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poetry

The last time I saw you
hair was shorter and black
glasses were unknowingly hip
sky was blue though grey too
lining the horizon
I had new shoes and you
were as tall as a mountain.
We had our hairs cut.

But they grow so fast, I say.
So we get our hairs cut some more

So strange to see the color of coal
spotted stone, and snow (which I’ve never touched before)
emerge from hiding places in your hair.
My hair is long again. We agree
to let it wait a while.
I hear you chuckle in prediction. . .
What could possibly happen?
A fevre dream, I hear you mutter.

Now despite your hair, I see you again
as you were the last time I saw you.
Your hair becomes my hair
I see through glasses as you do
The sky was not always blue
And I’ve worn out your old shoes.

They grow so fast, I say.
We get our hair cut.

I receive your post from Tehran
I send a letter in Cebu
You mail a post-it to Iloilo
I have mail from Beirut
There’s a photo on the stamp
I smile at the Alps in Leyte
You fall asleep on my pillow
And I wake to the smell of French toast
On your latest napkin
And begin again and trace your trip
In circles on the postage strip

To hear your speak about the mules that
Guide you through the Mykonian suburb
While I connect the stars and guess where you are
Are you in Nantucket maybe?

Plucking songs on strings
Posting strings behind the postage
You’ll hear me play when you
Tear the envelope open
You sound exactly like the ocean
Exciting, if you do it too—

If you do it too,
I’ll search for you
Lines suddenly vanish as I
Cross my fingers over the Atlantic
And around the world
I move in circles again
In hopes that I one day do what you do too
That this letter reaches you
And your stars in Benguet
Which is not too far from Bengal
A stone from Nepal
The horizons and mountains
The vast northern candles of snow
To go east and feast upon
Our leftover dates, our
Chinese teas and dates on
The soft junks that tear through
The continent and carry us closer
To our next postcard…

Which reads of the hope of reaching you
My pockets packed with spyglass and trail
And clutching your tail in goodbye notes
As I ask who has seen you.

Soon, I am going to scale the peak
of my existence, a legacy of explorers
in my crew advance me:
Columbus, Cortes, Lewis and Clark, and
Cousteau and a hundred others
whose names are made of the same stuff
as carpe diem . . .

I remember we were reading a book
slowly and together, in the library
We hunched over a page
We lunched over a passage
like two excited children over their first dead insect
and you even said:
“Look![1]
I see                            .                                              .                                               .
America!”

That is when I knew you were my Columbus.
That is when it began: the voyage of the heart.

I cannot say I knew exactly where I was going;
most of my certainties
were partial constructions:
half-drawn maps on 7-11 receipts
and firsthand accounts in journal entries.
But in learning your language,
I learned how to write down directions.
And in reading them again,
I recognize the same Indian spark of the first dawn on your horizon.

If you’ll allow me to retrace our scribbles,
I’ll allow you to toss my ship against the shore:

We

were

naked

and hundreds of miles apart
when our strange eventful history began.
I had no inkling of you and you had no inkling of me,
but I know it was impossible for anyone to have seen it ahead[2]

 


[1] (in your seemingly ageless whisper)

[2] (Anyone except perhaps my third grade Civics teacher who hinted specifically that the way I’d find you was the same way Magellan found our country –
completely by accident.)

I like the quiet that follows the ringing
I like how it feels like you could pick up
any minute now
I like how every ring lasts as long as a heartbeat and how sometimes it feels like I am listening to my heartbeat and any minute now it could stop and instead I’ll hear your voice and I’ll still hear my heart. I like that a lot
I like how you tell me about your shit-stained sandals or how your sister fell into the toilet or how you forgot to give in the laundry today or how you fell down the stairs or how you’re pretty sure that the monster in your closet is throwing a party tonight but he forgot to ask you permission because he thought you were going to be in Istanbul this weekend. I like it because I’m the monster in your closet and I get to see you tonight.
I like how we pretend to fall asleep and I like to pretend that you’re hugging something and pretending it’s me. I like to pretend that you know. And then I like to hug something, even if it is a shit-stained sandal, because then I can pretend it’s you.
I like sex. ‘Yun lang.
But I think
I like you more.
I like how it feels like we’re making art all the time
And the billboards are canvas for conversation,
And the tv shows are canvas for conversation,
The jokes are canvas, the papers are canvas,
The news are canvas, the lies are canvas,
The clothes are canvas, the teachers are canvas,
Heavenly hallowed canvas for a good thirty bucks, canvas that goes straight into your ears, canvas in a can, all you canvas can eat, but the flirting!
Is definitely, definitely, def-in-it-ely

Shit-
Stained
Sandal!

What I don’t like for a change, is change, and I mean the kind of change that isn’t canvas. The kind of change that means I’ll be buying something other than instant coffee.
But the thing I like best, I like you, and I like how we can be quiet forever, and it can still feel like we’re still throwing parties in the closets in our heads.