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.

My History of Modern Dance

My head tilted down
as though to hear
the rustle of leaves
and arms embraced
to stop the wind;
I learned that grace
from Isadora Duncan.

Later my thighs found
their own rhythms;
I lifted the left slowly
like a subtle invitation
before my right’s turn
to pull the skirt high
a la Martha Graham.

The butterfly in my belly
pushed me to shudder
then spiral as if I was
a vertical feather falling
to rest on the ground;
I understood the quiet
flight of Anna Sokolow.

Now I can only watch
the stillness of my toes
struggling to wiggle
but cannot even curl;
even with painted nails
trying to be apparent,
my fingers too are calm.

My body is indifferent
to the shiny friction
of the hardwood floor
and the noise of spring
coming from outside;
my leap is the silence
of glances and stares.

I force myself to think
of that old choreography
I still want to perform:
a red apple imaginary
in my clasping hand
and the sin of Adam,
a phantom on my feet.


She got naked for me 
last night on Skype,
my girlfriend in Dubai,
a striptease she did
after telling her how
I missed our weekend
dancing even though
there was no music
but our joint breathing
and the shy softness
of her cheek on mine
excited and blushing.

We chatted just about
anything when she
unbuttoned her blouse
and excused herself,
and she came back
in heels and stockings,
my old sexual fetish 
when she and I still 
lived together in Manila
and would go shopping
every Valentine’s eve
for shoes and lingerie.

I was turned on by
the feigned hesitation
on her face brightened
by her lips in rouge,
and she said I could
also take off my clothes 
and play with myself,
but I recalled that girl 
who looked like her, 
the innocent face I saw 
bleed and shudder
on the road yesterday.

Her Old Exotic Recipes

It was my grandmother
who asked if I could
swallow a dried pudding
of blood and bones
over the wood fire until
the sinews fell apart
and the curdling turned
charcoal to induce
vomiting, no stuck finger.

She also said, in the time
of mass migraines
and social stomachaches
worms were edible
and raw centipedes too
but not as delicious
as the meat of the people
fried in their own fat
for the ghouls to feast on.

High on the List

I want you
to bring me buds
like only you who know
about seasons.
I want you
to tell me stories
as if you are Chekhov
in Calvin Klein.
I want you
to dim the light
as if you are the divine
on the last day.
I want you
to fuck me hard
like Stephen Hawking
does mentally.

A Wound as a Full Stop

Torn between solids and vapors,
between fluid and flame,
between Ingrid Jonker and Sylvia Plath,
I’ve tried the embers of charcoal,
in my duct-taped room,
the weights of sea rocks, both pockets.

The gusts always find their holes,
the afternoon tide ebbs,
the intensity of my will ends up a doubt,
mouth-blown smokes still gaseous,
rocks smelted to soften,
letting a bullet, on a road or in an ocean.

Human Identity Crisis

One of the men
separated my breasts,
lifted them like
they had my approval.

The other asked
me to spread my labia
as though I was
hiding something illicit.

Another checked
my mouth, ordered me
to bend over, then
cough loud, sneeze too.

While rushing out
of the station, I pinched
my arm to feel if
the inside was not all air.

Catcalling on the Sidewalk

Her father is in prison
for slaying
her mother’s john
who refused, the fee.

You say “a” as in hey,
mouth open,
long, tongue still,
teeth ready for a bite,
then your forefinger
laying gloss
from end to end,
both bows, idle boats.

The next three vowels
are words,
ehem if you want
to be heard, quick hi
when you are noticed,
extended oh
to play innocent
as if new, fresh, raw. 

You can do “u” like woo,
to charm,
giving the air a kiss,
pouted, mouth almost
closed, tongue hidden,
teeth shy
to bite, also long
like the stares you get.

Her mother who said
it was all
about the red lips
is in the mortuary, iced.




Sigh Language

Even the sonnet
is a long strife,
my fixed eyes
loathing a volta.
The only iambic
is the dull air,
rhymes quiet
in rusting April.
My ill fingertips
tap on my lap,
no discernible
cadence of feet.
Words come
out as breaths.

Outside the Bar

Her age a secret,
but she can whistle
at passersby
to ask without
the weighed words,
to smile
the pouted price,
her lips tinged
but unable
to articulate it right,

When her dad
her mom followed,
no trace
but their absence,
leaving only
what she can recall,
wooing the wind
on a hot day,
steeping safflowers
for tea.