A Thousand Tankas (1)



Dark granules streaming,
water whistles on the stove;

spoon bangs surfaces,
noise of the melting sugar;

anywhere is silence, still.




The lavender
bush on the veranda
is blossoming,
a taunt or dare, not sure,
I see no bee around.




On tiptoes,

the edge of my bed
to the tub
an endless traverse,

no shore, no ocean.


Empathy of Leather


The couch
welcomes my aches
as though
I’m an orphan
looking for arms.


Barren Nights



my belly)
is now dead.


Maladies without Antidotes


The mind that asks the same unease, the chest
that heaves for faster beats, the body tightly crouched
perhaps to yearn for arms that know mistrust,
the saddest soul whose breaths are hushed, I see myself
in glass, on coated wood, with open eyes or closed.


Hurting on the Toilet


My second joint of rolled hashish,
I thought of cinder smoke and dying fire,
the grains of sand, the rowdy waves;

my skin recalled the shallow burn of flares,

the frigid feel of water soothing ache.


Blind Date


The bridge is still around
to ask, remind, obscurely mock:
his hands that held my waist,
the sudden wind that hissed, the noise
of river flow, the citrus moon.




The kiss I get
on algid nights—my skin

defies the shake
of bones—a cup of tea
my tongue allows to slip.


Clenched Fist


I smoke
to burn my hand,
an act
against the pain,
the wound I keep.


Forms of Myself


Nope, you don’t have to

tell me more… how it drowns

deep: sorrow. My tankas are
enough; let the short verses cry
out for you. Look, the sunset.




All door knobs unlocked,
the window panes slightly open,
even the scuttle hole,
the wall cracks remain unfixed,
and I have been waiting.


Long Story


Where to begin:

your kiss that night,
the absence after?

The pale-waxed floor,
oak laminate, dead quiet.


Winter on the Patio


The hug
of cigarette smoke,
thick, loose,
not as warm;
above, the moon.


For E. E.



a leaf
to go
in autumn.


Photographic Memory


I don’t know anymore how to forget
the eyes that lured, the lips that said nothing, the hand
that pulled mine into the empty lair;
I’ve mastered recalling, existing in the past, going back
to the sepias, the black-and-whites, the slow fades in my mind.


Don’t Leave


Me. You once asked about the saddest
song. I said it was slowly sung by a French

guy. I could only remember the pearls

of rain. You still got the foreign senselessness
of words. But your heart didn’t catch the fire.


Before Bedtime


I studied the table lamp
(the shade seemed like a tent,
the wood base implied,
a bonfire after the quick drizzle)
and turned it off, hoping to forget.


Untaken Selfie


Still life:
empty bottle of vodka,
drying apple,
croissant covered with mold;

I staring at the bare table.




the remote in haste,
then pressed
called my name.


Desire to Drown


I whisper no name
to the billows of the waves;
theirs is not my tongue.

My eyes can only appeal:

spare me yet again today.


Last Word


Before he left,
his finger on my arm
drawing something,
I said it quick: blossom,
but it felt like goodbye.


Lesson for Gluttons


I didn’t

know how to devour
passion fruits

’till he showed me how
to swallow the seeds.




I ask which one
is sad:
the patchouli
or my shoulder.




me try this


in my mouth.




When you held my hand, I didn’t push yours
(clinging made me feel secured, desired and guarded);
why you gently pulled my yielding shoulders
(though my body had been spineless since I let you),
baffled, scared and pained—I didn’t know its meaning.


Widowed Grandma’s Old Recipe


Crushing cloves of garlic tedious,
slivered onions showing how to sniffle,

canned tomatoes close to bleeding,
waxy peppers still untouched, I wonder

why this dish is not apportioned aptly.


Sex Shop


Love is weird. I struggle
though it feels correct. I’m worried,
so distressed but okay.
Hatred seems the same. I’m seething
mad. I ask about a dildo.


Plum Tree


Stay beneath it

—let the flowers drown you,
taste the droplets,
catch the subtle tickles—

life is still delightful.


Sweet Pea


“Give me
flowers,” said I,
firm, my potted
plant decaying.


Bird Flu


In the cage, two lorikeets,

one is dead, the other silent;

I am torn between saying
it is okay and assuring myself
that, indeed, I am not alone.


In the Park


Under the maple tree,
the tall tufted grass lolling,
every wood bench empty,
cinder ash gorging the day,
I wait again for fireflies.


Water and Sugar


We would pick
lemons—when wild daisies
not in season.

He did know how
to squeeze them—gentle.


Waiting for Guido


They are
not as heavy.
The pace
is not hurried.
The steps outside.





I finished
jilted on
the plate.


Gluttony in the Orchard


I always mistake nectarines for peaches or plums
for apricots, one thing clear and common, succulence,
the rawness of sugar dripping off my chin
when my tongue swivels between the bows of my lips
I slightly open and a fly around waits for its turn.


Out of the Blue


When he stopped stroking my face,
I thought my light drugstore makeup was melting
or a zit I didn’t notice repulsed,
but when he left without telling me why,

I couldn’t think, if it was my lips or whole existence.




I tried writing you a missive,
but could not bear the noise
of the pen on the thin paper,
like a nail scratching my skin;
hence, I just said it to the air.


Spring Without Him


I smell the bed
sheet, a scent of detergent.

It’s not the same,
no trace of fading cologne,
no hint of the sun or rain.




He loves me,
he loves me not…
in the end,
it makes me cry…
I hate cliches.

Garbage Love

Before Brokeback Mountain,
we had been breaking our backbones
in the hill of trash;
you dug for iron scraps,
while I collected 
every shape of plastic;
you held onto my ribcage, 
and I leaned on wood eaten by termites.

We shared chicken leftovers
still whole inside latched styrofoam boxes;
you slurped off
the ketchup on my jaw;
I finished clean
the thigh you dangled;
we did not mind the noise
of rats that witnessed our grimed secret.

When we found unsold fruits,
you pulled them apart as swift as licking;
I picked the seeds 
so you would not choke;
you quickly caught
the drips for my tongue;
my lips on yours tasted sweeter
when papayas were soft in our scoops.

But that was before the film
when the length between us was a breath
of faint diphthongs;
I left the hill to forget all
odors that provoked,
the black smog waking us
and the white clouds that lulled 
our aches we massaged under the stars.

Fishing with Liz

The waters in Rio
were abundant
with big groupers,
slippery catfish,
and snappers,
red and delicious.

I did not like fishing,
but doing it with her,
I learned to love it
and how to catch—
she cast the net;
I pulled the line.

A carnival queen once
and samba dancer,
I did not really mind
taking off my skirt
and the waves untying
my tiny G-string bikini.

Elizabeth was different,
folding her trousers,
dark maybe polyester,
and her buttoned shirt
worn by professionals
like girl school teachers.

I did introduce her
to chocalho shakers,
tamborim, its beater,
and loud snare drums;
she taught me poetry
of fingers and tongue.

One night in February,
in our deep-fishing,
our hook caught a tuna;
we shared the flesh,
tasted each other’s cut,
and ate all of it raw.

Above not far from us
were the hill favelas
and tall Jesus Christ
stretching His arms
as if quietly saying:
Welcome to Brazil.

I’m Done Melting Rocks

When you slowly nodded to
the third attempt of my lips,
was it pity you couldn’t say
or did you just want to suck
the smoke out of my mouth
as if a bowl wasn’t enough?

I’m tired of scoring that shit
for you, burning my thumb,
& forcing myself to swallow
its acidic aftertaste, thinking
that’s the only way we are in
this bedroom past midnight.

I’m sick of that diesel stench
crawling steadily on my skin
that only wants the soft tips
& the certainty of your grab
when you push gently, a yes,
or hold, the pull of my chin.

When you turned your back
after I took off my buttoned
shirt and belted jeans, was it
my breasts that shouldn’t be
there or my vagina that still
shocked even with red eyes?

My Own Beethoven

His fingers won’t tell me
how he lost his voice
as if the words piling up
and struggling on his tongue
are not that important.

When he taps his right ear
with the measured lightness
of his hunched forefinger,
he’s not really saying
how he lost the sound.

I’ve never misunderstood
the fast language of his hands;
his eyes quietly explain
anything that baffles me,
and he uses his lips to agree.

Now it’s my turn to be mum
about the loss of light,
so he won’t silently worry;
I’m getting blinder each day
from something without cure.

Before we go to bed at night,
I close my eyes to study him:
the shaking of his throat,
his mouth attempting to move,
and the hush of his skin.

Before Seppuku

Our exchanges
on the bare tatami mat
were side glances
and at times in syllables.
He smiled a little
when my kimono fell
off my shoulders
and flaunted my nape.
The halt in his nodding
did not stop me;
I loosened the fundushi
and freed his thighs.
His arms were gentle;
the porcelain vase
and the ikebana flower
did not move.
My fastened lips 
tight on the igusa pillow,
I counted the sound
of skin and then his sigh.
That’s all I remember
besides Thirst
for Love and the blade
of his cruel katana.

Mamasan’s Apprentice

It is night again. I let down my silken hair
over my shoulders and open my thighs
over my lover. Tell me, is there any part
of me that is not lovable?
— Tzu YehBreathing is the secret
to clearing your thoughts.

Before anything,
you pick a name for yourself;
mine is Pink Blossom.
It should be about you
or what you hide,
something that lures.
You attract
by clearly saying it
without telling everything.

Then you convey 
the first word of your body,
a nod that pulls.
Indeed, the inciting edges
of the boundaries
are important.
Display your fingertips,
red nails, 
and excited toes.

Subduing intense impulses
should be your aim;
subtleties are beautiful.
You glance to observe,
squint when baffled,
and smile to agree.
When you want to laugh,
cover your mouth;
shy giggles are better.

Then you slowly push
your kimono,
exposing your shoulders.
The smoothness of your nape
and uncovered back
should be soft like cotton.
Bare your breasts
inch by inch
starting from the cleavage.

What still clings on your arms
must delicately fall;
your skin has layers.
Let the lamp make a silhouette
out of your face
and the blush on your cheeks.
To diffuse the scent
of your neck,
gently flick your hair.

When you want it,
it is desire 
that manifests in the eyes.
Seek the warm,
feel the sweaty
and know all textures of lust.
Let passion bubble 
on the lips
whose cadence is in gasps.

You’re now ready
for your first disrobing.

River Phoenix

When we last spoke in Gainesville,
you told me about strict veganism,
the nutrients from aubergine,
and transcendental meditation,
the benefits of Om airy breathing.

October that year suddenly ended
in a lifetime of mourning
I silently sobbed when I saw
the Strip after two when empty
and Utah in late winter snow.

I moved to Northern India
after your private funeral,
to collect my vague thoughts
and gather my disintegrating self
confused about life’s provocation.

The Ganges chanting in Varanasi
calm like the eyes of the old widows
before the morning puja
reminded me of your patience
when you talked about the oceans.

The river boats at fiery sunset
quiet during the arathi ritual,
the burning of camphor and ghee,
made me remember when you were
introspective about the redwood trees.

The saffron robes and the marigolds
of half-naked sadhus and sanyasins
completed the slow-to-rapid beats
of sarod, tabla, sitar, and shehnai—
better than heroin, coke, or morphine.

La Vie En Rouge

All I’ve done all my life is disobey.

— Edith Piaf

Even the dripping 
of the bathroom faucet
is in mourning
as it slowly fills
with its sobs
the worn-out tub
whose silver pipe
and iron paws 
are rusting.

The square-tiled floor
rough on my toes
and indifferently cold
to my feet
is losing the softness
of its ivory
and yielding 
to the stubbornness of dust
and staining dirt. 

The mirror concealing
my plastic-bottled pills
and vitamins
still tightly sealed
captures the age
of incessant sadness
and jeers 
my glimpse
and glance off the glass.

The bold blush,
the eye shadow,
and the glossy ruby 
in the drawer
tired of pulling 
are nothing now
but smudges 
of uncertain fingers
on my face.

I look around:
the cobwebs 
on the threadbare curtains;
and listen:
the scratchy French song
on the radio;
my nose inhales
the purple stench 
of lavender. 

Disrobing is as easy
as putting 
a feather boa
around my neck
or making heavy sterling
dangle from my lobes
when I used to dance
bare skin 
in a cabaret. 

I step into the hush
of the grayish water
inviting me 
to my last bathing
in diffusing black
then blood
while in my hands
a dagger 
and a fountain pen.

Whore of Márquez

Before the cholera
and the sores of syphilis,
our eyes met
and we knew each other’s name,
behind us only the wind
and the moon
our voyeur.

You became the usual smile
at the downtown hotel
where I slept off
my long nights
with the loneliness of faces
and arms
that could not wait.

Something had changed
after I let you invade 
my bed of cottons 
with the wordlessness
of my welcome
and after the hesitation
of your unbuttoning obliged.

But the crispness of your bills
did not sound 
like whistling,
the excitement of exiled kisses
or the frenzy of a mouth 
that could read 
the stuttering of impulses.

It was then that I began
to forget you,
the strength of your cologne 
subduing the burn of tobacco,
and your glance 
quick at knowing,
but never your tongue.

In bed while waiting
for the saddest song
of angels,
I thought of your thumb
probing the crimson of my lips
you said were bows
and also plums.

Your hands sure about creases
and wet folds
nudged me to remember
the clean color of your shirt,
the softness of the pillow,
and the texture of the linen
that dried your saliva.

I lived in the past
to recall that evening
on the cozy veranda
where we stood wondering
about the orchids
masking the strange odor
of dead wood.

This chronicle I wrote
to thank the man
who embraced the skin
that had fermented like olives
and who gave words
to the melancholia
of a whore.