Sunday, November 28, 2010


that turpentine stench first
filled my nostrils very young. she
stood with an apron in the laundry
room; pausing, standing back, knitting her brow

each of us sitting for at least
one portrait. she tried water,
then charcoal, but really loved
oil. burnt umber, prussian blue, sap green

viridian. she said, we try not to use too much
black or white. those colors don't really
exist in the world. try to show the hues using
different colors; it's more interesting and true

she was jealous of those pastes.
watching pbs, sucking her teeth: that's
an expensive color! so much that
christmas memories are filled

with small boxes holding tubes
cadmium yellow, light; van dyck brown; payne's gray
each year, more tubes and tubes
it felt like she never had enough.

in my house, over the piano she made me keep playing as a child
hangs her last oil
the boldest, most dynamic piece of landscape
she'd ever painted

subtle, muted, green mixed with violet, the trees almost
mourn with me, the loss of their maker
when we cleaned out her things
a whole room filled with easels

sketchbooks, unused yarn, fabric scraps, calligraphy brushes
ink stones, rice paper, photographs
and a green tackle box filled with
paint tubes

no one else wanted the supplies
so i took them. sullen.
i don't know how to paint with oils
i've kept them in this house for almost nine years

meanwhile, i take a job in an art department
where every other person is a painter
longing for more supplies
i remain jealous of those tubes just like her

but then, three weeks ago my not-supervisor's
sister drops dead suddenly
no one knows why
she flies across the country

to tend to body and mind
arrives at work three days later
red-eyed with smokey hair, says:
where else am i going to go?

not-supervisor is a painter
a very successful one, until life happened
and she had to support kids; family
she specializes in a certain symmetry; she's not

picky about paint. but she uses
a lot of it
today, i sort through my work space
find that green tackle box

smelling of the turpentine that
wafts through laundry room memories
i will never sit a portrait for mom again.
so i find a clean bag

place each paint tube in it
write down the name of each color
wrap them up, nice and neat
for transport in the morning

i hope not-supervisor will use every one
to remember her sister
so i can let go of my mother
and more things can be made

again, and again, and again.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


london was near a beach.

i was walking along this beach with a flamboyant man of chinese descent who was apparently my father.

the beach was strewn with detritus.

but that didn't matter; i was searching for something. what it was, i cannot recall.

upon a hill, we saw a structure. it was old, and at first, seemed abandoned. we passed by the structure, arguing. but something about the structure brought us back--maybe we heard a sound or i needed to use the toilet.

we walked up the hill, my "father" swishing behind me. when we arrived at the building, we quickly recognized it was a church. i looked into the main chapel and scoffed: why build the pulpit facing the sea? the congregation should face the ocean, so the sermon will feel like it is rising from the blue deep!

we walked through the rest of the church and found it was, in fact, full.

we turned the corner and there were many elderly people, almost entirely afro-caribbean, desi, or chinese. my "father" began to smile widely and spoke with a man who had a heavy jamaican accent. everyone was smiling at me.

he said: yes, yes. we welcome all kinds here. well. every church will say that. but look here--we have every shade of black and brown here; some with arthritis, some not. the young ones, they are upstairs. some of them are confused, searching for something. and some of them have pink hair.

i understood that pink hair meant queer.

he continued: but the reason all shades of black and brown and confused and pink-haired come here is because we know--it is a tough thing to be brown in this world--

the man and my "father" looked directly into my eyes--

but some of the people who are brown also have pink hair--

his eyes were full of pathos, and my "father" replied--

and that's even tougher.


i woke up.

this was the first time in a few weeks that i woke up and did not feel depressed. i felt loved. and determined. as if the ancestors understood the struggle i am facing as they were looking on with loving eyes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

my house

in manila
there is a building
built for an international festival
by the over zealous wife of a dictator

in their haste, they
built too fast
sealing bodies of builders
in the too-wet foundation of the edifice

now, the building lies empty
ignored, forgotten
a tomb commemorating
the hubris of megalomaniacs

in my city where
tech boom meets econo-bust
whole neighborhoods are built
in weeks

they look prim, proper, perfectly
middle class. humming with the rhythms
of aspiration and need.
only during harsh weather

do their owners listen carefully
to the paper-thin walls
and the winds threatening to pull up
the homes from the earth

when the two towers fell
and they took away the rubble
what was left was a mammoth of a

whole structures
never stand
without deep roots
routes to strength and certainty

but digging is hard; it takes
strong backs, persistence
sometimes we can guess map what veins of dirt we will hit
but mostly, everything is a surprise

sand, rock, loam, old refrigerators
brick, shale, the skeleton of a long-lost possom
gas pockets, pipes, geysers,

the deeper we dig those holes
the stronger the house becomes
but the more we must unearth
the more secrets and surprises we must witness

for with height comes depth
just like how we don't listen through the chatter
but the strongest voices are borne
out of the stillest silence

so is the gentlest love
borne sometimes from solitude
or the ripest fruit
borne from rot and decay

my house, so loyal, so warm
has had cracks in its walls from the day
i moved in
the foundation sits on sand

in this house, though, i have built a home
with tenderness and thought
that has weathered many storms
i take those cracks as testament

to the hope i hold in my heart
and now, i must dig deep
to build, to rebuild, to withstand the ever-coming wind
the digging can be rough

lasting until the wee hours
full of tears and whispered screams
refuse of the past
that can still bear us fruit

i see those suburban houses
prim and sweet; sometimes
they seem to be perfect
but i know

i would rather get my hands dirty
in the soil beneath my feet
to build and rebuild with purpose
than watch perceived perfection

blow away with the slightest
breeze; my house
will always be strong
digging deep

into the depths of the soul

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


sometimes i miss myself
talking past the horizon
i think if i can look far enough
something will become clearer

i wonder if in this habit
i've become unable to
see what lies
closer than anything else

32 years
and still
i'm learning to be a better roomate
with myself

we fight sometimes
but mostly
we turn up the noise
shut our doors

and wait. no
maybe that's not it at
all these days i don't
recall youth

smiling softly,
patient like nursing
a chronic wound
nagging yet healing

yes. that might have been me
young shoots across
fertile land
fleeting and going

on and on. this morning
i woke with little left
but the dew on my finger tips
reminding me

of her. i am
waiting and healing
and remembering what
warmth of other

warmth of self feels
like. never ending
softness splayed across
wisps of freedom.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


letting go is not letting go it is returning to turn and turn to return and skies filled with marbles that rain rain reign the heart of head of heart of heading to the place where i held you tight but loose too tight to let you go too loose to keep you there the sprinkling lights reflecting off the imagined mirror ball on the new hampshire red road turning turning turning around around a round headed kid like me wanted to keep holding on to your now wrinkled yet somehow young hand that once stroked my hair in the moonlit darkness the night after a typhoon-swept tree had fallen on the house in the mountains where we took care of the woman of a womb that bore you so late not too late but still late like you bore me in the warmth of that late summer air when we both looked forward as i confessed i'd gone and fallen in love and what a time to fall in love and you said love is good love is great you should fall in love and what you didn't say was because you will need the love soon because even though i will love you forever i won't always be around to remind you that i do.

incense fragrant
a loss fragrant in sense
incensed at loss

release is everyday now with and without you when you left i thought no mistook no wondered no assumed no forgot yes forgot that releasing your body was not releasing you yes forgot that you were still existing still in my pores still wafting on the breeze in my ears on the memories i still tell and recall in stillness of light yes still body racing mind i must yes to seeing you everywhere yes to light raining down yes to releasing more and more to listening with confusion yes to confusion yes to a car ride back from a mall in a tiny car you know you no more false pride not saying yes but yes to saying i want your child your queer child you just need to find a random asian man i want yes an asian grandchild your child yes you would raise yes and smiling at knowing not quite yet but maybe future yes embarrassed at boldness no regrets when you said those words i knew you finally saw me yes me yes meet me half of the way to the altar of sight you had let me go and then you saw and now i let you go and maybe see you back lit seeing to see the sunsets and storms and soft finger tips at edges end blue baby glory of the once.


Sunday, January 31, 2010


she always leaves pieces of herself as if to insure i won't ever forget her.

it's affective. because i never do.

this time, she dropped a pair of gloves next to the dog's cushions. as always, when i find these pieces, i immediately text: do you want me to send them to you? even when i know her phone is off and her plane is either in the air or preparing to go there.

some people, you watch them and they make this all seem too easy. too glamorous, too practiced. for me, it never gets that way. we've been together eight and a half years, and this is the fifteenth month we've spent apart. each visit through our distance changes. each month we are apart, we change. every time is laced with pain.

sometimes, it's easy to lull oneself into accepting this as normalcy. to think: my solitude is the fabric of life now, the fact that i don't care for my thoughts, my body, my space, my surroundings--this is all a part of the daily routine. i begin to forget that once, with her, i would take care, i would seek comfort in every aspect of my living. now, a patina of sorrow covers each square inch of my being, and when my conscience recalls the warmth for a split second, i feel as though i will break.

my friend told me, you've been through this before, it means you can get through it again. then he added: that may not be much of a comfort.

it's not, really.

every time we see each other again, i'm reminded of what i've been missing. that reminder makes me petulant, resentful. i'm reminded again of my humanity. of loving things i once took for granted, of the fact that i don't need to merely survive an emotional subsistence, but that we are meant to flourish, together--struggling, negotiating, forward looking, arm-in-arm.

i sit under the covers of the bed we just shared: where i wept just minutes ago in a primal scream, where the sheets still smell of her, where we laughed this morning enjoying each other, where we fought savagely two nights ago.

each time she comes and goes, i worry sickly during her flight. a contracting sensation in my belly keeps me still like waiting for a predator to pass. i hate missing her.

i wish she'd come home.

Monday, January 11, 2010


if you wanna know what happens late at night in the middle of the blue-green l.e.d. lights of sanyo and sony and moonshadows falling across the spread never never is the stillness still enough for too long into the gloaming of the after where in a waiting room she has a gown tattered from too many launderings that faded puce with faded navy with faded mauve-maroon maroon marooned on the little pad of never-ending transfusing to come back and late at night i listen carefully to see if i can hear the youth of them plea and conquer and not-stillness wanting and wanting and wanting to a point that when the fucking may or may not stop something inside me says that we're fucked not completely but to a holding stand still not fucked and empty is form is void is wanting is slow is never filled to the hums of what wasn't but what might and the rain on her lashes looks too much like tears like scrubbing my back in the shower until it drains and falls and bits of me enter the sewer go to processing come out the aerator into the air and up to the clouds to the sky to the sun to the moon and come come come down down down falling on her lashes in the middle of the street where apologies were meant but unsaid and the gravel was new hampshire red and the flowing was form was empty was fucking and yet we knew the difference.

i want i want i want to see you here right here before me naked and whole and young and old and when did it matter which she was her like we could tell them apart in the first place racing blood through bare breast it's still warm warm whether it is her or her or even the forbidden her we drank from her and with her and through her i want i want i want to never have that taste of metal come through my cheeks and out through my lips that forgiving never offered and youth missed not forgotten not even wanted anymore because who wants to be 30 25 20 18 anymore anyway my greys her greys our greys are medals are talismans and fuck the fuck the fuck the want want want.

don't go.

dishes stacked on each other in a precarious heap slowly making a long low sustained stench like the faint echo of her breath in the unit where the nurse said they call it neuro breath hard breath breathe again breathe more come here to breathe by me with the warmth of fragrance only you had she had even the forbidden she had that time when we couldn't quite say the words because words felt like nails felt like stones felt too much like hurt even words of love of want of good luck when we could not even for a second think to say it back and instead we walk out to ask the nurse a question and when we come back she's asleep again not yet forever but for the last time.

i want her i want her i want her back and back and now and here and here and closer and never again in the same way but whispers of memories held close and never shared i want her near i want her in me i want inside her and her and her and her and fuck and fuck and fuck and not the same difference same different will she hear me does she hear me if she hears me will she say and if say say truth or lie lie lie with me once again and again and just once if we suffered enough when was the war won?

i want want want again
no more
more and more
not loss
the same
to change
to forever
for never
i want want want the her and the her and the her
a trinity of never and again and not ever

treyf. treyf. treyf.

come back
don't go
just once
not ever
now go

go forth
go into the emptiness and beyond