Volume Five, Issue 4

Barbara Jane Reyes

Confession Ending With a Butterfly Knife


I never thought of me as mother, which means I didn’t dream motherhood for me, which means I wasn’t on board with childbirth being my worth, my body as replaceable incubation space. I never thought of me as fertilizable body to breed a little me to inherit all my grief, that I mate, and that I incubate, give the gift of mini men as mandate, detach my me from me for every little him, my body to nourish all but me, baby patriarchs in waiting, sucking the life out of me til my hair follicles fail, my teeth depleted, and my blood thinned. I didn’t want to hear everybody order me to open my body beyond hurt for an undeserving somebody, to beget baby patriarchs in training and little girls whose bodies are everybody’s to fuck up, to get stuck like I’d be stuck and sucked, but they told me I should, and even absent of consent, these things will all befall me. I didn’t want to do as they told me to do, which means I didn’t want to be subsumed by some old school dude all romance and swag to gaslight me daily, to make me stay til the bitter unfulfilled end, and this means I didn’t want to give my anything and everything to a man who’d brand me and demand he implant me with his essence and his legacy, but never thank me as he takes my names away from me, and this means I hold no love for a man who can’t cultivate care, only demarcate me as his domain, take all my air, and fill all the halls with his hands and his heat and his fists and his filth, and the more I step back the more he advances, and I am a bad female for not wanting to be washed in this trauma, shoved into small shadow and squeezed of self, self secreting self til emptied, til negative self, body overworked and overworn, old body losing parts, falling apart, and how I have hardened my jaw, my heart, my shoulders stone since I was a girl, living witness to an unrelenting taking and everyday invasion I could not change, and this makes me a bad daughter who once yelled at her mother, because she called me at work every week for years to inventory every irritating thing my dad did that he did for decades, that he’d do til he died or til she laid down the law, which she didn’t, and I didn’t think it fair to blame her, and so I listened, and I listened, until I told her I swear to God I just can’t listen to this any longer. I was a bad daughter. I was unwed. I was alone and people pitied me. I was alone and people pitied my parents. I was alone in my own silent space. I slept alone. I ate alone, made omelets alone, sipped coffee alone on Sundays at dawn. I listened to songs alone. I read books alone. I wrote poems alone in my own silent space. I was alone in my own sunlit space. I was alone in my own soft space of solace and sanctuary.             And I gave thanks.


Rebel balasang,
I just wanted to be
my mother’s balisong.

Daughtersong of Disobedience


be a lady, be a wifey, be a momma
birth and nourish many sons
this is how to be good and worthy
be a hot wife, be a milf
be a go-getter in a pinstripe suit
whose lapels could cut you
and stilettos that could take an eye
be a manicured caged panther
gawked at by the men who trap you
buy a five-gear phallus substitute
take out a second mortgage
max out your credit cards
just make sure to pay all the bills
cover your crows feet and grays
with retinol, peroxide, and scalpel
this is how to be pretty, pleasing
take all the pharmaceuticals*
believe in all the miracle pills*
post-menopausal synthetic hormones*
will clear skin, firm your soft parts*
to motivate your ungrateful mate*
pay your insurance share of cost

because our fathers said so

because the TV, the internet said so

because the doctors said so

* Side effects may include weight gain, tremors, blood clots, sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, loss of appetite, reflux, bloating, constipation, vomitting and diarrhea, abnormal menstrual bleeding, GI bleeding, metastatic cancers to liver, bone, and blood, slow and painful death. Take as directed.


what if we were a circle of hunters, and what if you could have taught me to aim a spear, wield the tusk of an animal we’ve felled, sniff poisons in leaves and stems, gather mushrooms, mosses, salts to salve burn and wound, needle indigo and ash into flesh for our gods to recognize us when we return to them

what if we could have learned to chant the names of all our elderwomen, and what if in our incubation space nests the epic poem we all have yet to write and right — she who sharpened blades and teeth, and she who mended skin with sinews, and she who swam with crocodiles, and she who wrestled wild boar and goat, their bellies to the dirt, and she whose blood made soil give fruit, and she who made the medicine, and she who built the boats

what if we were our own great house of women, naming the stars, authoring our days in praise of moon phases and water, cataloguing the names of trees, the shapes of leaves and mothwings, the ways to weave silk, to bind books with silk, recording the many gods of river and rice, the many spirits we worship and imbibe, what if we knew care and rolled fragrant healing smoke, and songs to ease your passage back across the bridge to our elderwomen

every day I remember the dead, and that a swallowtail will live a week, and that a silkworm will live for eight, and that my time with you was precious and squandered, that we should have disoeyed all who would dictate our days — we could have built our own what if together, so we could live our own what if together, so we could run, so we could run, so we could run

Barbara Jane Reyes: “I am the author of Letters to a Young Brown Girl (BOA Editions, 2020), Invocation to Daughters (City Lights, 2017), and others. Wanna Peek Into My Notebook?: Notes on Pinay Liminality is forthcoming in 2022 from Paloma Press.”

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