notes on a dying stranger

stage four lung cancer looked less
like a nebula of dark cells floating,
pushing past pink tissue and alveoli

but rather
it was a plastic halo stuck between
a trembling lip and sickly nose;
it was hair growing unevenly above
hunched shoulders;
it was slender fingers folded atop
graying emaciated thighs
in anticipation.

in the room, there was only one photo of her:
she was smiling there
with full cheeks and
brighter skin.
she stood a foot apart from her son and husband,
both of who were in a close embrace.

the medication stopped working a long time ago
and everyone is holding their breath.

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crying in three parts

i.
the sea bore me during low tide.
my tiny body raced into the rocky shore,
and my back bled crimson and yellow.
it was here that i learned how to wail.

ii.
a set of arms curiously trace the scars. i
read this as love, and we sift our hands underneath
each other’s flesh. our arms in an embrace for eternity.
our eyes glossed over with tears.

iii.
i perform a surgical procedure on myself:
scalpels, scissors​, and two pairs of arms​
hanging a lifeless blue from their tendons.
i weep from the butchering. ​

the day after

the sun seemed to hang in the blue sky
with no intention of setting—
its certainty scorched
relentless against my skin.

and so i lay calmly beneath it,
so as to let it peel me clean and
evaporate the mist that remained
from that endless beautiful twilight.

and i will gather the salt on my face.
i will let it dry my tongue
of the words that poured
nourishingly and sweet.

and i will hold this body with my own hands.
i will heave it upwards
to let it face the horizon
with a smile well-rehearsed.

motherland

sunlight flickered past leaves, projecting
a kaleidoscopic green upon my eyelids.
the road bent through the mountains,
swallowing cars into its peaks and
lulling its children to sleep.
the landslides grew distant as the
pavement thumped to the rhythm of a heart.
a distant echo of the archipelago was
etched into valleys as rice terraces,
and the gods loomed where the clouds
scraped the grass.
to this day the ground whispers of
brown feet adorned with beads and shackles,
of tongues that have tasted tinola and blood.

the world has continued spinning just as you expected

but the crater was never filled up
with concrete for a parking lot
because what’s left of you still
glitters bright upon the earth
better than any tar and asphalt.

and we collect you from in between
cracks in the soil, our fingers
clinging to memories of your
scintillating laughter,
your brilliant mind.

our skin has renewed in the year since–
the wounds have scabbed over, peeling away.
we are all in some amount bigger,
our hearts accustomed to heaviness,
but you linger still in the wrinkles
of our palms and of our laughter.
each gentle word a testament to you,
we breathe continuously of your love.

dedicated to Alainee. your words still echo here.

malpractice

like nettles pressed from beneath skin,
the hardening scab itches profusely.
cracks of soft pink flesh peer between
tectonic plates of scarring.
a slow metamorphosis, the gentle
pulsing of wings through a cocoon.

but the hands i let massage numbing
ointment into my scars have dug through veins.
i watch with empty eyes his careful
disassembly of my chest cavity
as if the pain was a routine blood drawing
and allowed nothing more than a wince.
my organs were then sterilized and
sutured and cauterized haphazardly in
a vain attempt at reparation.

weak and deformed, the flesh trembles
at the gentlest breeze.