we bleed words

until we are read all over

writer’s block pt. 2

2:11 a.m.
what is it about me that makes me want to open my heart to everyone all the time, as if i can’t be silent for too long; i can’t ever keep things to myself. so open, but still so impossibly far away from everything in a blurry mess of messes. i need to write and i need to write about myself, and sometimes i think it’s because i’m the only person i can ever know or want to know. who says stuff like that out loud. just wanna scream into the void and ask ‘is it supposed to be like this?’ do we all have these thoughts but never tell anyone? why do i keep trying to say ‘do you feel it too?’ when i know that they don’t feel it at all, not like this. anyway, i haven’t cried for weeks and weeks and i think it’s all going to pour out of me one day when i least expect it, like on a morning when i’m sitting in class or on the train ride home – all of a sudden this blubbering little girl is crying for no reason, no reason, no point to any of it. don’t comfort me, it’ll only make me cry more, i don’t really know why kindness makes me scared and sad and i always wonder if the world is clean and pure and humans ruin it, or if it’s the other way around. maybe everything is ugly and we have to make it pretty. i know i’m going to make a beautiful life out of anything i’m given. i know it. sometimes it’s very strange and lonely here. i feel like i have lost a lot of my language trying to describe myself and my world. you know, i’m so grown-up now that little children call me ‘lady’, and they run around me in circles while i hope to god that i stay sweet and never become bitter never ever. tomorrow i’ll start a new painting while i wait for the words to find me, and i’ll remember myself again, i will, i will.

The Colour of July

Somewhere across the ocean, the thought sleeps:
a dying fish in the sand that screams until no one
can bear to listen to its ragged breathing any longer.
Shoot it once to give it peace. Don’t pray for the dead;
pray for the dying, for the living who have been left
behind in the unforgiving sea, these cold waters.
We refuse to let go. We refuse to go under.

I wring the poem out of myself.

I swim and then I don’t swim, until all that is left
is the silence I was born into, the silence that has
made a home inside of me. My soul, the colour of July.
A story I only half-remember. I told you once,
when we were younger, about the fear we keep
but cannot speak of. That ancient ache, the one
that my ancestors used to bury, along with the
bodies of their lost children, on the islands of Boracay.

O friend, the words have left me dry again.
A language that is shaped by fear.
Fear that is formed from a lost love, a quiet love;
the hands that wrap warm rice into banana leaves.
We learn to live like this. I don’t pray for my own bones.
I ask the ocean to keep you warm, to keep you safe. 
A longing so pure, I forget what sin feels like.

INTERLUDE

One day when it all makes sense, you’ll realise that you really do have spider hands and a poison-mouth; the one your mother always said would ruin you, spit venom onto your skin, the way a knife kisses open wounds. You know the story begins somewhere here, but it always ends in tangles, and look – you’re making a mess out of yourself again. Bad girl. Silly sad, lonely girl. Running around with no socks on, getting dirt everywhere, DIRT (and it really is dirt); you almost wanted to call it earth, or soil, or something almost-sweet, and not as ugly. Nothing is more honest than the ugly. Here, I’ll give you my ugly. My burnt bread crumbs, hidden in old shirt pockets, in between loose strands of hair. Layers upon layers. The night my mother screamed at the thunder, out on the balcony by herself, under a wolf-moon; howling. Screamed and screamed, and came back after an hour, only to say: I’ve been speaking to the clouds, after I asked her where have you been? And really just thinking, at that moment, WE ARE ALL INSANE, and beyond insane, and every time you talk about jumping off the god damn balcony I want to laugh and swallow the earth until I can feel the thunder in my stomach, that rumble, that fire, the words that burn. Bad girl, says the man, lingering in the shadows. Bite my hands off. We don’t want to talk about the midnight ache. The incessant dogs barking, the neighbours fucking, the quiet wake of suburban dreams in the darkness. Her voice nothing but an angled silhouette, cutting into the silence I created: I don’t think I’m alive sometimes. Well, I, I don’t think. I don’t think. This house breathes like a drum. Ba dum, ba dum. She falls back asleep, as I lie awake hoping to dream about myself, waiting for the hazy night to settle into my eyes, so I can see my face more clearly.

this is not a poem pt.3

(Note: A song I listen to when I’m standing alone on a crowded train)

Every few months, I feel like I need to sit down and ask myself, how are you? And then I make notes of my own response. As a child, I always thought that this was supposed to be private, that matters of the self concern no one but me, my heart, my being. But I think I mostly feel the need to become aware of myself when I’m surrounded by other people. I think I realise aspects of myself in relation to strangers.

Where to start? I’m studying again, and it’s a home for me, it always has been. Books, linguistics, philosophy, language – where my heart lives. The people here are so hopeful, too. Everyone I meet is rich, young and pretty. We want to be actors, writers, artists. The future is real and tangible and good. But the city fizzles into something distant when I take the long train ride home, back to the streets where everything is quiet again. How can I be in-between places like this? I just keep myself busy so I don’t have to do too much thinking. Maybe all these people are just distractions. There’s this lovely poem by Mary Oliver that goes, “I was so full of energy. I was always running around, looking at this and that. If I stopped the pain was unbearable. If I stopped and thought, maybe the world can’t be saved, the pain was unbearable.” I’m not sure what to make of this sometimes. I worry that something is sleeping inside of me, and I will never know. I worry for my worrying.

Anyway, it’s been cold in Sydney lately. I always lose my voice in this weather. I have coffee with other dreamy souls; soft boys and kind girls who are so confident in their own thoughts and their beliefs. We sit in our tutorial rooms and start every sentence with, I feel, I think, I believe. I don’t know what I know anymore, and there is some sort of a beauty in that. I have realised that I care about what other people think. I like it when they tell me about their lives, where they come from. When they ask me what it’s like in my little suburban town, I tell them it is peaceful. I’m not sure if it really is, or if I’ve just started to find peace in it. The gentle rumble, the white noise. It’s all a blur; my home, my friends, everything. I come home in the late afternoons, and tumble into sleep. What else can I do with myself? I feel like I’m in the middle of some-great-happening, like these moments are all building up towards something that I can’t see yet.

These days, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of illness and sadness and talk of death, and it hurts me in ways that I cannot even comprehend. Oddly, it makes me feel even more grateful for this quiet living. I am thankful that I feel things so deeply. Sad that my sadness will kill me one day. Blessed to know I can read poetry, and weep for beauty. Someone from here wrote me an email a long time ago, and it ended with “good luck to you and your lovely struggle”. I think of that message often. I think of strangers sharing my thoughts, like little window lights in an apartment we all live in. I can’t see you, but I know that you’re there. Washing the dishes. Putting your children to sleep. Carrying on, through this lovely struggle. A weighted gift.

An ode to the softhearted

(Note: It’s been raining a lot here.)

I think we deserve
a soft epilogue, my love.
We are good people
and we’ve suffered enough.

— Nikka Ursula, from “Seventy Years of Sleep #4.”

We who are afraid of our fathers
still wince at the thought
of gentle hands. These softhearted
boys, our brothers. Our kin.

My tongue left sitting in the kitchen sink
on that day when you held my face
in your hands, and I realised

I have never been scared of you.

Now we drive to the hospital
carrying cheap flowers, and a bag
of old books. I spend my Saturdays
watching you eat, touching the hair
that will be gone soon. The yellow
lights fade from your bedside window
as we watch in silence, but

my god, how
I have loved you
for all these bygone years.

Let me carry this tide.
Let me fight the weary fight.
The embers sleep inside me.
The heartstrings, I pull.

Let me tell you, once more,
how I spent all day crying,
just so I can hear you say
don’t worry, darl, in that voice of yours;
that lazy drawl, the one
that still brings me so much comfort:
I’m not going anywhere.

 

Fragments of conversations between two girls

(Note: All these lines are stolen from real conversations; nothing is made up, only reworded.)

We were angels once, weren’t we? I can’t bear
to watch them suffer anymore.

I know. I know. I had a dream where I was
flying so close to the sky, God
was sleeping in my chest. He spoke to me
in a dead language that only I could understand.

I wish he spoke to me, too. Does he love us?
Does he love me?

You make everyone feel love for you.

How?

I don’t know. You talk about art
like it’s the beginning and end of the world.
I want to kiss you. I want you to feel warm;
that’s love. This burning feeling in my chest,
I think, I think it’s love. Or hope. Hope
for goodness 
in this universe. 

Sometimes I want to write the world
more golden than it really is. Maybe
everything is nothing. Maybe there is
no goodness. But, then –

I catch my own reflection
in the worn-out pages
of a faded book I read once as a child.
I watch the rain slip circles into puddles,
like an open target.

And then you know that there’s goodness
in the universe?

And then I know that we all
come back to each other in the end.
How kind the universe must be, to give us this.
How wonderful, that my soul found yours.

I’d look for your soul in every universe.

I know. I know.

*

Here’s a poem that reminds me of you.
Here’s a poem I wrote
for you.

*

Can we exist somewhere else?
I’m scared of myself. I don’t like this place.
This body, 
this mind of mine. I’m scared.

Me too, friend. Me too.

The Only Song

I sit in a lecture theatre
full of pretty blonde girls, with coffee cups
for handshakes, and a pile of sloppy wet
paperbacks on dusty table tops.

The old white man
is balding. He says, ‘If you are here,
I assume that English is your first language’.

The brown girl next to me licks her lips nervously,
and our eyes meet along this tightrope of silence. Briefly,
hesitation. Then, the small laughter that follows.
For a second, I think:
you are my sister. How did we

end up here? Me, with a bag full of words
to rummage through in the dark. My navigator,
my soul. My words, that are not my words.

My tongue that can only speak like this,
with an accent that my grandmother cannot decipher.
What has happened to my mouth?
What has happened to

my song? Maybe

my first language is the colour
of the sun dripping onto dry leaves. Or even
the touch of my knee against your knee; the low-burning
light that lingers in the air – the light, the light,

the light is my language.

It is my native tongue,
I know it well.
I wake up to a day with no wind,
and I hear the earth move. I hear it calling my name,
the only song.

In another life, there are no words for this.