I am looking for redemption, salvation. To be honest, I’d settle for forgiveness. Though I’m not sure what I need to be forgiven for yet. I’m sure it’s no stretch of the imagination that I have a lot to ask forgiveness for. No leap of faith to say I don’t deserve it. People asking for forgiveness so rarely do. If you have to ask, you’ve already failed at something. But who hasn’t? Forgive me. Look at these outstretched palms. Look at the bleeding, the ache. Forgive the dirt beneath the fingernails, and the scars from insect bites and lack of self-control. Forgive the twisted ankle and bloodied knees. Forgive the split ends and rough palms. Forgive all this grit of living – believe me, I’m contrite. Done my best, but the stretch marks still won’t fade, the vision is still blurry, every mystery bruise still refuses to fade. I am growing in unwanted places, the curves are spouting up against my will. Please, I only wanted to be forgiven for all this – this blemish, this ugly, this disgusting. I cannot stop apologising for all the parts of me I have been trying to make disappear. It’s harder than it looks. Forgive me this stubborn, this self-preservation, this selfish, this afraid. A boy I once loved told me that it was difficult to forgive me for things I haven’t forgiven myself for yet. Forgive me for everything I haven’t forgiven myself for yet. Forgive me for my not enough, too much, asymmetrical, disproportionate, unloved. Forgive me for the mornings I cannot drag myself out of bed and for the nights I cannot get back into it. Forgive me for the trembling, the sweating, the messy, the dirty, the disgusting, the living. Forgive me for needing forgiveness. It isn’t attractive, this lack. Believe me, I understand. Forgive me.
A/N: This one came from the (honestly, slightly cliched by now – but hey, you don’t choose what sparks inspiration, right?) writing prompt “If you came with a warning label, what would it read?”. Alternative title: An Open Letter To Every Boy Who Ever Has Loved/Loves/Will Love Me.
I am difficult to love and even more difficult to understand. I am still working on understanding myself, sometimes. Still figuring out how much further I have to swim to get to shore. How to stay afloat in this ocean of a body. Or at least how to breathe saltwater. It is difficult.
There are fewer bad days, now. The bad days are still bad, still do not speak to me do not touch me please I cannot breathe I cannot breathe I cannot breathe I am drowning please still love me in the morning I cannot breathe, but I am trying. I don’t know how not to – I read once that when a person begins to drown, the lungs instinctively move to gasp an inhale, but finds only water. But I am learning how to hold my breath, growing gills to help stay underwater. I am trying.
I have tried to be different. All my life, I have been trying to be beautiful like a sunset viewed from some sandy cove you’d want to keep in your back pocket for when you need to watch something ending gracefully. I am trying to accept that I will never be a sunset. I am trying to understand that I might be beautiful like a tidal wave, like a thunderbolt, like a hurricane. I am a tidal wave, a thunderbolt, a hurricane. Please, still love me in the morning.
You will hate me for all of this, one day. You will hate the days I cannot find the energy to pick up the phone, much less call you. You will hate the days I need to see your face to remind me this is real. You will hate my insistence that this is normal, that I do not need to be saved. You will hate the endless back and forth, the highs and lows. You will come to hate the endless cycle of the tides, the waters moving away and returning, always returning. I do too. I would be easier to love if there were no struggle, if this were simpler. And you will hate yourself for leaving a drowning girl to the mercy of the tides. Or you will hate yourself for not being a strong enough swimmer to pull her to shore.
I would stop you, but you are already doomed. They say that once a sailor hears the siren song, he is already long dead. The only way past is through, the only way through is to refuse to listen. I am selfish. I want you to hear me. Do you fault sirens for the deaths of sailors? All they did was sing. Perched on rocky cliffs battered by the sea that has been trying to claim them for lifetimes – can you blame them for wanting a little company? We are all selfish creatures. You want to love the drowning girl, see if you can teach her how to swim. Me, I’ve never been a siren. Don’t have the gills for it, no matter how much I’ve tried to convince myself. But a little company would be nice, I guess. Please, still love me in the morning.
I am selfish. I am trying not to be, but it is difficult.
I am sorry I cannot breathe. Please, still love me in the morning.
A/N: Recently, I’ve been in a drought, writing-wise, so an exercise I’ve been adopting to keep me writing (something, anything, please) was to rewrite past poems. I’ll be posting this redux series now, though I have, thankfully, managed up to scrap up some new content here and there as well. This particular piece is a rewritten version of this poem.
over two thousand languages
have never been written down
surviving on the curl of the lip
the gentlest flick of the tongue–
the way i have never been able to write enough words
to describe how sunbeams reflected off the ocean
and us thinking the moment would never disappear
or how some days all i do is wonder if one day
i will head into the darkness and never return
or me freezing up in a crowded hallway at the sight of a ghost
on the almost-forgotten horizon of hazy memory
in just three dozen years
seven thousand languages will be extinct
that is, clumsy tongues will give up
trying to reproduce their exact syllables–
seven thousand languages I will never learn
seven thousand ways I might have said I love you
seven thousand ways you could have said goodbye
our love is a dying language–
you’ve already forgotten how to speak it
I guess it’s too late to live on a farm. These hands are already city-soft, fingers meant for hailing cabs and hanging on to train railings. These shoes can walk paved miles of city blocks, but these feet would never know what to do with dirt.
I never learned to tell the time with the sun, the seasons with the stars; I mark the steady marching of days with mall decorations. Already, they are taking down the Easter eggs and bringing in the fake sand and beach towels. I amble around the same malls watching the same windows that have always been there, sit in an endless procession of coffee shops just to get out of the sweltering heat. The pavement sizzles. The city breathing sounds like the steady buzz of air-conditioning. I guess it’s too late to wish for a breath of fresh air. I’ll have to make do with hoping a passing bus musters up a breeze. All I get is a face full of exhaust and a body too exhausted to battle rush hour crowds.
I hail a cab, whisper my address like a prayer to deities that I still hope are watching. The driver slows to a halt in front of a church, makes the obligatory motions of fingers to forehead, chest, shoulders, amen. The radio is blaring, another song with the same four chords and tired metaphors. I guess it’s too late to hope for anything else.These roads are clogged arteries, and I have spend too long away from this city’s heart. I am struggling to find a pulse.
I need to be reminded what earth smells like, so I plant windowsill gardens. Mint will have to substitute for stalks of rice or mango trees. The sunset is a beautiful blood red, if you manage to forget how much smog sun beams push their way through to get here.
I guess it’s too late to go star-gazing. Constellations never stop moving here. Lately I’ve been trying to map out patterns in flights coming and going, but they’re never there for more than a few seconds at a time. Then the not-quite silent silence. The not-quite dark darkness. See, nothing is ever quite here. See, nothing is ever quiet here. See, I am never alone here. See I am always alone here. There are always souls wandering the streets, ghosts in dark alleys, apparitions begging to be seen. My gaze goes right through them. We are the hollow voices, tentative footsteps, hands clasped so tightly our nails dig into skin.
The coffee shops are always filled with precariously perched cups and pale faces shivering from the manufactured cold. The dark circles are permanent features on their faces. Those of us lucky enough to scrap together a few meager extra hours manage to stumble into rumpled beds before daybreak. The rest pour cup after cup of coffee down their throats, tongues burning and fingers trembling from the caffeine.
I set my phone alarm to the sound of a rooster crowing, a pathetic emulation of some semblance of a rural morning. I guess it’s too late to get a good night’s rest. Sweat dripping down my back. Blankets tossed to one side. The hypnotizing whir of a ceiling fan. Sleep. No dreams. An hour or two is never enough for dreaming.
Six in the morning, I am lining up to catch a jeepney. The sun has risen over skyscrapers and makeshift shacks of corrugated metal. We are all praying for rain. I guess it’s too late to be asking for salvation, so I’ll have to settle for absolution. Wash away the dirty, the grimy, the subtle tinge of unreal. Please, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let this city baptize me in its thunderstorms. Let me manage to find higher ground in the floods.
Later, I return to my shoebox apartment to find the mint leaves have withered away, drooping. I should buy a cactus, I think.
I guess it’s too late to grow much else.
Being a dreamer is difficult even
when it seems as though it should
come as naturally as breathing.
Because opening this heart is difficult
when I forget how to forgive;
if you get what you give,
well, then I will stand here
palms upturned and empty.
A lot of things should come as
naturally as breathing, but don’t.
My heart feels like it doesn’t want
to beat but it has to keep going because
my heart is an involuntary muscle
that means that even if I want to stop
I cannot, even if I want to stop, I do not
want to go, I do not ever want to go.
I want to stay forever, never leave
Neverland, Peter Pan staying young,
staying free in a kind of nostalgic dance.
And if I stay here, if I just stay and stop
will you stay with me or will you leave?
Maybe I don’t want to know the answer.
Leave me with some hope that I know
your reply will be exactly the words I
want to hear; the scenes in my mind
are more fantasy than reality, but they’re
more beautiful than real-life. Maybe that
makes them true, more three-dimensional.
Also math is really beautiful because
it just makes sense and there is always
an answer, even when real-life problems
only ever leave me with unsatisfactory
guesses. And you solve problems no one
else wants to and I think that maybe
it’s the noblest thing in the world. And fractals
and Fibonacci numbers and infinity and zero
sound more like a religion than a science
sometimes. But maybe it’s beautiful because
it’s both a science and a religion and
more beautiful than reality and yet perfectly
true, and somehow more than it is and
exactly as it always has been and
Maybe I’ve always dreamed that
one day everything will just make
sense, everything will just add up.
All of a sudden, this life will just
be right. Like a perfectly solved
equation, eternally true in the
shifting sands of life changing.
I have big dreams but little hands
and my palms cannot even stretch
to hold enough water to keep me alive.
How do I reach for the stars when
I cannot attain escape velocity and
the nearest stars are lightyears away
and even if I reach the sun all I will
do is burn up to a crisp? It just doesn’t
make any sense to carry on with living
when all the math says I am dead wrong
to keep on hoping for impossibilities.
Dreaming is flawed.
Dreaming is an error in an otherwise
perfect proof – it scares me and this
is why. But I can’t help but do it anyway
because a dream is a wish your heart
makes and my heart is an involuntary
muscle, and i never chose to keep dreaming
like how my heart is still beating after all
this time and my mind is still racing,
still looking for problems to solve,
when all I want it to do is just stop.
“the total amount of matter and energy in a closed system is constant.”
–the principle of conservation of matter-energy
that is to say, there is a finite amount of matter in the universe.
that is to say, these atoms of mine have been around since the beginning of time.
that is, god said, “let there be light” (maybe). that is, the big bang (maybe).
whatever it is you believe in, that means there was nothing
and then there was everything in just one moment,
and then expansion. that is to say, all of creation started moving
away from everything else and it hasn’t stopped since.
that is to say, one day galaxies will move apart
and (maybe) expansion will overcome the attraction of atoms
and then there will still be everything, just farther apart.
don’t worry. it will be a while yet.
we’ve got time. between the beginning and the end, well,
there is everything there ever was, is, will be—
an infinite (maybe) number of combinations of particles.
that is to say, you and i are made out of the same electrons and protons
that have been around since the beginning and
these bodies are just stops along the way to the end.
that is to say, out of all the infinite (maybe) possibilities,
the universe came up with you and i. that is to say, love,
we were a minor miracle.
you told me once you don’t believe in miracles. or the afterlife. or god.
but i do believe in reincarnation. i believe in quantum entanglement—
that is to say, two atoms can be somehow connected, no matter how far apart they are.
that is, (maybe) your atoms and mine are linked.
or (maybe) i’m just a stop on the way to your destination—
i’ll never find out for sure.
just like how we’ll never really know how the universe will end.
but i do know that it’ll still be the same atoms floating around in space.
just a bit more disorderly. entropy, my dear—
that is to say, the universe tends towards brokenness.
that is to say, miracles don’t last forever.
that is to say, these atoms of mine will touch the ends of the universe
one day, even though i won’t be there to see it.
but for now, i can reach out and touch your hand.
and that will be enough (maybe).
A/N: Again, I’ve been playing around with some odd things. Some of it works out, most of it doesn’t. I thought I’d let some of it see the light of day and see what happens.
Claim: The intersection of you and I only ever implies heartbreak.
We begin the proof with an assumption –
some unproven axioms the case rests on.
We begin with this: with boy meets girl,
same old story this has always been.
A series of implications next.
One meeting leads to another.
This implies Saturday nights on the dance floor.
This implies coffee breaks and walks in the park.
This implies early mornings before sunrise.
This implies a feeling in my stomach I cannot describe
Something not quite quantifiable
But certainly not imaginary.
From this we derive an inequality.
The science of restoring what is missing
and equating like with like.
We were always so equally alike.
But something was always missing.
It must have been some fatal flaw gone unnoticed,
one stray line in an otherwise perfect proof,
an exploitation of the definitions we thought made sense,
a mistake neither of us caught.
Algebra comes from the Arabic al-jebr
“a reunion of broken parts”.
It makes so much sense now
why we never did seem to add up.
We were never a reunion of broken parts –
just two broken people desperately hoping
for another hand to clutch in the darkness,
for another smile to light up the nighttime.
The proof begins with an assumption.
It ends like this:
“I love you.”
Quod erat demonstrandum.