Mizuage and other poems

    Mizuage and other poems

    Mizuage (水揚げ)

    an invitation

    embezzling spells
    of innocence,
    verges of awakening,
    Gordian loopholes
    from the love language of
    hands quietly smoothing over
    the crumpled brows of dawn
    anguished over what sparse
    things it is able to carry
    to full term
    and leaving the rest
    to the condoning shadows.

    Believe, somewhere,
    in the dulcet hum
    of airtight bud lie lyrics
    to a lascivious song,
    strains of scintillating sins
    stroking it into bloom.

    It is sometimes not enough
    to flower, but to flower for
    the first time. Watch her face
    for the movement of moments
    as if every flush and quiver
    charts a map of places
    in the order they are touched.
    It is sometimes not enough
    to sit next to the perfume
    of the truth as it unravels,
    but to crush the petals in
    your own hands and be stained
    by it. Call the hunger
    what it is: a nuanced torture,
    invocation of our mortality,
    dark rhapsodies of ache
    to remind us we are
    evolved from savages.
    She would wear all the labels
    like a crown. The posture
    of her espoused darkness
    is the love language of
    virgin honesty catching fire.

    Becoming resplendent.
    Becoming the hunger.
    Skin on skin.
    Divinity on desire.

    And the force and eloquence
    of her consent slowly
    undresses the world.

    – Iris Orpi


    The tub is full
    and the night is overflowing

    I watched
    the beautiful beloved
    of a forgotten confession
    give birth to a silent,
    but infallible, compass

    I saw untouched hunger
    brimming with dark legacies

    true north
    is a rare orchid
    cut open with a scalpel

    grace of blade
    on folds of fever

    not all nocturnal songs
    are lullabies—

    I saw one just crouching
    under the eaves of
    indecisive constellations
    hanging its lyrics on
    the beams of porch lights,

    wide awake with intention

    on a garden where the rest
    of the pregnant symbols
    have been spared

    – Iris Orpi

    No Help in Sight for 33 Miles

    It was only now,
    way too many years after
    it should matter,
    that I thought to call him
    by that name: my abuser

    back then he was merely
    a painful puzzle
    with rusty knife edges,
    an intriguing man who
    could love me so hard
    it felt like my bones would
    break right off the joints
    with just one look
    half of the time

    while the rest of the time
    look at me like a substance
    he was getting ready to burn
    just to see whether I was
    made of ash or liquid air

    and even his anger
    was inscrutable; his voice
    would change when he shouted
    and he grabbed at metaphors
    as if to stab himself with them.

    It wasn’t poetry.

    Being with him was a
    confusing run-on sentence,
    oftentimes he’d use parts of me
    like misplaced Scrabble tiles
    or verbs diluted in his Red Bull.

    Once, I took too long to get out
    of class, it made him so mad
    he had to do me right there
    on the Fairview-Alabang bus,
    on the way home. I closed my eyes
    when the conductor passed the aisle
    because I couldn’t cover myself
    and I wonder now what he knew.
    Did it look like I was enjoying it
    or could he maybe see that my world
    had been reduced to a place smaller
    than that bus, more filled with
    assorted noise, and completely
    at the mercy of a driver whose
    hands only moved in two motions?

    And I was so glad when it was
    over, because it meant I had
    done good, he wasn’t mad
    anymore, and the love would
    climb back into his heart before
    we pulled into the terminal. Both
    the driver and the conductor were
    staring when we disembarked.
    I felt their eyes finding faults
    in my clothes. I wonder if they
    noticed the six-days-old bruise
    just peeking from under my right
    sleeve, or if I wanted them to.
    And could they hear that my body
    was not done screaming, even
    though my eyes were empty.

    – Iris Orpi

    Sacred Message, Rough Translation 

    (Montara Beach, California)

    I stood there,
    on the thin ribbon of chance
    where the road ended,
    looking down

    at the sea
    as it nursed a mood
    of spectacular fury

    the possibility of falling
    replacing my heartbeat

    and being acutely
    aware of my purest form:
    part search,
    part leap of faith,
    part averted suicide

    a pilgrim
    knees trembling, trying
    to stand inside the whirlwind
    of a miracle that
    keeps on happening

    a witness
    and a living prayer
    to nature’s awesome power

    This is God, I heard
    the words lifting
    where the horizon is far
    and the life-and-death-wide
    divide from the great rocks
    wave crash
    and fate, bone-white
    is larger than
    the enduring story

    core of creation
    and understanding within
    that authoritative
    thesis of chaos

    This is worship,
    me weeping
    and lost

    reveling in my post-truth,

    sitting in a box
    of the well-rehearsed
    and synchronized,
    black and white lines
    nitpicking verses from a Book
    and being afraid
    of the questions
    scribbled on the margins.

    – Iris Orpi

    Still Life, Charcoal

    For the thousandth time,
    the sun sets
    on the pile of regrets
    propped up against the wall
    where they have been left
    untouched for a thousand days
    like sacred, but cursed, relics.
    They don’t take too much space,
    but they take enough.
    Their elongated shadows fall
    for the thousandth time
    on the better loved things.
    The waning light engages
    in conversation about reasons
    as it touches their surface
    made of cheating mirrors,
    but there isn’t enough time.
    A few moments of shifting sky
    can’t unravel a tangle of
    good intentions,
    bad decisions,
    and doubtful timing
    played and replayed over
    many a sleepless night before
    they got abandoned on that wall.
    The day ends, its torn edges
    descending like ashes
    and coming to rest among
    the soiled memories that
    regrets wear as clothes.
    They smell of dust and excuses,
    of burned bridges
    and the stale perfume of
    the quaint waking dream
    they used to be before
    everything went wrong.
    Where the light has failed,
    darkness next arrives
    and they can pass
    as birthmarks instead of scars.
    They assume different names:
    anger, hurt, yearning
    wisdom, even;
    and settle deeper
    where the heart knows no better
    and believes there is no other
    way to live.

    – Iris Orpi

    If you enjoyed our feature poet Iris Orpi, you may enjoy 5 poems by Ross Thompson.


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