Sky Over Cairns

I wake up from my seat to a sudden
blue blasting from the window.
The sky looks certain as azure,
if not for its scant escort of clouds
and the crepuscular rays
escaping through them.
Perhaps requisite at this hour,
perhaps proofs of something more
divine?an assurance that
everything is all well and all right.
Six hours earlier I took off
at 11:30PM from a country
where men are beginning to learn
the left is right and the right is wrong.
There are men, too, who are once full of life
but now static in street corners, under a bridge,
or where the grass grow thick, sometimes
bearing messages on cardboard strips
that nobody could dare unread?
I have tried but everything slips
into permanence, destined to be recalled
like a malevolent incantation.
We are above Australia,
and at this hour the sky in my country
is still dark. A stewardess struts by,
her service trolley wheels humming
in their axles. At the far end of the cabin
some coins jangle and I am reminded of home.
I turn my head back as if I could tell
how far away I am now from everything.
Somewhere thousands of feet
below, the Great Barrier Reef
is dying, a world unto itself,
corals bleaching and breaking
like bones and brittle shanty doors.
For a second the plane takes a sharp dip,
and a collective gasp follows?one that could
only come from the refined honesty of fear.
I look around and find most of the
passengers settle back to sleep.
The seatbelt sign is on, my arm rests
damp with sweat. I close my eyes,
recalling which of my ancestor?s
prayers I need to recite.


Cleaning the Attic

Around two or three silverfishes dart
among the pulverized lizard eggshells
at the bottom of the box. Gliding into corners,
hiding from view. I pull my hand away,
eventually learning the shock
might be much more real to them
than it is for me: a lesson in consolation.
Here I keep what I hold on to until
memory thins into anomalous relics:
tattered journals, lined notebook
with two-chapter story in puerile longhand cursive
of a ?monstrous but delicate swan? (a fourth grader?s
imagination powered by high-fructose grape juice),
limbless G.I. Joes, foxing sci-fi paperbacks, tin globe
clanking with coins of countries where my mother
would love to visit if she were younger,
phone bills and deposit slips from early 2010?s,
diagram of cardiovascular system with its heart
fading from being kept too long in the dark?
I have kept and accommodated too much,
too, like this heart. In the dark. I believe
this is the noble service of recollection,
as how postmen still faithfully slip letters
into mailboxes, one after the next?
and here I end up with what would mostly find
their way to the dispose pile. In another corner
of this choked space a column of vinyl,
a bag of reunion shirts, a row of encyclopedia,
a pair of old wedges, a bundle of Christmas balls
and a matryoshkan discovery: In a chocolate box
within a shoe box, a sheaf of poems for the future
self, abundant with rhymes that sing like fork tine
on crystal. Today I learn the divisions of my desires,
as a sharp shaft of light scatters in from the east
window, frenzied motes eager for the day?s baptism:
I imagine there is a corridor that leads to everything
I cherished as a child, another as an adult,
and one squat room enough to fit those
that come to fruition, and another where I could reach
anything anytime at arm?s length. Lastly, a hall
where contradictions meet their compromises (obviously
just as important as the toilet and the kitchen sink).
Years later, in a country continents away from home,
I am warned that what we may lose
might never be found again. I was told that
on the same day I was reminded to be kinder.
So from the attic, I bring down several boxes
of knickknacks to be banished from the house.
Straining under the weight, my arms shake,
careful not to drop anything out of my embrace.


There is a boy in the island

The boy tells you what white is in his native tongue?puti, like sand,
like your skin, like the cobblestoned boulevards you have back home.
You tell him there?s something about this island. You do not know
what it is exactly, but you tell him it?s like home. He says this is home.

You are riding a scooter forty miles per hour and the boy is behind you.
You feel his bare thighs touching yours and yours touching his. He tells
you something, but you can?t hear it, not with the winds against your ear
but you laugh anyway. He leans in closer now, his breath against your
damp neck shouting: look at the sky. Then you see it. The Milky Way.

The boy takes you to a moonlit boulevard. Both of you are barefoot
and the sand feels soft and coarse and breathing. You place your foot
right where his just left, right foot then left then right. He tells you this
is where the locals eat and drink and sing. Then the boy sings for you,
he glides through the song like you would through September waves.

You are singing now. La Mer. The Sea. With the accent of your father
and your father?s father. La mer a des reflets d?argent. The sea shimmers
with silver. The boy doesn?t understand a single word. But he sings
with you anyway. In his eyes the moon, almost pulling you, looking
at your lips, mimicking its foreign waves, to your eyes, pulling and
receding, you are the wave ebbing from his mere sight. And you drink
San Miguel from a single glass, from the rim where his lips just touched.

You are beside the boy, and it?s almost night time and everything is blue
and you?re leaving tomorrow before the island wakes up, before he
wakes up and he tells you he loves your blue eyes and the waves
you conjure behind those deep blue orbs when you laugh.
And he means it. But you don?t reply. Instead you
hand him a cigarette, he leans in closer waiting
waiting for you to light it with yours waiting
for you to cup the ember of your cigarette
with your hands and you?re inhaling
and the boy is inhaling and you?re
thinking of kissing him and
you can kiss him but
you don?t.

The boy wakes up. Somehow, he thought,
the island is twice as blue.


City lines

Tangled electric cables are always part of the sky?s scenes.
The day looks owned by many and conquered by some, maya claws holding onto
thin lines. Whether the clouds finally share its load to the ground
or the sun thinks it is the only star, everyone is always under the weather.
You remember one rainy Talamban morning and feathers clinging
on wings made for false progress and resilience, silent flight above heights.
You remember that late afternoon you called your apartment home
because the loved closed its door for you. With tree-barren mountains and more
construction here and there, you ask if you are building a life. No cloud is drying,
no soil is not harsh. Living means remembering breathing spaces
in which no one but you crashes to make a point.

Then the city presents itself on a star-filled night
devoid of the color black yet not of the dark
unfolding its never-enough narrow roads
with your story to tell, unsettled dust just around
and the dead-end street?happiness.


A Brief Meeting

Two hermit crabs face each other,
swift away vulnerable,
trying on each other’s shells.

Their bodies contour any shape
as long as it spells protection.

As a huge wave foams the tide line,
both are nudged to move. Their legs
press lightly on sand, only to
wash away the subtly prints.
Midday sun, in disbelief of
a cold exchange. This is why
we never fill                      another’s absence
the same way.                      We are houses
in constant need                      of shelter.