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.

about a girl

you’re more
than the heroin kit
insulin syringes, lighter
spoon, rubber band
inside the Tom Moore
vintage cigar box

i left home to follow you
your concerts, TV appearances
your stage shows, bus tours
i sought your presence
a junkie looking for her fix
i went where you were
a groupie always on the go
but you did not touch me
or even threw a glance
it seemed a shame to smudge
the lipsticked innocence of a girl
i stayed on and was fifteen
to wait for my turn

you’re more
than the suicide letter
you stuck on the soil
in the flowerless planter
the bloody pen the arrow
the holed note in red

i rebelled against you
your disregard, neglect, coldness
disdain, aloofness, indifference
i jumped into the sea
of arms and lustful hands
nail scratches all over my skin
cuts, round bruises, cigarette burns
i woke up in strange rooms
on unflushed toilets
at diners and burger joints
on lonely roads
in someone’s garage
on a synthetic grass lawn

you’re more
than the shotgun on your skull
a 20-gauge Remington
and the bullet that stopped
the voice in your head
and cleared the ash of blue

one day i listened to what you said
in Bleach and Nevermind
i shoplifted from the record store
beside the sex shop
where i took a silicone toy
high from everything
heroin, meth, cocaine
ketamine, shrooms, ecstasy
PCP, Oxycontin, hydrocodone
i abused and hurt myself
to exorcise the long-hidden pain
but survived to reach my nirvana
then to rehab I went to calm down

Different Kinds of Afternoon Rain

A girl, near puberty, by the window
when the sun wanes at three,
knows the atmosphere of melancholia,
the shape of anguish,
the multiple shades of dejection,
palpable, wet on her arm.

Drizzles are the hints that she is about
to cry, her moist eyes staring,
a haiku she does not have to recite loud
the minimalism of words
visible, when she blinks once, a knife, 
if closed, a season she recalls. 

The tree has fruits, but tough to tell 
whether poison or sugar, 
her tongue has forgotten the mangoes
her father used to pick, 
their thick skin her mother peeled
by hand, her excited bites.

Sprinkles are her sobs before drops
when she cannot hold any 
longer, her mouth struggling to speak,
a tanka, taps, breaths,
her sigh extended as if a deliberate 
sound pleading to be heard.

The road spared from the ugliness
of asphalt is always blank,
perhaps paved wide to suggest once 
there were humans, 
rocks waiting all day to wound feet,
stones losing their relevance.

Showers are when she has to let go
but still restrained a bit,
short but not a cry, long but not a wail,
almost like a haibun,
the slow motion of her lips a murmur
trying to explain the details.

The grass blades have also ceased 
to be green, no dancing 
to the hasty wind, the drooping a bow
now that it is over,
their lifelessness a surrender, no more
sad existence on the sidewalk. 

Pours are her weeping, uncontrollable
on her face, uninterrupted,
the endless exchange of walls, the inert 
dialogue of ceilings, 
the soliloquy of dark laminate floors, 
a renga of tears and sniffles.

The birds seldom appear when the sky 
is clear, if they are around, 
afterthoughts, if not seen, their disdain, 
no blossoms to seduce,
the rustles of dead leaves unbearable,
the cheeks of a child morose.

Jack ‘n Poy

Three orphans, their stories
are paper-rock-scissors,
the eldest shot in the head,
still in the ward fighting,
a bill for lunch in his pocket,
and the youngest fired
in the face, inside the icebox,
his hand a complete fist.

The girl remembers how
her brother made sunflowers
and the little one helped
grind corn on a cobblestone.

She’d never thought her skirt
would be sheared short.

Red Hibiscus

She had been tucking
a flower behind her ear
since her mother said
her dad was on the list.

When the cops came,
she answered the door,
pulled a sleeve down,
and kissed their boots.

Boiling Rice Today

Nothing to wash
up to three times
to get rid of dust
from milled grains
and loose starch,
she filled the pot
made of cast iron,
eyeballing within,
the empty volume
of the water clear
like a lake languid
in the high-noon
sun and its depth
she did not have
to measure with
her teensy fingers.

Anything useless
in the old kitchen
appearing stygian,
the color of wood
ash accumulating
to be wind-blown
and the thick layer
of soot on the wall,
a whole of recycled
pieces of rusted tin
nailed on for a false
promise of privacy,
her head still above
the water like a dull
vanity glass mirror,
her face was gaunt.

Night Jasmine Vendor

Before they began
swallowing rice worms
and feasting on
the crunch of weevils
and scad soaked
in recycled formalin,

those men idling
on the street corners,
as if for a vigil
under the dull bulbs
of electric posts,
their loss in a roulette,

would buy flowers
I strung into white leis
for the protection
of their altar statues
they suffocated
for more blessings.

When the peso
fell and all the prices
rose like a curse,
their pssts stopped
and the jasmines
withered in my hands,

the thin strings
too feeble to choke
the breaths out
of my parched throat
that had forgotten
the taste of ice water,

so I crushed
the dried blossoms
to steep them
in alcohol for wounds,
pulled my skirt,
and gave discounts.

Schrödinger’s Kitten

After I blunt Ming’s grapnels
with files and buffers, she wolfs
down the meat off the pull cup.

In the open yard where I grow
blush Parfait, beside the bush
is a toddler crouching to squat.

Covered in dusty indigo, she can
be easily mistaken as a tall pile
of trash if not for her breathing.

She digs with bare hands to push
out her dumpster lunch, her nose
gasping for air on the blossoms.

For cleaning herself, she gathers
the sundried leaves she can reach
before filling up the shallow hole.

Grating the dirt under her nails
with a thorn, she then walks away,
her dress swaying into the sunset.

The windows closed for the day,
I sit on the sofa as Ming struggles
in her box, a bowl of water nearby.


I know all about subtraction—
                                                 the half smile on my face,
the stillness of my shaking,  
                                             the sudden voluntary hush.


Adding is what I do to go on—
                                                  my allowed age that lies,
my bold rouge that pouts, 
                                          my heels that stand cocksure.


I divide myself into dissociations—
                                                         a seeker of my angels,
a jasmine blossoming at night,  
                                                  a girl who wants to live.


Multiple hands itch for my skin—
                                                       grubby nails scratching,
wet fingers leaving their stains,    
                                                   fists giving me dark blues.


I hide my desolation that is exponential—
                                                                   under the sheet,
in the middle of the darkest room,  
                                                       inside my closed eyes.

Shape of Grief

What I can still recall
feeds my hunger,
first my mind
struggling to piece
together my thoughts,
then my stomach
rumbling the sound
of faint weeping.

For the steamed rice
on a plastic plate,
my mother’s feet
both giving up to sink
in the mud ground
when she shooed
a mob of April birds
driving her away.

The chargrilled fish
on a wood stick,
my father’s fingers
paddling wind waves
until he could hold
onto a sea rock
before the tide came
to swallow all.

In my bright room
still dark on my skin,
my uncurled toes
burrowed on the foam,
a sphere of liquid
yielding in my hand,
I sip it whole,
salt my quick lunch.