Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

pop goes the world: you can dish it out, but you can’t take it

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  14 March 2013, Thursday

You can dish it out, but you can’t take it

Roman Catholic Church bigwigs in Bacolod City who started a campaign against pro-Reproductive Health bill senatorial candidates were red-faced when a text message circulated naming five priests of the Diocese of Bacolod who sired offspring.

The Church in that city hung huge tarpaulins marked “Team Patay” (Team Dead) identifying the candidates they were exhorting people not to vote for, but the tables were turned when the “Team Tatay” (Team Father) messages spread.

Seems the embarrassment could have been avoided if certain people had used contraceptives, hey?

Clergy having children are nothing new; one of my first cousins is the daughter of a monk. It was a scandal in the town where they lived, but not among the unconventional Ortuoste family, a tolerant and liberal bunch. They understood and accepted the situation especially because the monk in question was my uncle. (He left his order, married his partner, and they set up as a family in the United States.)

This problem is so old that no less than the nation’s superhero Jose Rizal wrote about father “fathers,” making the muddle-headed heroine of his iconic 19th century novels the daughter of a priest.

While those randy priests in Bacolod might justify their actions by saying they at least brought their children into the world by not using contraceptives and by not having them aborted, they and like-minded others always fail to take into consideration the welfare of the children. My cousin told us that she had to bear taunts like “anak ng pari!” (child of a priest) from her playmates, and this took a heavy mental toll on her. This was one of the reasons my uncle decided to make their home in the US.

What makes this incident of the Team Tatay – Team Patay appalling is that when the tables are turned on those holier-than-thou, they harrumph and claim they are being “blackmailed,” as Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Commission on Family and Life, alleged.

He said, “We do not deny that there are instances (of priests fathering children) but that is not the issue now,” adding that Team Tatay were “changing the topic.”

“Do not throw stones because we all live in houses of glass,” he also said.

Look, if you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.

Why are they meddling when separation of Church and State is embodied in the law? If they insist on poking their noses into the things that are of Caesar then they had better get used to having the skeletons in their closets brought out into the light.

* * * * *

Good news for fans of poetry-in-Filipino enthusiasts in general and of poet-activist

Axel Pinpin in particular – his latest collection “Lover’s Lane” is finally in print in a limited-edition version.

The poems are on fire with erotic need, longing, and unrequited love – the stuff of much other writing, stemming as these emotions do from the natural human condition. Yet Axel’s work adds a revolutionary twist that makes these works different from the mainstream, and thus fresh and interesting.

Says writer and activist Ericson Acosta, “In “Lover’s Lane” continues our discovery of the extraordinary range of topic, style, and revolutionary possibilities of the poetry of Axel Pinpin. And here too, in “Pinpin Lane,” in truth, are our own voice – feelings, desires, dreams…”

“My poems are non-fiction,” says Axel, “they are not imagined narratives. They come from my own experiences and the stories of others.”

Here’s “Pusod” in its entirety:

“Ang lalim ba ng iyong pusod / ay siya ring lalim ng iyong puso? / Hayaan mong sukatin ko ito / ng aking daliri at salita / at nang ako’y malunod / at maglunoy sa iyong katubigan, / at mahulog din sa iyong bangin.” (Is the deepness of your navel / The same as your heart’s? / Let me measure this depth / With my fingers and words / That I may submerge, wade in your pools / And tumble into your clefts.”

The poems in “Lover’s Lane” are stories from real life, a curious look into and taking apart of the myriad emotions that war in the heart and soul of each person. In each phrase masterfully crafted by Axel Pinpin are the heat of love and desire and the chill of loss and leaving.

Place orders for the volume on Facebook – search for the open group page “Lover’s Lane ni Axel Pinpin” and leave a message there.   *** 

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pop goes the world: words wild and wondrous

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  8 March 2012, Thursday

Words Wild and Wondrous

“Poetry is a great deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.” (Kahlil Gibran)

Poetry is story; it is experience and emotion described in words carefully chosen and combined in such a way that they exude cadence and rhythm. Set to music, poems become songs. Filipinos are a poetic people more so because we are also a musical people. We can point to a poetic tradition in the old epics such as Lam-Ang, in the works of Francisco Baltazar, Jose Rizal, and all the way to the modern-day versifiers.

One such makata was lauded in the international arena recently. Romulo “Joey” Baquiran Jr., assistant professor at the University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters, received the 2011 Southeast Asian Writers Award (also known as the SEA Write Award) last February 16 in Bangkok.

The award has been presented annually since 1979 to poets and writers in SE Asia, though not all countries are represented every year. The award may be given for lifetime achievement or for a specific work. The award was organized by the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, with backing from other corporate sponsors, and is supported by the Thai royal family, a member of which graces the awards night each year.

Among the 32 other Filipinos who have received the award are Nick Joaquin, Greg Brillantes, Jose Maria Sison, Bienvenido Santos, Virgilio Almario, Alfred “Krip” Yuson, and Vim Nadera.

Baquiran says among the memorable moments at the SEA Write awarding ceremony was meeting fellow ASEAN writers. “One awardee, Nguyen Chi Trung,” he said, “from Vietnam, is more than 80 years old. He has been active in the people’s army most of his life. He wrote novels about the struggle of his nation. Amazing lolo.”

He also found interesting the reverence that the Thai people bestow upon the members of the royal family. “When Princess Sirivannari Nariratana entered the room, everyone bowed and deferred to her with their whole being.” Even a dog she had with her “was treated with the utmost respect.” It’s cultural observations like this that inform his writing.

“Writing is a social act,” he says. “Writers must always externalize their concerns, for it to resonate in their community. I will stick to this concern.”

Baquiran teaches creative writing and literature in Filipino to undergraduates, and literary history at the graduate level. He has published two collections of poetry with another one due for publication soon, and a collection of personal essays, among many other published works.

Various awards-giving bodies have heaped recognition upon him; he has won several prizes from the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature and two Manila Critics Circle National Book Awards (poetry and creative non-fiction).

On the present state of Philippine poetry he says, “We have a writing boom right now among the young writers, both in English and Filipino. It’s pretty exciting. And the veterans are very productive too.”

Baquiran is completing a poetry collection titled Kung Nanaisin (If It is To Be Wished) to be published by the UP Press, while a Thai publisher will soon be releasing a Thai version of his essay collection Hospital Diary.

The significance of his achievement is such that the Academy of American Poets and the United States-based Poetry Foundation have Tweeted the news to their tens of thousands of followers, with the latter even posting an article on their website.

May the day come soon when international-award-winning Filipino writers and artists will be feted by the nation with as much enthusiasm as they do the boxers and singers. Literature carries within it a nation’s history and narratives, even those of its singers and boxers, and, along with other art forms, is the repository of a people’s soul.

Let Baquiran have the last word, with the opening line from his “Gagamba” (Spider): “Heometriya ng pagnanasa ang hinabi ko sa hangin…” (I wove the geometry of desire in the wind…)

* * * * *

The UP College of Mass Communication celebrates its 47th Foundation Week from March 3 to 9 with various activities including an alumni homecoming, launch of the latest issue of its journal Plaridel, and the blessing of various new facilities.

A recognition ceremony of outstanding students, faculty, alumni, and staff will be held tomorrow morning. Congratulations to the honorees and to my alma mater on reaching another milestone! *** 

Image of Prof. Baquiran here.

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pop goes the world: no such thing as mixed signals

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  16 February 2012, Thursday

No Such Thing as Mixed Signals

Ah, Valentine’s Day. For couples in a relationship, it’s a happy romantic time, roses and chocolates blah blah.

But for some singles, it’s bleak – feeling alone even when in the company of friends, wondering when the Universe will get its act together and drop your soulmate in your lap.

It’s downright painful for other singles, especially women, who are waiting on a beloved to say, “Yes, you’re the one I love. I can’t imagine life without you. Marry me.” And are still waiting. And waiting…

The man will often have an excuse – I have to take care of personal issues first, I don’t make enough money yet for us to set up together, istrik ang ferents ko. The woman will wait, hoping things would get better.

This happened to me, not too long ago. I’d been clinging, hoping for a change, rationalizing to myself that the mixed signals he was sending stemmed from his personal challenges. That it was just a matter of me being patient and giving him the space to work things out then hey, maybe, our time would come.

An older gentleman at work – a lawyer, rational and logical – hearing my story, said with extreme kindness, “He’s not sending mixed signals. He’s being very clear. He won’t commit. Now can you bear that? If yes, then let it go on the way it has been. Otherwise, the next step is up to you. It’s not up to him, because he’s already told you where he stands – and it’s not in your corner.”

I’d fallen into the trap most women do. We hang on hoping he’ll come to his senses. That he’ll wake up, as if from a dream, and transform into kind of the man you’ve always wanted to have by your side. That he’ll realize we’re the love of his life and he can’t bear spending the rest of his life without us.

But for men, it is often quite clear. They’re not the ones sending the mixed signals – it’s the women in their lives who won’t accept what they trying to say – “I won’t commit to you”.

Comedian and now relationship guru Steve Harvey says in his book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” that a man doesn’t show his love the way a woman does. Women will sacrifice and endure all for the sake of love. Their love is boundless, unconditional, and encompassing.

A man’s love, says Harvey, is no less powerful but expressed differently, in three ways – profess, provide, protect. First, profess. He’ll tell everyone you’re his lady, his woman, the love of his life. “In other words, “ says Harvey, “you will have a title – an official one that far extends beyond ‘this is my friend’ or ‘ this is (insert your name here).” A man who professes you as his own claims you as his, that “he has plans for you. He sees himself in a long-term, committed relationship with you.”

Next, provide. It’s ingrained in a man’s DNA, says Harvey, that “a man who loves you will bring that money home to make sure that you and the kids have what you all need. That is our role – our purpose…[that] the people we love need want for nothing.”

Last, protect. “When a man truly loves you, anybody who says, does, suggests, or even thinks about doing something offensive to you stands the risk of being obliterated. Your man will destroy anything and everything in his path to make sure that whoever disrespected you pays for it.”

So, ladies, wake up. If he doesn’t call you his lady, if he’s not by your side right now, if he didn’t put a ring on your finger, then he’s not the one. Accept that, thank him for the good times, and move on.

You deserve much better. You deserve the title, the bacon, the protection. You deserve to spend the next Valentine’s Day in someone’s warm embrace, the kind of hug that won’t let you go.

* * * * *

Poets Joel Toledo, Karen Kunawicz, and others will read poetry at the Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines’ OpenBook event tomorrow night, Friday, February 17, at Chef’s Bistro, 94 Sct. Gandia, Quezon City. Entrance-plus-drink is P200. A portion of the proceeds will help fund projects for Typhoon Sendong victims.

FWGP founder Ime Morales convinced me to read a couple of poems. I don’t fancy myself a poet. But all I can do is try my best. Feel free to bring eggs and tomatoes to hurl at the stage. I can always make an omelette. ***  

Carabineers here. Steve Harvey book image here. FWGP logo here.

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william empson: let it go

William Empson (1906 – 1984) was a British literary critic and poet.  He and his wife Hetta had an open marriage marked by dangerous liaisons, the frissons of which may have fed his art.

He said this poem – “Let It Go” – was about his decision to give up writing poetry, though it could describe how he felt about his life. Or we about ours.

It is this deep blankness is the real thing strange.

The more things happen to you the more you can’t

Tell or remember even what they were.

The contradictions cover such a range.

The talk would talk and go so far aslant.

You don’t want madhouse and the whole thing there.

Consider letting go the strange deep mad blankness in your life. Let it go now.

Image here.

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kahlil gibran: the prophet

It was in a small indie bookstore in South Pasadena – The Battery – that I came upon a little book by Kahlil Gibran that I had not read for couple of decades.

 The Battery bookshop, South Pasadena, California. October 2011.

It was The Prophet, Gibran’s tour-de-force of poetry. I was introduced to it in my teens by The Beloved, who pointed out to me the wisdom in its mystical, Biblically-cadenced passages.

I bought that little book  - hardcover, 4.5 by 5.5 inches, with dust jacket, pre-owned – for six dollars, and consider it money well spent. It’s just the right size to tuck in a back pocket or purse, and take out from time to time to immerse in the flow of language and philosophical ideas.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) was born in Lebanon and migrated with his family to the United States in 1895.

He was a painter, writer, and poet. His most popular work, The Prophet, has never been out of print. He is the third best-selling poet in history, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.

From the chapter on Love:

Then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.

And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:

When love beckons to you follow him,

Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe in him,

Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Image of Kahlil Gibran here.

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pop goes the world: the kawazakan of poetry

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 26 May 2011, Thursday

The Kawazakan of Poetry

Words that sound, echo, scream in your head and heart, words that burn and soothe and quench and turn you inside out, words that tell a story or evoke a gamut of emotions in a few phrases – only a poem gives the writer the form with which to play with words.

And one poet who does this admirably is Allan Pastrana, whose poetry collection Body Haul was launched last May 16 at Ride n’ Roll Diner in Quezon City (also the venue for the “Happy Mondays” poetry reading/music performing event every first and third Monday of the month.)

Allan Pastrana. Photo from .MOV.

Arranged by filmmaker Khavn de la Cruz, a Gawad Urian nominee this year for best director and screenplay, the launch featured writers, musicians, and word lovers of all sorts coming together to read, eat, play music and sing, and buy Allan’s book.

Allan teaches at the University of Sto. Tomas Conservatory of Music, where he graduated with Music Literature and Piano Performance degrees. He is finishing his master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines – Diliman.

A Fellow for poetry at the UP and Silliman University national writers workshops, he was a two-time Thomasian Poet of the Year, recipient of the UST Rector’s Literary Award, third placer in the Palanca Awards for essay in 2007, and winner of the grand prize in the English Division of the Maningning Miclat Award for Poetry in 2005. He occasionally writes music reviews for publications.

Here’s an excerpt from Allan’s “Altitude”, that he asked me to read at his book launch: “Four, five a.m. and everything packed/ a kind of immediacy; the velocity/ of each going became so foreign / it got trapped inside my throat./ That day, the phone kept on ringing/ like an insistent, hourly code— /a man’s voice on the other end/ on the line, always shifting timbres. Or, it could be that I /mistook a Bach aria theme, drifting/ like a dry memory, for his dark/ speech. Nothing was spoken/ here that didn’t belong to a/ wreckage—the rest of the variations/ slipping into more erasures…”

Among those who read Allan’s poems at the launch were horror writer and Palanca Award winner Yvette Tan, novelist Clarissa Militante (whose Different Countries was long-listed for the 2009 Man Asia literary prize), poet and professor Genevieve Asenjo, filmmaker John Torres, and activist/poet Axel Pinpin who delivered a spell-binding performance, translating a poem of Allan’s from English to Filipino on-the-spot: his impromptu pagsasalin was not only accurate but also literary in quality. Wazak!

Axel Pinpin. Photo by Gen Asenjo.

Allan says: “The book covers around five years worth of poetry. I chose to represent the different writing styles I adapted, from the time I thought telling stories was simply the whole point of literature, to a more recent and growing predilection for the instability of language (which I believe is what we have at our disposal, almost entirely, as writers), and the joy and rapture that comes with that instability, both painful and liberating in more ways than one.”

What is the relevance of poetry to daily living? Apart from the sheer joy of words that many of us enjoy, a poem captures in a series of phrases or sentences the totality of a human experience for us to derive meaning from.

Says UP literature professor Gemino Abad in the introduction to his poetry collection Care of Light (Anvil, 2010): “The real is the poem. Hence, for the poet…to write is to get real. The real is what we call “our world”. But our world is only our experience of it….What we call reality is only, and forever, a human reality; what we are able to perceive….

“But working our language – soil and fallow of all human thought and feeling, our only ground – we invest our words with a power to evoke, to call forth, to our mind and imagination a meaningfulness that we seem to have grasped in that human event or experience…And in that finished weave of words – the very text – our aim is to apprehend, to understand, the living of it, the full consciousness of the event or experience: its very sensation.”

Allan Pastrana’s Body Haul is available at UST Publishing House and bookstores.

For the poets reading this, Khavn has sent out a call for entries: “There isn’t enough chamomile tea in the world to quell the rage in your heart. Or the poetry in your veins. Send in your most wazak poem for possible inclusion in a Philippine poetry anthology that will be launched this September 2 during the 4th .MOV International Film, Music, & Literature Festival.

Khavn, Yvette, and Genevieve. Image from .MOV.

“There are no hard and fast rules on what’s wazak or what’s a poem. Send in your left foot if you think that qualifies. Please provide the English translation of any poem that is written in Filipino or other Philippine language. Open to all Filipinos in the archipelago or beyond.

“Email your works (maximum of three poems per author) to literature@movfest.org, subject heading “anthology” by or before June 1.

“In the name of the revolution.”  ***

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bad haiku

There are times in one’s life when the mood to versify strikes, when the urge to string words together into sentences that may or may not mean something is too strong to overcome. Then one may wish to write poetry to unlock the emotions within that are clamoring for release and expression.

During these times, only one form of poetry will do – bad haiku.

Haiku is, simply, a form of Japanese non-rhymed poetry, with seventeen syllables 5-7-5 – five in the first line, seven in the second, five in the third. In Japanese there are many strict rules that govern the construction of haiku, but in English, anything goes.

Bad is – well, bad. Not good at all. Verging on the horrible, skating perilously close to awful, at times crossing the line to gross and disgusting.

Behold!

Banana harvest –
Too much fruit! What to do with?
Start a monkey farm.

I will rule the world!
But how? I don’t have a plan.
I’ll go back to sleep.

Jam between my toes –
It’s not for eating? Says who?
You’re right – it’s stale. Ptoo!

Where are we going?
And why have you put me in
This large handbasket?

Anyone can write bad haiku! They probably shouldn’t, but they could. That is the beauty and the Zen of bad haiku.

Come, why don’t you try?
You too, can write bad haiku.
It’s not rocket science.

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pop goes the world: poetry and friendship

This was a piece kept in my reserve bank of articles (for fillers and just in case I can’t submit before my weekly deadline) and published by my editor, Adelle Chua, on Christmas Day.

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, Published 25 December 2010, Friday

Poetry and Friendship

How mysterious is friendship, and the bonds that tie people together across years and distances. When I was in the sixth grade in a church school in Pasay City, one of the people I admired and looked up to was a high school senior named Joel H. Vega. We lent each other books, and talked about literature and how words could be powerful enough to move us in ways others could not understand, or even care to learn.

Joel graduated, and I saw him only once after that. He visited our school about a year or two after he had left, to tell me that he had entered the University of the Philippines in Los Baños and was taking journalism. He encouraged me to develop my writing skills and take the same course.

When I became a senior myself and had to decide on my college course, I was confused. My other high school classmates were going for nursing, biology, dentistry, and the other life sciences. (One of them, Amerlon Enriquez, became a physician and is now based in Iowa. He often contributes to MST’s “Diaspora”.)

Healthcare was the career path encouraged by our school. Not being particularly altruistic nor desirous of encountering blood and other body fluids on a daily basis, I remembered Joel’s words, and so I ended up also in the journalism program in UP (Diliman), where I spent four happy years.

Now I make my living from writing. And my choice of career I owe to Joel, and to a chance remark on his part, perhaps forgotten soon as it was said, but that had a profound and significant influence on my life.

After 24 or 25 years we got in touch again through the Internet. Joel is based in the Netherlands, working as a medical journalist, and before that worked in other countries also as a writer. Always as a writer. His life is filled with words and music and art and travel and culture and I am so happy for him.

One thing that made me even happier —and proud—was when I learned that he is a published writer and poet. His poetry has been anthologized many times in Philippine and US literary journals, and he also wrote a collection of essays—Dir’iyah—about life as an expat in the Middle East.

One of his most popular poems, “The Fifth & Careful Season” (2004), begins thus: “Beyond October, before the lure / Of orange, the swarm flies across Nevada’s skies. / Listen, the talebearer says, / Listen as they drag the weight / Of distances from as far as Peru / And Cebu…”

About this piece, Joel says: “I am particularly delighted with (it)… because I somehow hit a sensitive nerve with that poem. Besides, the images, words, rhythm, etc, just all came together…. Poems like that don’t come to me often. It can be my most successful poem to date as it has been re-printed thrice, and with that poem I bagged the Meritage Press ( a small Filipino-owned lit press in California ) annual poetry ‘fun’ contest in 2005.”

From there he has gone on to a more prestigious recognition—third place in the Poetry category of the 2010 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. His award-winning suite of poems was published in the December 6 issue of Philippines Graphic magazine.

He flew in from the Netherlands a couple of weeks ago to spend Christmas here, and our reunion after a couple of decades was boisterous and joyous. We arranged to meet at a mall and he thought he wouldn’t recognize me but I did him and in each other’s presence the years fell away, and we were book-hungry, word-mad teenagers again for a few hours.

Joel also occasionally contributes essays on his multi-cultural experiences to MST’s “Diaspora” column, but I look forward to one day reading all of his poems in one volume that I hope gets published so that this wandering poet’s works may be read and appreciated in the land of his birth.   ***

Photo is of Joel at Marcel Proust’s grave at Pere Lachaise cemetery, August 2010. Image comes from his blog, 18th Moon. See also his year-long blog project 365 Great Pinoy Stuff.

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marge piercy – “to have without holding”

I found this poem at Jessica Stanley’s wondrous website Something Changed.

A pocket garden in a Los Angeles home. The garden faces the street, but is hidden from public view by a high wooden wall covered with vines and creepers. July 2009.

To Have Without Holding

by Marge Piercy

Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.

It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.

It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously,
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.

I can’t do it, you say it’s killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
You float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.

Marge Piercy is a feminist novelist, poet, and social activist.

Wiki: “Piercy’s poetry tends to be highly personal free verse and often addresses the same concern with feminist and social issues. Her work shows commitment to the dream of social change (what she might call, in Judaic terms, tikkun olam, or the repair of the world), rooted in story, the wheel of the Jewish year, and a range of landscapes and settings.”

Marge Piercy. Image here.

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blaze precious

Twilight in Los Angeles. July 2009.

In my mind you blaze as precious metals

Skin pale silver, smile sun-golden

Immortal.

In me you live forever.

Where am I in you?

In the dark corners of your heart where the light doesn’t touch

Am I there?

I find you in all the warm open spaces of my soul

But I am lost in your eternity

Of secret shadows.

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