In the Vault of Morning

for our elders

You arrive as found blade for this tale 
I will tell you no gospel you know, 
No crow’s throat will belt guesses 

This year sound out the life I spend 
In the company of those who are all 
On their way to another world

And I am still on your way here 
A mouth as a cold wind
And I rise from me as I rise from me 

And I lift us bad as the night air 
Bad as it in hurricane season  
And sudden as we’re filled with the black wind

I feel nothing like dread
Hold still the planetary language
Who’ll tell you, really, what we’ve done

To speak of walking, of having walked 
Where flocks, animals say, slow lorises, rest 
Something of their tired and bud

To rot our chests of their bright moons
Moons disgorged from a twisting …
No, forget the moon. This time, we know 

The moon does not heed our endless calling 
Or duties for lubricating our worry 
The endless looking up, like a moment ago

When I could mean just anything else
Break into a crowd, a too narrow room,
The Atlantic’s long rage, mean anything at all

Where must I consider to live
With whatever dried longing 
We rise up to be in the morning           rain

In the Middle of the Burning

notice now pictures of awful things on top our head
the freight that barricades this view, how enough
how the law batter down the dogged tide we make
the world shoring its dark scars between seasons
as though to hold it together only by a flame
is here a voice to please enough the blunt
borderlessness of this grief turning our heads to rubble
the lunacy of nothing so limning as death in the streets
in these vibrating hours where the corners talk back
need I simply run my tongue along the granite sky and live

to know how lost the millionth life somewhere today
the swift shape of roads new names combust, the sum
of anthems flooding the world with the eye’s sudden and narrow
saltwater and streets ziplined with screams at the pitch of cooking pots
then tear gas, then pepper spray, then militarized lies unzipping
body bags, oh, our many many there, our alive and just born,
and that is how to say let’s fuck it up, we the beat and we the loud
tuning forks and the help arriving empty-handed
propping the hot news of new times on our head

days like these pleat whatever the hollow year must offer
between the not-yet-dead and those just waking up
it will not be the vanished thing that we remember
it will be what we exchanged close to midnight
like smugglers high-wiring the city, hoarding the thoughts
of ours we interrupted midway to discovering the velocity
of the burning world below
of our language in the lateness of our stuck and reckless love

where the forces who claim they love us
level our lives to crust—the centuries-wide dance
of swapped shackles for knees
their batons and miscellany
thrown at our whole lives demanding our mothers
raise from their separate rooms, separate graves, today
to save who and me? I open the book to a naked page
where nothing clatter my heart, what head
what teeth cling to broadside, roll alias after
alias with a pen at their dull tribunes and shrines
imagine our heirlooms of shot nerves make a life
given to placards and synergies and elegies, but more

last things: where letters here where snow in May
where the millennium unstitches the quartered earth
in June, how many today to the viral fire
the frosted rich and their forts, but not
the fulsome rage of my people unpeaced
mute boots with somber looks appear
a fearsome autumn ending spring, though we still hear

I dare not sing

another song to dig a hole this time for the lineages
of magnolias where the offspring bring a hand to cover
our mouth, our heaping lives, who sit who burn who drop
three feet to the tar, who eat and demolish the thing
that takes our head, the thing that is no more
the place that never was except a burning learned

just once and not again when the darker working’s race

Related Poems

There Will Be No Funeral

in loving memory of Concepcion Cruz Agullana

Everywhere is a cemetery,

and there will be no funeral.      on either side of the Pacific Ocean.

            No one will give last rites to my lola,    No guessing nurse will call my name or hers

I will have heard no doctor’s steely voice                             There’ll be no waiting room

to call her ‘the body.’             Over the body.      There will be no priest

            swinging a pendulum of incense         no prayers      no rosaries       there’s no money

                        No undertaker will proclaim her life                       There’ll be no glass plate     covering

her wooden casket.           There will be no casket   it’s too expensive              There will be no party

no lumpia            no noodles for no life long enough

                           No black attire               No hands clasping tissue or other hands

‘The body’ will not be seen          There will be my grandma in an urn–a tiny basket

            her curled body that lilted into the afterlife        after dementia   twenty years after grandpa

                                                  there’s no room for every  body

there’s no house for everybody to come in and stay    no room for sorrows    There will be no placeholder no

land     no candles        no water         no six-foot empty         she will be unmarked

                                                            my lola, an unnamed earthquake

           No one will hear her long name how it stretches a sunset   if my lola dies and no one sees   is

she still my lola?  is a canyon a series of cliffs?   there’s no place in the apartment for what rituals

maybe they will send her to the Philippines my grandma is a maybe                   and we are not they

         did you know                                                                                  when airlines carry the deceased

          they are called passengers

    they travel in their coffins        passengers in seats     are called        existing passengers

this small poem the only eulogy            where we’ll put my grandma     her existence laid to rest in a

poem

                      in this non-ilokano language                  a killer              rows and rows of dirt

money doesn’t grow                        maybe someone there       will bury her

                 how will i carry her     when only darkness has the space?

where will we put my grandma when we can’t afford our grief?

i know the grandmother one had hands

i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always in bowls
folding, pinching, rolling the dough
making the bread
i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always under water
sifting rice
bluing clothes
starching lives
i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always in the earth
planting seeds
removing weeds
growing knives
burying sons
i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always under
the cloth
pushing it along
helping it birth into
skirt
dress
curtains to lock out
night
i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always inside
the hair
parting
plaiting
twisting it into rainbows
i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always inside
pockets
holding the knots
counting the twisted veins
holding onto herself
let her hands disappear
into sky
i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always inside the clouds
poking holes for
the rain to fall.

It was Snowing on the Monuments

It was snowing on the monuments
My dead father’s name next to my living mothers

You went further back into the cemetery
There where so many lies remain lost to winter

There with the named and the nameless
It was snowing on the monuments

All horizons packed with cloud cover
bodies
Some of us left in the vehicles
We came in

Some became some final gesture
Of departure’s sun borne reflect
behind auto glass
heat blowing feeling back into a face

It was snowing on the monuments
Even in the warmth of an engine turning over
You must forget how we came to this place
How we leave

A procession of memory
an immersion in going away
music

Voices of older songs already
In the broken gone
As some wheel turns us back
Onto a gray road