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Retiring the Geisha

By Iris Orpi

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How quickly
the seductive heroism
of continuing to choose
the chosen
seems to have forgotten
that there is no sustaining desire
without sacrificing the certainty
that used to be
the one deal breaker.
The path becomes a petri dish
for temptations
and their many names:
the last craved heartbreak,
the unchangeable past
once again coveted,
requiring the arduous
but futile task of finding
old blame long buried
to dig up and use as fuel
to the fire that had once
choked with noxious smoke
all chances of discovering
the kind of pain worth
greeting every morning for.
Where the famed happy ending
is not ten thousand delicate
shivers down your spine from
the same familiar touch,
the nights become
prison walls vandalized
with euphemisms for
the same taboo: I thought
I wanted this, but now
I’m not so sure,
as if the weight of years
curled up in bed with fistfuls
of loneliness and matted hair
and insecurities that itched
to the point of bleeding
had merely been an oversized
pill you only needed take
with a heady chaser
and slept off. As if
there had been other roads
you hadn’t explored
to the very end lugging
that soul-defining luggage
before you arrived
at the conclusion that
the horizon you’d glimpsed
in all of them
is your personal ocean,
and it reflects all your stars.
Home and hearth can sound
hollow like a desert,
and how easy it is to be
fooled that life is small and
resembles walking in circles,
that the mirages bear
the face of your savior
from the oppressive order
you yourself have built,
the permission to flee the
eye of the monogamous moon.
But do you remember
how many times you tried
to throw away everything
you’ve fervently carried
for a dance and a kiss
and a flame-colored dawn?
How they all turned out
to be made of paper that
could not hold your hunger?
How you splintered into pages
of despair, and grew old
from all the spells of fever
that broke against your light.
How the price for possessing you
neither rose nor fell,
but went laterally across
the field littered with those
love stories spread thin
even with the grandiosity
of the telling.

And all your trying led to him.

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Why Poets Need to Travel

By Iris Orpi

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At 36,000 feet with will
and purpose cruising along
a preordained path
brushing against strangers
and buckled-and-strapped
into flights of fancy toeing
the line between time zones
knowing that familiar faith
is on board but wondering
where, exactly, I reach up
over my head for what’s mine,
for the reminders of when
I handpicked my own life
and the book falls open
on a page where an unfinished
poem sat abandoned, with
a note beside it that shouted,
“It’s going nowhere because
you don’t mean it,” perhaps
a suggestion by fate or muse
that airborne creatures owe
truth no favors except to try
to aim at the direction where
the noisiest, most turbulence-
savvy metaphors are going.

* * *

Here, gravity and light are but
disposable symbols, moments
are not chronological and
the people back home don’t
miss any of us yet.
The sleep-deprived senses are
all window seats to the breath-
takingly beautiful impossible.
Anything goes. We are free
to store physics and feelings
in ziploc bags, reject
personal limitations that
exceed three fluid ounces,
and finally get around to
reverse-engineering the sky.

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Watching Ships

By Iris Orpi

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You are the poem in my womb
waiting to be answered,
the war in the sky
the burning sunset pays homage to.
My reason runs blind among stars
in devotion to what you left behind
for my beguiled muse to follow,
a peregrine through a wood
chased by refracted light.
You are the crux of knowing:
like the first encounter with pain,
the told secret,
the no turning back.
The scepter of the love
that didn’t see it fit to awaken
and break apart the chrysalis
of innocent touch and conversation
has marked me,
reversed me,
exposed the silt
under my surging rivers
and extracted the diamonds,
the place where once the hypnotic
ease of your nearness grazed my soul
now a dark tattoo shaped like night
that you’d have to love away
the layers before you can see.

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The Last Rendezvous

By Iris Orpi

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Dealing with loose ends
is autumn’s inconsistent lover

being high on a love affair,
both passionate and imagined,
with giving up shades of green
for reminders of gold,
streets that are littered
with wet love letters and
the feeling that everything
is about to change
and leave us alone

and so the bed of memory
becomes fire and we reach
a little farther than we are
prepared to let go
and try to finish things
haphazard,
the unkempt hair of last night’s
frolic with indecision getting
tangled with every goodbye,
every movement
towards the door

in turns negotiating,
then, lustily revelling
in the recollection
of once being so ignited
then, feigning indifference
as we run our fingers
along the place
where it still feels good
after it has stopped working

and we are dirty again
with moments
we’ve almost forgotten,
almost being the word we use
because it takes too much space
to say our innocence didn’t
get spared by the brutality
we have set the stage for,
because we gave too much

and we hurry to make sense
of the half-hearted healing,
parts of our skin still
covered in spring
and a bitter taste
on the corners of mouths
that find it too soon
to speak, but too late to kiss

reading between the lines
of the falling leaves before
they, too, become casualties
before the first snow
falls
as promised
and we should, somehow,
suddenly measure up
to this demanding, nearly
matrimonial devotion to shadows
and salting the frozen paths

and blaming the tilt of the axis
instead of chemistry failing
for the consummated,
unrequited, broken tether
to the lost summer.

.

Turning Stones at Low Tide

By Iris Orpi

.

“Tell me,
what are your intentions?”
the flesh asked solitude,
who was shaped like a friend
but was hollow like a lie,
whose constancy rivals
that of love, and whose
movement is the anthem of
how faith can have exceptions.
It wore the question like
a wavering breath, and took
its time until the act of waiting
for an answer became two
imperfect metaphors for night.
So the flesh pierced
her earlobes, reveling in
the pain, and put them on,
loops of moments that
bend like metal and
bear reminders like stone,
not knowing if she is satisfied.

“Do you think all this
is temporary?”
solitude wrote on her skin,
deep brown like the truth
so powerful it evades foretelling.
The flesh received only
the symbols and not the words,
like prompts of pleasure in
a maze of dream sequences,
not bothering to respond.
It is one thing to acknowledge
loneliness, another thing
to engage it.

They honor each other
best like this, in halves.
Like confessionals, flung
to the wind. It’s the language
of transgressing the cliché
of hunger, that view of sea
from the edge of the pier,
where flesh spreads her desires
like vendettas across
the weathered planks
and solitude leans softly
against the railing,
aligning all things with
their respective shadows.

.

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Iris Orpi is a Filipina writer living in Chicago, IL. She is the author of  the novel The Espresso Effect (2010) and the book of compiled poems Cognac for the Soul (2012). Her work has appeared in dozens of online and print publications all over Asia, North America, and Europe. She was an Honorable Mention for the Contemporary American Poetry Prize, given by Chicago Poetry Press.

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