Rigorous
Volume Two, Issue 4



Geraldine Fernandez


There are cracks all over the place

Canada ~

I smoke Columbus
in the waiting area
of your paradise,
new found land

lit up,
I feel marooned
untouchable
as still-wet paint
while the color of my guts
begins to peel away.

There is something
something worse
than cold revulsion
in the way I watch my fate
unfold in cinematic slow-mo
through generic faces:
strangers who fall in line
to use the washroom,
hookers who tirelessly play
hunger games.

So here goes
the summary
of my real,
screwed-up life story
(mark it on my gravestone):

I came.
        I saw.
                I cracked.



Philippines ~

My history is a mess.



Amsterdam ~

There is cancer
in each hot stick
that burns
between his fingers,
chapped lips

and I can't wait
for it to climb
my bones
stage
by stage.

"Your birth-place
breeds disease"

I tease
then watch him grimace
at my spoken poetry.

"It's not haiku, silly."

Silence.



Mexico ~

Estoy loco por ti
aunt Emma, Nora, Maria...

chants the thirst monster
in number 9
all night long.

He calls himself
el conquistador,
babysits every new comer
converts them into addicts
with his crack catechesis.

I was thirteen
when I traded virginity
for wings,
let his Aztec fingers
seek El Dorado
between my legs
while I made love
with Herb and Al.

Big man baptized me
"Raspberry",

his gun
washed me
white as coke

conditioned me
like I were Pavlov's dog
to drool,
drool for god's bones.


hijo de la chingada!



Iran ~

Aryana,

How do you run from yourself after you have chased the dragon?

When pressing the self-destruct button
has metamorphosed from a habit
to a mandate of heaven,

when the spoon won't bend
to your will
won't feed you reality,
when day-dreams
and streams of consciousness
have turned into canal water -
stagnant, contaminated
as a needle
that won't leave your veins alone...

how, tell me
how to escape the bowtrap
I and my demons have set up?



I confess,
I discovered Rumi -
only good thing
a spoon of brown sugar
ever did me:

There is morning
somewhere deep down in me,
its warmth longs to run
in my bloodstream again

My friend,
I wish you were here
to tell me I'm beautiful
when I shatter,
turn light yellow
a tad unhappier than hepatitis.

But you are on a trip
sky high,
no longer chasing dragons
but searching for diamonds
in Lucy's hands.

I guess we never really run
away from addiction,
only change brands
swing from crack to crack
hit back to back

until we become all stars

until our surface
appears like a crackhouse
full of sores, needle tracks,
death-marks
that give Ugly a proper name

till what's left of our bodies -
once powerful warships,
are skeletons.




Untitled (for We are an Unfinished Poem)

I.

Remember that bashful young Filipina
who would flush at every compliment
you could muster?

A decade after puberty, she flares up
every time you casually tell her
'how she's grown more beautiful.'

How we turn ill-tempered as we age,
proud of our flaws
yet unhappy with whatever strength
still left in us.


II.

Hearts
are buried treasures,
untouchable like lapis jewels
in Tutankhamen's tomb.

What are we but dimwit hunters
who have no idea that our eyes
hold the map;

We search elsewhere,
in someone else's face.


III.

Every night, I invite the moon
to bury her scars
on my skin, your passive lover
that still keeps the secret scribbles
of your feathered quills,
fingers that learn to stop
beating around the bush.

Your middle digit
becomes a forceful poet.


IV.

You speak sweet-nothings about yesterday,
waste ink to write:
'past is an unforgettable beauty'.

Save your breath for the future, darling, will you?
Use that muse to turn
your present into a finer poem.

I'm tired of reading history
in your lips.

I am
Today.


V.

You still love her
the fool I was
before she uncovered the truth
of her imperfect curves
uneven skin tone ---
impurities you saw but never mentioned.


VI.

How much longer will I have to condone
your fascination for a flame
that burned your blues
(but already gone ?)

She's nothing now
but clear-cut memory,
only spoken in third person.


I starve jealousy
(refusing to be her prey) ;

she will not eat me
not now, not ever.


VII.

Our insides beg us to forget
our beginning
(too beautiful to get over with).

Let us will emptiness
to bury us in its embrace

and maybe,
(just maybe)
we'll find the need
to string new words
to fill the spaces with lines
no scribe ever scrawled yet
or with laughter that crackles
like fresh snow.


VIII.

Lawrence,

if nothing else works...
please pretend I am
the same yesterday.




To that Dude Whom My Poetry is Borrowed From

You care about how summer
gains weight every year,
how June is browner, heavier
but obliviously braver;

we banter about how it hoards
cold cuts from winter
and overindulges in spring leftovers.

The sun dimples into a smile,
amused at our foolishness
He remembers our overheard crankcase
conversation, when I wondered
why I can't stare him in the eye
and you told me, soft and brutal all at once:
"...because you're too hypnotic
you seduce snakes,
and what only makes the sun
less susceptible of your charm
is its refusal to have eye contact.

...now forget that hotshot
don't make me wish
I have yellow eyeballs."

One of those declarations
from your deranged tongue
that rouse dormant volcanoes
from their abysmal sleep

almost always, after you speak
eruption follows suit.

I pick up your language
without knowing it is poetry.

We never talk about black holes
when we're in bed
I just pretend to be the moon
and you, the first man to reach me.

We muster hate towards cliché
but in the spaces of these seismic seconds
we're convinced that we are supernovae.

When our heads are not clouded with passion,
we criticize the moon:

she is anemic
her face is flawed
with enlarged pores and pitted scars.

Yet she continues to shine
despite our destructive criticisms.

We are molded after her.

An amalgam of masculine syllables
and feminine sneer
lashes at some tear-stained, dimwit stars;
we scold them for falling.

Some days, I realize
we are overused metaphors
who love despite our distaste
towards conformity.

When your lips correctly spell
e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y
while they press polite kisses
on my skin

I know then, we are regular people.

It's when in your peculiar way,
you look at the sky
as if it were a mother's womb
and appreciate the beauty
of its stretch marks

I am more convinced, we are special.

gods nod their agreement
while the world rolls her eyes
in disbelief.




My guts said: don't write anything beautiful today

*

Kamatayan ---
ikaw ay dumarating
na tila buwanang dalaw

itong buhay ay parausan
tayo'y dumadaing
ng paulit ulit ulit

hanggang ang lalamunan
ay maging banal
sa pakikipag-ulayaw
sa kawalan.


**

Asya, you haven't shaved in months
haven't had sex
   with a Westerner
nor masturbated to your father's Kamasutra

but you are you are YOU ARE
utterly sexy
when you're shitty like that
when you're acting up
like a cold cold cunt
quite reminiscent
of An American Prayer's
track number 8

Y'all, some of us like to touch
what we can't restore to life
I am you are we are the deficit in A D H D
we are manic depression
we are necrophilia

but hey hey hey mother-----, we are beautiful
in the most unsettled fashion
[we're the hard(core) copy of god
only six days holier than Chaos]

Asya, has any one of your bastard sons
bothered reading my love-notes to illness?

In April 2014, I wrote:
Bitch, you are more than mental
you have been instrumental in finding the me
I can't stand most of the time
but the me I wish to get to know better
without addressing soliloquies and oprihories
to the goddamn mirror !


Dear mirror:
you break
therefore
you are.




Translation of *

"death ---
you come
like monthly bleeding

this existence
is a red-light district
we moan
over and over and over

till our throats
turn holy
from making out
with nothingness.”




In an attempt to look for a mitigating circumstance, I find myself guilty of aggravating the same

Note to being conditionally admitted:
Do not mistake law school for a confession booth; the chairs are reserved for the logical, not emotional signs, your horoscope holds. The sun is a judge that does not hear; he will rule against your favor, you proud moon child, you winter flower, you walking dissenting opinion.



Note to the most opinionated girl in the room:
Stop raising your voice like an unlicensed firearm. Go back to reading cases where voluntary surrender is appreciated.



Note to voluntary surrender:
You might be the best answer to the question marks that form part of my inner dialogues, to the heavy fist beneath my chest that matches the weight of the night slowly settling on a semester's worth of paper sheet. The triple shots of espresso cannot help calm the closet which has developed a healthy pair of lungs and stealth hands.



Self-care does not come cheap and I am sorry that my daily budget is reserved for a cigarette, 750mb of internet bandwidth, and an economy room overlooking a bus station bound for my province --- as if reminding me of the necessity to go home to the same place that taught me that in life, I cannot choose to vote myself out of the cold battlefront, but I sure can take a smoke break just to feel warm again.



Geraldine Fernandez: "I am graduate of Bachelor in Secondary Education Major in English, law student and mental health advocate from the Philippines. My work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Hundred Islands, The Plebeians, The Birds We Piled Loosely, The Fem Literary Magazine, Spillwords Press, Isacoustic, Anti-Heroin Chic and elsewhere. I post about mental health issues at Instagram and can be reached through Facebook."




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