him
the night she received the news of another friend getting married.
“I can understand if another man will cross the ocean
for you,” he resigns in his inadequacy the last time he touched her.

Many nights she decided to give him space
and many empty summers threatened him the curse of regret
young men fear. It’s true.
Most men settle their affairs privately
or on a winning end, whichever
generates the least pain.

But when she says she loves him, she doesn’t only utter
the greatest quotes of Jeanette Winterson.
She lives her days spinning two worlds
where she and her beloved can live together.

When she says she loves him, she doesn’t want lose her illusions.
Back in her solitude, she continues to sing. She dances.
She cooks her best. She studies languages, films,
man’s interests, carpentry, automotive, astrology, wars.
She learns her body. She knows which pallets
to put on her face to mean longing.
She has mastered a few of the sixty-four skills of seduction
one of which is the art of making a lover happy
so that one day when he’ll be asked to recall
a moment in his life when he’s most happy,
he will remember her name.

Arian performed this piece to great applause at this week’s LitOrgy 6, held at Cork and Barrel in Obrero.

Dear Love (or Ten Letters from a Girl You Fucked Up)

Poetry by | February 21st, 2015

Dear Love: fuck you. I used to think you
would mean the world to me. At nine years old, I believed
you were something dreams were made of. I dotted my i’s
with little red hearts, and gently I pressed
little-girl kisses on Sticky Notes I left on my crush’s desk.
And even though I watched him peel each note off of wood
and three-point-shoot them into a bin, I stayed in love with the idea of you.
Early on, I knew you were going to hurt me.
Dear Love: where were you? Puberty was not so kind to me.
At thirteen, I jealously watched you flit
from couple to couple on February the 14th, smelling
of market-bought flowers and candy hearts. I saw you in the knowing smiles
of boys and girls who held hands in jacket pockets, because public displays of affection
meant a one-way ticket to the Principal’s Office.
Love, you sure took your time, I got used to never receiving anything on Valentines.
Dear Love: why couldn’t you stay? At fifteen, you meant the smile thrown over the shoulder
of the girl who sat in the front row in English class. You
were in every “Good Morning” and “Sweet Dreams” she texted me, you
sat in the creases that formed around her eyes whenever she laughed, I felt you
in the way her gentle hands trembled when she touched me. The first time she and I kissed,
she held my face with her fingertips as if I was made of spun glass.
Love, I know I never gave you enough reason to stay, right when I was warming up to you,
but it would have been great if you did, anyway.
Dear Love: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m sorry. At seventeen,
you came back again on a summer night, sailing on notes played
on an out-of-tune guitar. I did not fall into you this time, I’ll have to admit
the guy you introduced me to wasn’t really my type, but dear God
when he told me he liked me, the butterflies I thought were dead inside me
multiplied and flew around in my stomach. My ribcage
transformed into an aviary for beautiful, hopeful little things. I felt you
in every letter he wrote to me, you were underneath the pillow that he and I shared
in that creaky bunk bed that wasn’t even ours—never mind the fact that he had to leave
at 3 am to go back to his own room. Love, I will never
stop apologizing for pushing you away. When he and I ended up liking
the same books, the same songs, the same shows,
same actors, writers, pictures, the same damnedest little things,
I got scared. What I did still haunts me to this day. It hovers over my head like a ghost
I feel nauseous when I remember how I made him cry.
He and you deserved better.
Dear Love: you started leaving a bitter taste in my mouth,
because at eighteen, I began wearing my heart upon my sleeve,
sewing and un-sewing it again and again on whatever I wore just to see
if anyone would hold it, even just for a couple of months. And somebody did.
I knew it was you coming back for revenge, because you
came with someone you knew my unhappy self could never resist: a pretty girl
who told me I was pretty too. I fell hard—I laughed at all of her jokes,
I walked with her, talked to her, held her in my arms and told her,
“you’ll finish this year!”, I kept all of her gifts
and the promises I made, even when she didn’t,
I was fucking good to her. This time, you left me. She left with you.
Dear Love: how dare you do this to me. If you sprinkled crushed lead
all over my heart, you would see how the dust sticks to the fingerprints
that all of them have left, I am still writing about them, even though by this time
I should have run out of words to explain how you
still really hurt. At nineteen, I know that I do not have all the years I should have
to really complain, but dear Love:
if you had a neck, I would wring it. Dear Love: my heart
is not a test tube, you do not put fragments of people and stories and promises in it
just to see what happens next. This is my final letter.
Dear Love: I know
you are meant to be an open-ended story,
an ellipsis, a dot-dot-dot to be continued, a question
to be met with infinite answers. And I know that I hate you for fucking me over.
But dear Love:
for the love of all things good,
keep coming around.

Nina, one of LitOrgy’s most anticipated readers, performed this piece at last week’s LitOrgy 6, at Cork and Barrel, Obrero.

I am the Universe

Fiction by | February 15th, 2015

The sun peeked through the grayness of the clouds, filling the room with enough light for us to see each other. I stare at the sky, dark and gloomy, and then back at her. She was a little sun herself, even if everyone expected her to be a cloud.

“Mama?” she says. I realized she was awake.

“Yes baby?” I said, leaning in closer to her bed. My arms met the metal rod kept up to avoid her from falling and immediately I wince from the cold.

“Haha. You’re scared of the cold?” she said, giggling. I just smiled. I wasn’t scared of the cold but I was scared of the idea of her being cold, lifeless body. I rubbed her hand with my thumb, just above the plaster over the needle.

“How are you feeling today?” I asked her. I really did not want to know. I figured that the hurt she was experiencing was unimaginable. I realized this too late, but I guess it was necessary to start a conversation.

“I’m okay.” She said as she smiled. Her smile was very genuine that I feel myself start to cry, but I force the water back up. I cannot cry in front of my daughter.

Read the rest of this entry »

On a Sailboat

Poetry by | February 15th, 2015

Everything seems smaller from a distance.
Samal island is shrouded in silence.
The calm sea is like her smile at night—
I really miss her warmth in my bed.
But now I am drifting, alone,
in the stillness of these waters.
And the stars above give no comfort.

Simon’s poetry has been published in Philippines Free Press, Philippines Graphic magazine, Red River review, Easlit, and Kabisdak online.


Poetry by | February 15th, 2015

Runners in the morning
a Diaspora of hopefuls in pink
coming from nowhere
defying traffic and weather
to wherever ten kilometers may take them.
Their message and memories
are fastened to the numbered bibs
that they hang close to their chests,
careful not to lose it
to the slippery road.
What started out as a cause
to raise awareness for breast cancer
had become an uncertain run for their own lives,
as they keep their lungs from failing,
and their legs from falling.
Runners in the dawn
wet of sweat, mud, and dew
had only pride to eat and rivals for company.
And the gray sky and passing cars
are their only spectators.
The random hundreds brave
against time, like salmon in heat
fighting the currents
of the river, to warmer waters
they may never reach.
Like the herald Pheidippides
running from Marathon to Athens,
they hold on to the hopes that once
they finish the race,
they will have spread a message,
proclaiming victory
Over Persia, over cancer
Over the currents of the waterfalls
Over the slippery stretch of the ten-kilometer road.
See how they run, the runners of daybreak
noble and foolish they may be
as they surrender everything they have left on the race line
so they may finally reach the end
recover from the dark
renew their youth
and touch the Sun.

Fred graduated from the Creative Writing program at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. He likes to keep himself fit.