here first. until we are there.

mom

today, a list.

1. Perfect things (surprisingly, they’re not mind-blowing) sneak up on you. I think it is hope that floats, happiness well it just is. The way you know your heart, the way you know your mother is gone, the way you know that living is the only response to everything and anything. And not in spite of, but because of. 

how strange that the happier things that have come have always been tinged with some sort of sadness. sunlight has a touch of the dark, only because it always holds you. only because love is infinite.

2. It really is easier to hate yourself, than to always say, “No, I will not let you do this to me anymore.” Too many voices have tried to tell us otherwise, and too loudly and with too much certainty. Also, no matter how much dye goes on my hair or lipstick on my lips—it takes courage to truly say, “Because I’m worth it.” 

It here means everything. I’m worth everything. And in that way, nothing too.

3. Oh love, may your heart break everyday, may it never be completely whole. 


In which the gongs signaled an opening, and a family comes together.

Papa tells me that we’re going to an exhibit opening. It seems the de guia’s (or the tahimiks) are having a show. I nod and ask for an apple pie. 


And we went. The exhibit (of course i missed the title of the exhibit) was in a small space. nothing fancy. nothing solemn actually. nothing impenetrable. even if it did feature a large installation of a indigenous film crew making indigenous films. rattan figures woven by a blind man.  And even with the collages of Kawayan de Guia (mixtures of childhood drawings, cut-out pictures of newspapers), and the torn-up but put back together photographs of Kidlat de Guia (papa found it amusing how kidlat tahimik calls himself junior. i do too. even if he was the one who named his son kidlat. its like the whole oedipus dilemma but in reverse) these always seem like such serious brooding things.

the simplest things when rendered in art do that, no? because you always expect something lofty, to be faced with what you can name makes you doubt the names you know.

kabunyan’s (the youngest and with what i must say is the most lyrical name) mosaics with photographs were funny without forcing themselves. no self-reflexive, oh look at me. 

but it was their mother, Katrin’s work that just delighted me. and i mean it in the way the children find things fascinating—it is the joy in seeing the true in what is considered forgotten, unworthy, and unimportant. 

she made assemblages from pieces that she picked up from the beach and their burnt house. They were beings, coming in pairs. Like cartoons, but handdrawn ones. Like characters you met in the best fantastic children’s story you’ve ever been read or told. i told her that they were such happy figures. she (probably trying to be nice. who tells an artist that their work is happy? it seems almost disrespectful ano?) said that they were happy to have survived. 

thank God that I’ve been crying the whole day (done with the ugly cry before noon) or else I would have completely gone off again at that statement. 

but what truly did make my tears brim was when father kidlat, now in bahag and bearing a gong, comes out, calls his children, his wife, and they dance around the room, around their grandmother, around a young boy tumbling over everything. it is exactly like what we’ve seen of tv of these dances with gongs, and nothing like it. because it is happiness, it is the belief in the ritual—certainty that we can create a sacred space—and that it is well-lit and warm and inviting. 

oh mama would have loved all of it.

The exhibit is at the Ricco Renzo Gallery, on top of Cafe Ricco Renzo. Along Reposo (or is it nicanor something now), right in front of Wine Depot. In old makati.


years pass, not to heal, but that they do.

In Place of Emotion


120 pounds of absence weigh heavy
on the body. When they said, depression,
they meant as opposed to elevation;
not a case of psychiatry, but one

of topography. Death, they did

say, would shake, shatter the world,

yet there were only fissures, only ruptures,

as if land does not believe in endings. Only the slow

release of grief, as steam unfurling into the air.

Just sadness writing its own space, its own geography.

While beneath, blood curdles
thick, a compression of the living

that is left to be done, to its own.

and years pass, not to heal,

but that they do. A study in geology.

A map now reads new countries

in pink relief on brown, worn skin.




forgotten pieces

I dug through whatever you collected
and wondered why there was so much
I don’t remember.

I found pearls, flea market jewelry
and ornate gold pieces
that you would wear, your arms
tracing patterns in the air
to the steady beat
of faraway bamboo clappers.

I sat, and sorted
on the floor, blocked the way
but didn’t really care
because this had to be done
like you kneeling in the kitchen,
a labyrinth of supermarket bags.

I lifted a ceramic container out of the box
expecting to find more pearls inside,
those that you would wear
when you’d leave for your trips,

it was baby teeth,
yellowing but unyielding
among your jewelry.