today we found out my little brother
didn’t know the tagalog word
for table (‘lamesa’)
they fine them one peso
in school every time they’re caught
not speaking in english
bullying them into fluency
they did the same when i was in sixth grade
most of the books in the library
were in english
i lost my library card several times
before i read them all
when i was nine we got cable
and started watching american crime dramas
in lieu of local noontime shows
in the effort to encourage globalisation
they bred an entire generation
who couldn’t tell a table from a chair
it fills me with shame that until a few years ago it was
with a sense of pride that i said
"i think in english"
and considered it a compliment whenever
foreigners told me
"your english is good, for a filipino"
i never thought there was anything wrong
that nearly every story i’ve ever written
was in a language that wasn’t mine
i can only form ideas
in the colonisers’ tongue
and i realized it too late (‘huli na ang lahat’)
now i can’t tell if i’m stealing words
or taking them back
there is this thing about the way you look at her after you’ve toked the joint a couple of times, after you’ve sucked and spat one-two-four lungfuls, tipped your head back to rest against the siding of somebody’s borrowed back porch. before, she’s beautiful like a crowd from the window of a moving train — all bright colors and blurred lines, no way for a pair of eyes to meet.
after, she’s beautiful like a punch to the stomach, wretched and starbursting, leaving you nauseous.
there are a hundred things you could say to her, of course, and all of them feel stupid. this is always how it goes; the way she rubs a chipped-polish finger against her jawline in thought brings you to lonesome ecstasies you knifeswallow back, and they as they’re clicking and catching in your freshly scalded throat, she laughs at someone else’s joke and you spend four supernova seconds understanding murder.
later, you’ll whisper your apologies into the blue-grey blackness of the rainstorm sky, but it won’t forgive you, and you won’t ask it to.
you want to tell her that she’s a riot of summer greens and autumn golds, that in the blinking, pock-marked light of the naked sixty-watt illuminating the yard she’s like staring into a kaleidoscope, a cacophony of prismatic constellations, each as beautiful as the next but gone with a moment’s motion. you don’t, because there’s smoke in your lungs and tears in your eyes and she’s laughing at someone else’s joke, anyway; it should be enough, this night with every thought like an epiphany, one tired old star shining through the clouds.
but you’ll wonder, tomorrow, what would have happened: if you’d drifted towards her orbit, or pulled her into yours.
If You Can’t Hang — Sleeping With Sirens
not everyone has the blessing to understand sadness
when waiting at the bus stop, it’s okay to smoke cigarettes
never touch anyone else’s clothes at the laundromat
it’s okay to miss the people who were bullets to you
when your grandmother asks you how you are, be honest
never be afraid to say “no” even after you’ve said “yes”
if someone tells you graffiti isn’t art, prove them wrong
remember people by their eye color not their clothes
you’re allowed to like dark chocolate with tangerines
don’t lie that you don’t have a lighter when you really do
turn your phone off every once in a while and find the moon
if you want a tattoo, don’t let anyone tell you not to get it
if you ever find yourself at the graveyard, read the names”