Born. Living. Will. Die.

for my favorite auntie, Jeanette

Sometimes I think I’m never going to write a poem again
and then there’s a full moon.

I miss being in love but I miss
myself most when I’m gone.

In the salty wet air of my ancestry
my auntie peels a mango with her teeth

and I’m no longer
writing political poems; because there are

mangoes and my favorite memory is still alive.
I’m digging for meaning but haunted by purpose

and it’s an insufficient approach.
What’s the margin of loss on words not spent today?

I’m getting older. I’m buying smaller images to travel light.
I wake up, I light up, I tidy, and it’s all over now.

Killing the Form

Am I allowed to disrespect the form. Am I allowed to instead proclaim that he’s raped me. That it just happened. And that I was small and formidable, a fruit or something else taking in from the sun and expanding. Am I allowed to say that I didn’t write it for you. Am I allowed to say that I’ve fucked four women and three men and owed nothing in the aftermath. Am I allowed to say that I didn’t do it for him or because of him, or to heal, or to mitigate the universe’s monopoly on wellness – but to be an organ in post survival, a dim sound existing retroactively, a full circle sold.


“In what way is the instinctive connected with the compulsion to repetition?”*


Boobs
Breasts, is that all you got?
Boobs

 

                             consent
                             Blck, is that all you got?
                             absence


I am happening in public & cannot bear the trope of it
                   I am taking it off.


 

                    Spell blck
                                           compulsively
to make blck



                                    art.

Related Poems

Hats

Auntie lies in the rest home with a feeding tube and a bedpan, she weighs nothing, she fidgets and shakes, and all I can see are her knotted hands and the carbon facets of her eyes, she was famous for her pies and her kindness to neighbors, but if it is true that every hat exhibits a drama the psyche wishes it could perform, what was my aunt saying all the years of my childhood when she squeezed into cars with those too tall hats, those pineapples and colored cockades, my aunt who told me I should travel slowly or I would see too much before I died, wore spires and steeples, tulled toques. The velvet inkpots of Schiaparelli, the mousseline de soie of Lilly Daché have disappeared into the world, leaving behind one flesh-colored box, Worth stenciled on the top, a coral velvet cloche inside with matching veil and drawstring bag, and what am I to make of these Dolores del Rio size 4 black satin wedgies with constellations of spangles on the bridge. Before she climbed into the white boat of the nursing home and sailed away--talking every day to family in heaven, calling them through the sprinkling system--my aunt said she was pushing her cart through the grocery when she saw young girls at the end of an aisle pointing at her, her dowager's hump, her familial tremors. Auntie, who claimed that ninety pounds was her fighting weight, carried her head high, hooded, turbaned, jeweled, her neck straight under pounds of roots and vegetables that shimmied when she walked. Surely this is not the place of women in our world, that when we are old and curled like crustaceans, young girls will laugh at us, point their fingers, run as fast as they can in the opposite direction.

In Tongues

for Auntie Jeanette

1.
Because you haven’t spoken
in so long, the tongue stumbles and stutters,
sticks to the roof and floor as if the mouth were just
a house in which it could stagger like a body unto itself.

You once loved a man so tall
sometimes you stood on a chair to kiss him.

2.
What to say when one says,
“You’re sooo musical,” takes your stuttering for scatting,
takes your stagger for strutting,
takes your try and tried again for willful/playful deviation?

It makes you wanna not holla
silence to miss perception’s face.

3.
It ain’t even morning or early,
though the sun-up says “day,” and you been
staggering lange Zeit gegen a certain
breathless stillness that we can’t but call death.

Though stillness suggests a possibility
of less than dead, of move, of still be.

4.
How that one calling your tryin’
music, calling you sayin’ entertaining, thinks
there’s no then that we, (who den dat we?), remember/
trace in our permutations of say?

What mastadonic presumptions precede and
follow each word, each be, each bitter being?

5.
These yawns into which we enter as into a harbor—
Come. Go. Don’t. says the vocal oceans which usher
each us, so unlike any ship steered or steering into.
A habit of place and placing a body.

Which choruses of limbs and wanting, of limp
linger in each syllabic foot tapping its chronic codes?

Mango Poem

Mother fetches the fruit from the mango grove 
       behind closed bamboo. 
       Rips its paper-leather cover during midday recess, 
before English class, describes their dance 
peaches plums cantaloupes before my first-world 
       eyes. When the sun blazed on the dust,

she let the mellifluous fluids 
       fall on her assignment books. 
Where the mangos were first planted, mother, 
an infant, hid under gravel 
swaddled by Lola, my grandmother, 
after my mother’s aunt and uncle 
were tied to the trunk 
       and stabbed 
by the Japanese. Mother and daughter living off 
       fallen mangos, the pits planted in darkness, 
       before I was born.

We left the Philippines 
       for California dodging 
U.S. Customs with the forbidden fruit, 
       thinking who’d deprive mother of her mangos. 
Head down, my father denies that we have perishable 
       foods, waving passports in the still air, 
motioning for us 
       to proceed towards the terminal. 
Behind a long line of travelers, 

my sisters surround mother 
like shoji screens as she hides the newspaper-covered 
       fruit between her legs. Mangos sleeping
in the hammock of her skirt, a brilliant batik 
       billowing from the motion 
of airline caddies pushing suitcases 
       on metal carts. 

We walk around mother 
       forming a crucifix where she was center. 
On the plane as we cross time zones, mom unwraps 
her ripe mangos, the ones from the tree Lola planted 
before she gave birth to my mother, 

the daughter that left home to be a nurse 
in the States, 
       who’d marry a Filipino navy man 
       and have three children of her own. Mother eating 
the fruit whose juices rain 
      over deserts and cornfields.