Je est un autre.

Was it poetry
that made you leave
Charleville and me?

The last time I saw
the excitement on your face,
I could not tell
if you were chasing allusions,
fable songs,
or a butterfly.

You went to hell
for illuminations,
traveled far
for faraway moments,
and lost yourself in recklessness
all for deciphering.

I did not care
about your words intoxicated
by absinthe
and what they meant
impenetrable like riddles
and muddled by hashish.

The silence that worried
your verses
and the night
you wrote about
were strange to my ears
and indifferent to my skin.

I sought refuge
in animal farms
and solace in vegetable gardens,
always wondering
how you would whisper on each
of my breasts.

Now you came home
with chancre 
and gangrene,
typhoid,
arthritic amputation,
and the disease of the bone.

I saw neither Paul
nor Germain,
no poets of London
or your circle in Paris,
but your body
and all the symbols of your absence.

Were you back in Charleville
for my lace embroidery
and the taste of my stew?

Low Down from the Down Low

It’s not fading fondness
or familiarity
or midlife crisis
or some other bullshit
that’s making my skin crawl 
in indifference.

Do you know how it is
to force myself to fuck you
while I’m busy thinking
of getting fucked too
by Tim our neighbor
or by the big guy I saw
in the produce section
or by the mailman
who delivered the lingerie
you ordered online?

When you seduce me,
all I hear is the same whining,
and when you touch me,
I feel the estrangement
that’s pulling me;
I just want to disappear. 

What will I do
when even your lotion
and citrusy perfume
bring me back to my youth
and high school football
and to the smell of bathrooms,
the mustiness in sports gyms,
or the odor of sweat 
your lavender soap 
cannot wash off?

Your thighs do not excite
when they graze my waist
or when you brush them 
on my resting legs
while you are pretending
but actually awake.

How can I forget the sound
of bones cracking,
those fingers that hold
and their tightness
around my neck,
the force of pushing
my shoulders remember
or the lifting of my chin
towards the mouth that speaks 
my inaudible language?

You should know by now
that when you lean
your breasts on my back
or press them against my chest,
I grin my pain
yearning for muscles.

Should I blame my dad
for wanting child playmates
or my mom for telling me
not to hurt you
or my friends who show off
their blonde wives,
growing broods,
and white fences
or everyone who forces me
to don a mask to be safe?

I so want to tell you,
but when I try
I see the face of Aden
and hear the voice of Pamela
as though they are begging:
ten more years, dad.

His Last Hit

My flaming friends never failed
to remind me how lucky I was
to have found a great boyfriend
whose eyes were between blue
and green I could only call azure
and opened mine to every pain.

They all talked about his face,
his muscles, his masculine gait
when he paced, ran or walked,
his boyish smirking, his smile that
assured, and his musky smell too
they said was for instant orgasm.

All they said were true, but no
one knew how Danny and I met
that midnight outside the club
when he was rapidly convulsing
while begging me to take him
home for a fix, a pipe of meth.

I gave in, and he had remained
with me until the drug dealer
we code-named “alley pharmacist”
was shot by the masked squad
who raided his shanty, a flimsy lair
in one of the nasty Manila slums.

Since that day, his glancing had
never been the same, his lips
pouted like he had been shamed,
his quick words were measured if
he would say something, and I was
a floor vase if I did exist to him.

Our last night together was as
wearisome as a kid’s star gazing,
the white-empty ceiling our sky,
and the wood walls the solid blows
of the wind as if frozen in all four
directions from our stared quiet.

The shard I found under the couch
perked him up, but I did not let him
touch my hairless arms like how
he would when he wanted to ride
and get off before bothering me for
the punishing all-night massage.

I just watched his eyes as though
I memorized how the hydrochloric
red slowly invaded their azure glow,
the clicks from his black Bic lighter
sounding off like repeated taunts
in my head: “Yours is no vagina.”

The Dead Oven

It has been like this
since Luigi left;
he told me he would now go back
to Italy for good,
but I still see him anywhere
flirting with everyone.
 
My day usually starts
when water boils
for the instant coffee better paired
with his molasses
tiramisu my lips can still recall
with my eyelids closed.
 
Then I call it a day after
I finish a buttered
bag of popcorn I pick one by one
while watching his
old inferno in black-and-white,
the Bertolini I do not get.
 
From beginning to end,
I thaw the frosts
while thinking of Dante’s Comedy
or the ghost divine;
I wish for a large microwave
with push-buttons inside.

How I Got Syphilis

One high evening,
I first
blamed rolled hashish
when he paused
while I struggled to hit
my orgasm.
 
Then I thought it was
absinthe 
that skewed wondering
after we made love,
if I was a pulsating slab
of liver.
 
After he sliced off
his ear,
I chose not to see him,
hoping he would
eventually stop staring,
those stars.
 
I refused sunflowers,
a series
of his wordless flirtation,
and began sleeping
with his careless friend
Gauguin.

Nostalgia of Skin

She taught him how
to heat up
the glass bowl
with the blue hiss
of flame,

while he showed him
how to take
a breathless hit
then slowly blow
a cloud,

but in the inquisition
where he was
asked to reveal
the names he knew
so well,

he divulged nothing
but his cold
night, the woe
of air, the textures
of hands.

Fried Salted Vegetable

He has not done it before,
but he has to,
too many messages
unread on his cheap phone
that keeps ringing.

The wood in the clay stove
spurting flames,
he measures the length
of the eggplant
with his stretched index
and thumb,
his both hands
on the smooth of its skin,
from the deep curve
to its orb tip,
around the bottle girth,
his eyelids closed,
doubting if he should,
his mouth open,
the oil popping in the pan.

His young wife, suspected,
shot by masked men
the previous week,
is waiting to be redeemed
from the morgue.

A Police Dilemma

How can I aim 
at the head
that gladly follows
the trail of hair
sparse on my chest
down to my groin,
the pushes
of my brute hands,
that knows when
I turn him swift
onto stacked pillows,
the noises of my spit?

Ordered to kill
one of them
to test my loyalty,
a toy pistol
the planted proof,
a sachet of salt
my evidence,
no witness needed,
not even a canine,
neither a quiz
nor a quick autopsy,
I am trained to slay.

How can I shoot
the face docile
to the keen wetting
of my mouth
from the ripe citrus
scent of her neck
to her breasts,
the careful pulling
of my eager fingers,
the excitement
of my manic tongue
before she lets me in?

Muscle Memory

After she dumped me for kissing you 
under the dancing lights on the corner
where strangers asked fictitious names,
it did not hurt and bleed like this one.

Should I blame myself for that Sunday
night when I begged you that I wanted
to smoke before I could let you unzip,
the butt end of our adventurous ride?

I had never thought I would smile back
at someone who had my own cologne
and the same roughness of willing skin,
you who egged on my weak reluctance.

Would I linger in the dark again to wait
for the heavy hand introducing his itch
or go back to the mask that suffocated,
my lie until downing a couple of beers?