Sleeptalker, I wake on bleeding leaves.
Banig bitten beneath me, I must’ve said
a bad word. My mother anointing her
disappointment. I say my sorry, closed my legs,
baptized my bed under the rusty hand pump.
Prayed over long-deaf stomata, its gone sugars.
Then like a good daughter, grounded pounded
its crisp. Split lipped leaves pried open.
Made a batter. Scab I wear over my face
like the most tender armor, allowing a war
to peep but not seep inside my bomb
shelter, where my womb plays hide and seek.
Needles sew their names into me. A boy typhoon
this time. Their heavy threads so thorough it throws
a tapestry throughout my lack. I could feel
an archipelago clatter in my lungs like oracle bones
all the times I didn’t listen
to my mother say dry your back.
Feel my throat’s coin-bank exorcise masts
from capsized boats, beat of expired x-ray films
stretched to drumheads, a cloud that lost grip—
I sound like my father, the bullet inside him
passed down to me. This whistle—tinggil that tingled.
Stump between my thighs.
How I cough to pretend that this in my palm
is sap that could bind pistils together, bear fruit.
The wings of another sanitary napkin
lie flightless, as if a bone undressing
its silk robes. My fingers approach it
like a predator. I love the ripping—glue
of its underside now a ghost, as thin as tear-
streaks that glittered my girl-face
years ago. May this be my final litter
as I leave my long-hair home.
Between her legs, a boulevard
of children grinding their soles over a nest
of millipedes. They spiral like
extinct ferns, curls that I tongue
like a mother licking salt off sour
necks. Hunting for the milk
curving behind their ears.
Let me drink her liter, let me
hush her litter. Let me settle
forever, give up our feathers.
How our two nests cry.
kundiman on a text message in the sky, before seizure
The welder’s eyelash curves, presses against the stained glass of his make-
shift helmet discolored with Riyadh’s heat. Instead of sparks from sexing
rebars, he sees 50,000 rounds of Judas’ Belt, firecracker his village set off
like firearms but those who bleed by its stray bullets would smile instead
as palm wine drunk mothers pressed achuete leaves on runny wounds.
How he grit his teeth like weeks before when a shaman held his penis
hostage over an unnamed headstone, birthed a man from his boyhood.
Fireworks seethed beneath his eyelids as he wore through his mother’s
skirt every day to school, breeze waking hairs in his thighs like iron filings.
Instead he hears hand-clapping games or handheld claps of church bells or
electricity humming in his uncle’s testicle, “faulty wiring” from his time
as a guerrilla that rumors say was enough to light Christmas lights. Shimmer
reminding him of an oarfish, aware of its omen, that washed itself in
the coastline every December where teen couples fulfilled their own little
earthquake. Gin enough to break the woman he was with into fireworks
sucked out the wet behind his ear and spilt brake fluid from the rear
of their family’s jeepney. Aftershocks felt till next year: tin cans that once
stored gunpowder bleached to milk. Rather than plastic horns he’d hear
colic cries. In a place where chaste clouds come down to sip spittle from
their upper lips, he tried to overhear the violence kilometers away. Instead
of feasting, they slept on a banig on the floor, wide enough for no god
to slip in, his son holding his finger like a hammer that could only build
never destroy and he believed this as a homeless snail snuck in to sing
carols in his cochlea. Then he could no longer hear his fighting cock’s hiss
as he yields the illegal chili from its cloaca or his wife suck out shrimp
paste left beneath her nails or his boy’s thumbsucked thumb thumbing
through the qwerty alphabet of a blushing Nokia, only the serenade of
packing tape stretched over chapped brown lips of cardboard boxes and
sputter of a motorcycle smoke-belching the Aplaya shut. As speechless
as he is in a desert where he is beautiful silent, only a forehead kneeling
like a banana’s male bud about to bear fruit, could earn water that lose
weight too fast in their throats. Here, the chapel’s stoup is dry and shoeboxes
with desiccants intact are enough to soar for a stunted word mid-Skype.
Even if they could only swear of women whose niqab he allegedly lifted
or her tongue that may have revered another’s reverie or the firecracker
their son set off too early, it left him soundless. In the silence of other men
in puberty, he feels a shiver of consent in his back pocket. Suddenly,
all else is debris.