English [March]

This poem is part of my personal #poetrycalendar challenge for 2017. To see the initial post, click here.


I am so excited that I can finally put this poem out in the universe. I auditioned for Kollaboration 2017 back in March, and as soon as I found out that I would be a finalist for their showcase, I set about writing a poem that would be worthy of the event.

For the kids who have ever been asked, “Where are you really from?”;

For the kids who can’t understand the language of their extended family;

For the kids who can understand, but can’t speak;

For the kids who wish they were bilingual, but aren’t:

This is for you.


English

my english is good.
my english so good
that, “your english is so good,”
is not a compliment. it’s just
the truth.
my english has no exotic origin story because
I’ve been speaking it since birth, because
it has always come first:
     baby’s first word,
toddler’s first sentence,
teenager’s first poem.
my english was reading novels
while your english was flipping through picture books!
my english was writing sonnets
while your english couldn’t even rhyme!
my english can stun a room into silence
have a crowd hanging onto every single word
when my english speaks they listen
your english can’t even be heard
so yes, you better be impressed

my english is what you get
when you put a language on a pedestal
and turn it into currency.
english smells like money,
     tastes like influence,
feels like social mobility –
english sounds a lot like power
so my english is necessary.

they teach in english at the good schools here
     to help you get ahead
help you get out
english is a ticket to opportunity
from the barangay, to the city,
to a plane that will take you far away:
     english will build you a home in a strange place.
english will ease the pain
of the feelings you can’t translate.

my english has no accent
but everybody has an accent!
mine sounds like
yours, but your english is nothing like mine.
my english tastes like soy sauce and vinegar.
my words are acid,
burning a hole through your tongue.
my english is a calamansi hybrid.
my words are sour,
sucker punching your tastebuds.
my english swallowed the philippine sea
and pours it into every word it speaks.
my speech is a typhoon.
it will destroy you.
my english is a shapeshifter.
it will learn all your expressions.
master the nuance of your voice.
and when my english is done:
     it will read better than you,
write better than you,
speak better than you.

but my english can’t pronounce cebuano words.
in tagalog, it’s even worse.
my english can barely wrap itself around mahal kita,
and salamat po, but it has to.
so I can tell my lola, “I love you,”
tell my titos and titas, “Thank you.”
my english can only answer yes or no questions:
“Are you doing well in school?”
     O po.
“Have you eaten yet?”
     Hindi po.
It sits at the fringes of conversation with my mother’s
side of the family. my english doesn’t understand
what everyone is saying, but feels it, somehow.
when I am with the people I love most
my english is not enough.

but I still think in english,
dream in english,
eat-sleep-breathe in english,
laugh in english,
cry in english,
mistakes in english,
regret in english,
forgive in english,
I’ll live and I’ll die
in english.

my english is good.
my english is so good.
my english is all I have.

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Kollaboration Chicago

I have not kept up with posting pieces I write for my #poemcalendar, but I *am* still trying to write one new poem a month. It’s definitely more of a struggle than I thought it would be to push through and complete something.

I wrote a piece in March that I’m really, really excited to finally share with the world on July 8th. A few months ago I auditioned on a whim for Kollaboration’s 2017 Talent Showcase, and somehow made it through as a finalist. As soon as I found out I knew I had to write something fresh.

It’s a performance that makes me feel incredibly nervous, but exhilarated at the same time. I’m exhilarated because I feel so proud of this piece, and so honored to be able to share it with new people. I’m nervous because of the weight this platform carries. Kollaboration exists to give Asian American artists a platform to share their passions, and so I’ll be performing a very personal and very culturally specific piece to an audience of people who will (I hope) relate to what I’m saying in a way other communities may not.

I hope that when I’m on that stage next weekend you vibe with me. I hope that hearing it pushes you past your fears and insecurities and inspires you to pursue your art – whatever it may be. I hope I make you proud.

TO BUY TICKETS TO THE SHOW:

[You can enter CHRISTIAN at checkout for $5 off!]

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kollaboration-chicago-12th-annual-showcase-tickets-34843139769?ref=estw


the end. [april poem]

You’ll wake up in your bed on a morning that feels like any other
Cross the hall to place a kiss on the forehead of a child you love
You will go through the motions
Caffeine, commute, career
Still going nowhere fast
But the lights are on, the rent is paid, you’d rather be bored
Than afraid
Not like that girl on the news the other day
Stripped of the opinions her hollow smile is designed to hide
She said she learnt her lesson
She said your leaders are justified.

good love [February]

This poem is part of my personal #poetrycalendar challenge for 2017. To see the initial post, click here.


all I ask
is for some good love
but why do they make love so selfishly
with no regard
for the contours of your body
with a touch that folds you in on yourself
instead of opening and lifting you

why can I move you with so much ease
press my fingers into your fault lines
coax an earthquake at your core
you know I give good love
you take all I have

shouldn’t be so hard for
hips to move in time
to rise and fall and twist
to the same pulse
but your hips
have never really danced before
only felt rhythm skin deep
not real deep
like writhing in your bones
deep
like flowing in your blood
deep
just because it hurts
deep
doesn’t mean it’s good love

shouldn’t be so hard
to ask for good love
they talk like
they have so much love to give

why does he make love
like a man who has been wandering in a desert so long
his mouth has forgotten how to drink
careless
wasting almost all of it
so hungry that he eats everything
leaves you with almost nothing
hasn’t savoured
any of the sweet or the sour
swallowing you whole without tasting a single thing

Foreigner [January]

This poem is part of my personal #poetrycalendar challenge for 2017. To see the initial post, click here.


my flesh feels foreign to me
too loose over my hips
and taut over my joints
this strange skin holding me together
empty like the stares
of strangers that I pass
I flex my fingers and square my shoulders
try to fix the line of my jaw
look like I belong
steps heavy on the pavement
as if my roots have grown here
all along

english tastes bitter on my tongue here
sticks stubbornly in my ear
my voice falls apart like ashes
and dies in my throat
I slip between cracks of conversation
like a tiny weed between paving stones
unnoticed
I smile and smile
pretend to understand

I feel the silence claw its way into my mouth
and force my lips to laugh
at all the jokes I don’t recognise


I started this poem in September 2016 and finished it in February 2017. It’s the first time I’ve been able to write about feeling so displaced despite living in the country I was born in and interacting in my native language. I’m not entirely happy with it and may rework it later, but I’m proud I tackled something I’ve been sitting on for some time.

A Calendar of Poetry

In January I made a pretty bold declaration on my personal facebook page: I am going to challenge myself to write one poem a month throughout 2017. #poetrycalendar

Something I didn’t do at all in 2016. screen-shot-2017-02-20-at-14-54-04

So I put it out there on Facebook, got really fired up, and…nothing. January came and went without any cohesive poem being written. To make up for all that, I wrote 2 this February. (Read “Foreigner” here and “good love” here)

Here are the rules I’ve made for myself:

  • At least one poem should be written per month
  • The poem has to be shared in a public forum (public blog, your Facebook, a writing group etc)
  • The poem can be started at any point in time but must be finished within that month to count (ie you could pick up an unfinished work from 2016 and finish it in March 2017, that would be March’s poem)
  • There is no limitation on the length of the poem
  • BONUS: Each poem must be performed and recorded (audio or video) by the end of the year.

Here’s to a year of poetry. Happy 2017 ❤


POETRY CALENDAR 2017 [Work in progress]

January: Foreigner

February: good love

March: English

April: the end.

May: TBA

June: TBA

July: TBA

August: TBA

September: TBA

October: TBA

November: TBA

December: TBA

 

Write

Write at your desk
in unruly scrawls
pen and ink
Write and Write and Write
build a palace of crumpled papers
right at your feet

Write, cross it out, start again
Write, hate every letter on the page
start again, start over
Write, bang your head on your desk
pace back and forth for hours
dictate to a phantom audience
in your bedroom
in a city you don’t recognize
Write because the skyscrapers
swallowed you whole and won’t let you go

Write love poems full of clichés
and tired similes inspired by romantic comedy
call it original, call it garbage
but keep Writing
build a tower of rejected sonnets and lock yourself inside
until the world makes sense again
Write your way out
Write your way out
of the quicksand you’re sinking in

Write when you’re afraid
Write your insecurities into epic ballads
decorate your irrational fears with precise punctuation
your page is a damn celebration of your worst characteristics
if you can’t beat them, at least Write them

Write until the sweat beads on your brow
face your demons with your hands
write them out of existence

Write until it hurts
when the words flowing from your pen
begin to scare you with their honesty
keep Writing
give your words life
give them meaning
give them so much soul
they’re practically leaping off the page
and breathing on their own
do not let
the voice in your head
tell you otherwise
these are your words
own them.