Brown Girl Creed

I believe in my mother, the mother almighty, 
             mover of heaven and earth, 
             creator of daughters and dinner, 
             all that is always unseen, 
I believe in my mother, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Pulmano, 
             who dreamed an American dream, 
             who suffered barely making ends meet, 
             who suffered giving everything unto everyone, 
             who suffered, died, and was buried; 
             she descended into this American earth, 
             while wailing women recited novena, 
             she ascended into heaven, 
             and is seated somewhere comfortable now, 
             she’s watching the Niners game now, 
             she’s wearing her Jerry Rice jersey, 
             she’s got a Diet Pepsi and a plate of Panda Express, 
             she’s watching reruns of Murder She Wrote and Matlock 
             if the game isn’t going the way she’d like,    
I believe in my mother, in the most sacred of sisterhoods, 
             in kapwa with the kumares, the forgiveness of fear, 
             her transcendence from a tumorous body, 
             her pink jasmines and rose bushes in bloom. Amen.

[state of emergency]

To honor movement in crescendos of text, combing through ashes for fragments of human bone, studying maps drawn for the absurdity of navigation — what may be so edgy about this state of emergency is my lack of apology for what I am bound to do. For instance, if I dream the wetness of your mouth an oyster my tongue searches for the taste of ocean, if I crave the secret corners of your city on another continent, in another time, in series of circular coils extending outward, then it is only because I continue to harbor the swirls of galaxies in the musculature and viscera of my body. You will appear because I have mouthed your name in half-wish, reluctant to bring myself to you. You will appear for me, because you always do, with earthen skin outside the possibility of human causation.

calles de los dolores y trastorno de tension postraumatica

your methods are unacceptable :: beyond human restraint :: things get confused i know :: the heart’s a white sepulcher and no man guards its doors :: against the growing dark :: incessant blades beat air :: incessant blades :: what means are available to terminate :: gook names :: with extreme prejudice :: you may use those :: blades beat :: easier than learning their gook names :: your boys don’t know any better than :: gook names :: dead men hanging from trees so far from the known world :: how does it come to this :: being blown to hell :: incessant :: gook names :: in panic mode trigger finger instinct efficiency :: incessant blades beat air :: blades beat :: dead men hanging :: gook names :: no sin committed :: no dead men :: to forgive.

Again, She Tells the First Story

Once, when there was no light, the wind danced with the sea, whose glassy surface became untame funnels and silver crested waves as she leapt and spun. How the wind also spun and let out a mighty roar. You have heard this one before, no? How earth convulsed as if laughing. How seafloor forced her fingertips skyward. How she freed her body from the silent, murky depths.

She who was born of the rocks fell in love with the one who was born of sea spume. There upon the rocks, they spread seeds and soil, and from these the bamboo sprouted. It rooted itself in those rocks, and some say kidlat split this bamboo open.

Others say a great serpent ruled the sea, and set upon his crown, a gleaming stone upon which the skyfolk spilled dark earth. I do not know why they tried to bury the serpent, but because of this, he hissed and lashed at them. The sea was once sweet and cool as rainwater. In the north, a medicine woman told us of her people’s prayers for salt. Hot winds brought to them fragrances of the dead. After the waters receded, how the shores became the color of clear crystals and blood.

Hija, I bring the sea tobacco leaves and fruit, but still no stories come to me. I plead with her, O diwata, pakitanggap po ninyo ang aking handog. O diwata, ang inyong mga salita lamang ang hinihingin ko. Today as ever, she gives me but silence.

Related Poems

Disciplines [If there is prayer, there is a mother kneeling]

If there is prayer, there is a mother kneeling, hands folded to a private sign. We recognize it. If there is a mother kneeling, hands a tent, she is praying or she is crying or crying and praying at the same time. Although it is recognized, the signals of it, it is private and no one knows, perhaps not even she, the content of the prayer, and perhaps its object. If there is a mother praying, she is on her kneels over some object, as one does not often pray in the middle of the room. One prays at the window or over the bed, the head bent slightly up or down, the eyes open or closed. This is a prayer for prayers, you know, a wanting something equal to a prayer, even though I am not a mother.

Prayer for My Immigrant Relatives

While they wait in long lines, legs shifting,
fingers growing tired of holding handrails,
pages of paperwork, give them patience.
Help them to recall the cobalt Mediterranean
or the green valleys full of vineyards and sheep.
When peoples’ words resemble the buzz
of beehives, help them to hear the music
of home, sung from balconies overflowing
with woven rugs and bundled vegetables.
At night, when the worry beads are held
in one palm and a cigarette lit in the other,
give them the memory of their first step
onto solid land, after much ocean, air and clouds,
remind them of the phone call back home saying,
We arrived. Yes, thank God we made it, we are here.

Prayer Severing the Cycle

for Tomica

My love is as ancient as my blood.

And of course my blood is still mine

because a woman, sweetened black

with good song, pulled me from the river

like an axe pulled back from the bark.

I learned love, first, as scar.

And of course my love is only mine

because I found the nerve to say it is.

Ha, My love is mine.

But was first my mother’s. Not the how

but the why. But was first her mother’s.

Not the how but the why.

Not the how; Not the how; Not the how;
Not the how; Not the how; Not the how.

I am bored with this beat. I seek

a different dance toward death.

Lord, listen up. Lean in:

I crave a love that happens as sweetly

as it was named. If love must be swung,

let it soften. Not split.