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Copyright Erika Magdalena Posas Pineda 2012

No part of this book may be used or performed without written consent from the author, if living, except for critical articles or reviews.

Cover design by Dominique Felbaum

To contact the authors or artists, send an e-mail to

Savages Publishing Manila, Philippines

Dear Love,
I started putting this book together in November 2011. It was supposed to be a two to three month project but here I am writing this a year later. Ha! Anyway, I asked family and friends to send me any art they wanted to share - their stories caught in words, photographs, paint, or pencil. I was desperate to make something beautiful and knew that I could not do it on my own. I want to send a great big ball of thanks to all of the gorgeous people who sent something in, and also to those who did not, you have inspired me anyway, in that soul kind of way. I assure you, you will nd bits and pieces of yourselves within these pages too. I love you. I hope you enjoy it.

Sincerely, Erika Magdalena

Table of Contents
1. Beginnings by Anis Gisele
9 .. 2. Imperfect Contrition
10 .. 3. Tuyo
11 . 4. You Dont Say
12 . 5. Said I Was Pure Gold
15 . 6. Cutter
17 .. 7. He Calls It Art
19 .. 8. Thirteen
20 .. 9. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
21 .. 10. Firestarter
23 .. 11. While Dancing by Shaina Tantuico
24 . 12. In Response
28 .. 13. Ups & Downs of Penetration by Ange Athanasopoulos
32 .. 14. Soaked
36 .. 15. If You Only Knew
37 .. 16. Fallen Stars
38 .. 17. Space Cadets Roam the World
40 ..

18. A College Kind of Love

41 .. 19. Fight or Flight
44 .. 20. Afterlife
45 .. 21. Missing Dog
46 . 22. What Remains
47 .. 23. Letter to the Brickman
49 .. 24. Lost and Found
50 .. 25. Tio Joselito
51 . 26. A Recipe: How She Loves
52 .. 27. Trigger
55 .. 28. Cacti
56 .. 29. April Afternoon
57 .. 30. Tomato
59 . 31. Sweet Smell of Soul
60 .. 32. Dreams are Real by Jessica De Borja
63 .. 33. Favorite Things
64 .. 34. Destination: You
65 .. 35. The West Lake by Eileen McShane
67 .. 36. Miracle
68 . 37. Cochlea
70 ..

38. Cambodia
71 .. 39. I Am Your Witness
74 .. 40. About the Author
76 ..

Watercolor by Leslie Espinosa

Beginnings by Anis Gisele

She will not open up, the way the easy heart does. She will smile and lie, tell you she is all right. She is her own lighthouse and her own watchguard, and also: she is a wreck. She is a wreck. She tries to tell you this, by actually saying the words, over and over. Still, you drive towards the trafc light, and she watches you turn your head, and you say, unexpectedly, "You know, you're really easy to be nice to." I don't know what else I want but to sit in this car with you. I don'tknow what else to want but this sitting and going in this unthinking direction.

Imperfect Contrition
I found the barbed wire crown under her bed. It was three years old. I could tell by the amount of rust that collected on its points and curves. Held it with my left hand, pressed my esh into it enough to feel the cuts it caused, let dry blood mix with the sweat on my skin. Thats why she wears her bangs so long. I remember the rst time I saw wine-colored tears descend onto her neck. I asked if she was hurt, watched tears glaze over her eyes as she laughed explaining an obsession with red velvet cupcakes I didnt know about. Sat myself down on a dusty city sidewalk, it smelled like piss and acid rain. Looked up at the strains etched into the plains of her face, dont worry about me, she pleaded. I took her hand, whispered into her palm, you dont need to suffer to say youre sorry. You just need to mean it.

Tuyo is unsalted sh, especially cod, dried by sun and wind on wooden racks on the foreshore called akes, or in special drying houses. The drying of food is the worlds oldest known preservation method, and dried sh has a storage life of several years. [Wikipedia]

Typhoon Season. Millions will miss the drench of their own sweat tonight. They will wake soiled in a mixture of feces, piss, and acid rain. They will look like shriveled grapes hanging on the vines of their faith. Listen to the radio on AM, the priests frantic cry blessed are the poor! They will dry on their ight up to Heaven.

You Dont Say

Say your mom found you riing through her wallet for a credit card because you wanted to donate $100 to the Global Fund for Children. You were six years old and couldnt understand what it was to know poverty, to not know mom and dad, to be an orphan. Say you used boxes as tables when your parents were just starting out, so relieved to get their rst jobs they didnt ask about their salaries. Say the earth shook in the middle of the night and you remembered someone telling you to hide under a table when that happened so you made a bed under the one that held all your family photos. Say you hit your head on the replace and there was so much blood. It was everywhere and there was no money so they taped your head closed and you were more than okay. Say there was lots of love. Say baked apple pies with mom and dad on the weekends. Sat atop shoulders. Screamed every time you saw a Toys R Us, begged them for just one toy. Stood there, overwhelmed, paralyzed by a universe of choices. Say they worked hard. For you. Say moms cake sold out at the school fair and you were so proud you told anyone whod listen. Say they teased you about the color of your skin and when you cried dad told you to ght back so you gave Michael a black eye and mom laughed about it. Say the principal was not amused but Ms. Brown secretly congratulated you. Say they were tired. There was a baby on the way. Shes named beautiful and it was the rst time you heard mom cry. Say it was hard. Dad worked. Say you called daddy at the ofce and asked him to come home, mom was crying. Baby was crying. Say it hurt to hear. You sang her lullabies, tried to stuff your name into her mouth so that you would be her rst word. Heard we had to leave. Heard they couldnt do it anymore. Say you gave them your piggy bank to help them with the move. Dad carried you to the cab in the middle of the night. You were off to the airport. Say you were so lucky to have a whole row to yourself to sleep in. Say you slept in mothers lap. Landed in the afternoon of a foreign country, his home. Say children knocked on the window of your uncles car.

You stared. Looked into a boys brown eyes. Said where are their moms and dads, where are their shoes. Asked if we could take them home with us. Sad smiles, whispered nos. Said I learned fury then, said theres no answer for why. Said silence. Said why. Why?

Sketch by Erica Rannestad

Said I Was Pure Gold

He blew his whistle for a half hour break but made me stay. Said I

was his star athlete. Said I was his mixed-race mermaid. Said

small waist, wide hips, bridged nose, and skin the color of rst place

gold. I swelled, pushed off strong against blue tiles. He timed

my movements to the millisecond. Held me down till I mastered my breath. Held

me till my ribs came together like a closed up shell. Sealed off

from the touch and tread of him. Held me in more ways than one, so that

by the end of month three I watched bubbles surface one

by two by fty until someone pulled me up and my lips matched the skys

palest blue. I swam on the line to exhaustion, to propel

mind away from body. Arms held high into a swans dive, legs pressed rm

on board. Heard him blow his hard whistle.

Said I was pure. Drowned. Sunkissed. Gold.

I would cut my wrists for you if it meant you would stop slicing through your own esh with a disposable pink razor. If it meant you would hurt yourself in anything less than the manner in which you do, so nonchalant as you throw your head back to let auburn curls distract from blood seeping through your favorite grey sweater. Fits of giggles escape your chapped lips and I almost forget you believe: no one can love you. I do. I love you like no man can because no man knows the slow wretchedness that consumes you when you let him in. Between rapid breaths, and graceful thrusts, and dirty words whispered like they mean romance, and passion, and truth. Into your very being he comes and robs you without giving and you tell him it means nothing. You turn away. Ingest poison to combat the hollow youve convinced yourself holds no emptiness. I do. Girl, I would cut my wrists for you if it meant you might start bleeding.

Sketch by Isabella Pineda

He Calls It Art
I watched the blood trickle down his arm, couldnt believe it was mine, bright and red and fresh like a splash of paint on a newly plastered wall. Five tiny drops fell to the linoleum oor, the rest he used to ll the rust in my hair. He made music, and painted victims to the suffering in his soul. When they ask you if he beats you, say: he calls it art.

We walked into the bar at midnight. Bouncer stood stalk still at the foot of beer washed stairs as designer heels and Italian leather shoes met cheap black plastic to deliver us to our weekly gathering of sinful commissions. Soc turned her head to nd me, red painted lips formed words dripping with the weight of luxury, I dont even know anyone here. We sat at a low table, candles lit with twelve legs crossed around a half dozen bottles of smooth Russian vodka. I called out to the bartender. Screwdriver: large pitcher, light on the orange juice, heavy on the vodka, crushed ice, a teaspoon of Grenadine. I searched - for my banig. Ten blue tablets arranged in holy procession, took two and passed the rest around, swallowed in anticipation of a night to be forgotten. We danced in choreographed convulsions, bodies pulsating to manufactured grooves to resurrect some internal harmony. I turned away from me and stepped into the bright uorescence of bathroom lights to nd on the damp violet oor. My uncle and cousin knelt in confession over a ceramic toilet littered with lines of ne, white powder. Ziploc bags crammed, crisp Peso bills rolled into, ngers pressed up against nostrils, white lights, snow powder. My white dress in surrender. And later, more white. Flimsy gown on crisp white sheets and coats speaking words I can barely remember. Overdose. Alcohol. Valium. Cocaine. This girl is thirteen.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

I found a bruise on my right hip today. It lends its sea foam green and plum purple to my web of pale stretch marks, the unwelcome evidence of age. Though Ive learned to love these creases in my skin, what I really need is for my body to reect its witness of you and me. I need the outline of your hand on my right cheek, your ngerprints on my neck and collarbones, then a broken nose and two black eyes. Sometimes I wish that you painted a deep gash of velvet red on my thigh, or left a cut under my left breast so that little by little I could watch myself heal without this immobilizing fear to forget. I need more. Than tangled sheets at noon, your tie hanging on my bedroom door, name and number saved as contact in my phone. I need to know I am not insane, this bed is where you used to lay, these lips you used to kiss,

hand you held, ribcage you strummed along like Mozart on a harp. I found a bruise on my right hip today. Pressed my thumb into it until it hurt. Because I need the truth of these past few days to be recorded in an indelible mark.

I keep the matches in my letter desk. The notes are old, curled at the ends, smeared with tears, signed in perfect script, most of them Ive written, some Ive never sent. I asked for love letters from my friends on my 21st birthday. I read these testaments when I feel unreal or when Ive so lost touch with myself that I dont recognize my own body and the birthmarks on my right calf, lower back, above my right wrist. I stole the scotch from dad. He wont notice its missing. Doesnt drink like I do. Never stayed home on a Friday night to undo himself with words and liquor. Sprawled out on the hardwood oor, fan on the lowest setting, papers strewn across the room, poem books dogeared and favorite novels highlighted, underlined, encircled, thoughts scribbled in margins. I dipped the stationary in burnt coffee, let it dry. The matches I hadnt used since the last time I quit smoking. It was the same night I lit a white candle and watched the wax drip onto my ngers. I didnt feel the sting on my skin, it was in my eyes. I took the lighter uid from the Zippo I stole in junior year. The boy just wouldnt shut up about being from Harvard. He asked me if I had heard of it. I took it because I knew hed miss it and wouldnt think it was me because I drink my rum on the rocks. I wasnt trying to impress him. Sometimes the hurt is so bad I want to burn them. I want to gather my memories, broken relationships, shrunken clothes, annotated literature, box of diaries, photographs, dishonest conversations, missed connections, and shoes I wore the rst time you decided you didnt need to listen because I could take care of myself. I want to pour the scotch, lighter uid, watered down rum, arrange the candles on this melancholy hill like its a birthday cake. Light up. Start at the tip of my ngers. Burn. Till everything and me is all but ash.

While Dancing by Shaina Tantuico

Legs crossed Back pulled Lines extended You hold the table like a lifeline Knuckles so white - I could feel the splinters scream You are a dancer Body moving to keep the fourth wall Display an image almost impenetrable controlled, purposeful, Delicately balanced upon arches trained to bend, not break I hold you in my mind Bracing the tremors like I could will them away I know you do not want to be touched But your eyes, Your eyes give you away With no muscle to undulate the tears you cannot control You breathe like attempts to grasp at them You blink them back and for that brief moment, I saw you

And while I would will myself to reach across that table and hold you Like all those who know me know I must do I chose respect in ways Others have not chosen for you I keep my distance I hold you in my mind Bracing the tremors like I could will them away I know you do not want to be touched So while you fought back tears I held your hand, silent Holding you in the spaces I hoped my eyes could communicate While you recalled what I only write I said no wondered what I was doing wrong because he couldnt hear me All I remember is I walked around for days like I had to ask him and he just turned around and walked away You hear it all the time And you never think it would happen I hold you in my mind Bracing the tremors like I could will them away

I know you do not want to be touched And I love you enough like no other man would Enough to know to wait to respect your choices even though I fear sometimes they will change you And I will not recognize what you've become So take this like a warm embrace Endless arrays of shoulders A clich you can swallow Without fear of some hidden exchange When you are done with dancing And you let this move you Remember, Even music Takes brakes

Photo by Adi Leuterio

In Response
The words are spoken softly under the glow of yellow light. Hands desperately holding wooden perimeters to nd balance, to offer some support. She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, sighs as the memories come ooding back into consciousness. The levies crack, ssures in tightly knit barriers to separate fact and ction. Broken levies, one by one, pain straining against current, holding onto cliffs of oblivion to keep a person intact, to keep her strong, to pretend that no one has taken any of what she is. No longer able to swim against the ow, she falters, poison sipping into blood, through veins, and skin, and limbs until nothing is left unbroken.

Brow furrowed she braces herself against the impact of renewed revelation. Chest tightens, heart strains, drops of sweat form on her lower back, the pain of silence is intolerable. She begins to narrate her story, the one of her undoing, the one she has tried to conceal under summery skies and rosy cheeks for friends and family to remain. Her words hold the weight of an empty drum. Heavy and void of life, still trying to make sense of the event, trying to convince her spirit that it didnt happen when confession is all it pleads. Waves of harbored emotions released in one swift motion, its simplicity misleading but certain. Strident cry for help no longer buried under fear and doubt and the hopefulness that it was all just a dream. Because it wasnt. It was so awfully real. The low-pitched decline, repulsion at the sight of unwanted actions, the haunting incapacity to say no more. A response ability weakened by alcohol,

by drugs, and past promiscuity, commercial sexuality, mixed up with perverse fantasies, proven theories, and egocentric philosophies. A cross that no one should take up, rusty nails hammered into delicate wings, rows of crosses pounded into dark gravel covered with weeds looked over covering every inch of land quickly growing in commonality in proximity in reality. Fight, they say. Destroy, they chant. But nobody hears us. Why didnt he hear me? Bells pulled continuously in the air of tight shut cofns ringing endlessly on deaf ears.

Art by Dominique Felbaum

Ups & Downs of Penetration by Ange Athanasopoulos

The fort wall was built too many years ago to know exactly when the ground was rst broken. It seems it was always there, before I knew it existed. People came and touched the surface, feeling for cracks. Trying to get in or over. On the other side, a courtyard-turned-graveyard Broken bottles, cigarette butts, used condoms and the garbage of wasted time, strewn about amongst the overgrowth of weeds and stinking in theSun. Scuff marks from sneakers, spray paint, blood, and wounds from devices, probably not used with their intended purpose, shone likescarsfrom a war zone. Each time, they chiseled, the cracks grew more visible, until the surface looked like a broken map of beginnings and catastrophic endings. Until every crack seemed to intersect, creating one bigtiredlooking break down the middle; irreparable. Finally, a few years ago, the curator fortied the forts wall, lling every deep gash and porous hole And still, it looked; defeated. Soignored and desolate, so pummeled and neglected; it lookedas if it just was.

Without any clear purpose. It was hard to believe it was there to protect anythingat all. But it was foreboding and looked suspicious. Unapproachable, even. Most just steered clear and averted even looking in its direction. What good could come of it? I saw ts of color and histories I was drawn to learn. Isat against the wall and wrote it all down, day after day. My eyes became ngers, tracing every intricate cut, my earswere secretariesand my tongue printed volumes of our stories. There were jokes and horrors, parables and mysteries. Sometimes I spoke out loud. Other timessilence took over and thewords were carried over the wall in the wind and sighing. I could smell it before I made my way to the top to look inside Perennials blooming, deantly, beyond the carnage of the graveyard Sometimes it poured on top of us, walkingback and forth We howled and laughed and cursed at the rooftops I forgot which side I was on, because it didnt matter. I was always on your side and you at mine. But then,the curator grew suspicious. Why should I care? What did I know? Who did I see?

Day after day it got harder to reach. A new fence. A detour. Some distraction. Finally, the spikes were erected. Looking like some kind of stone porcupine; standing there, ominous; saying do not enter. Lips cut and tongue bloodied, I kissed the wall anyway. Quickly, I pushedall the words Idwritten down into the deepest crack I could nd the onethat broke throughto thegarden. I walked away, reluctantly I prayedthat they would become the wall and penetrate it. I prayed the words would seep into every crevice and melt into the concrete, like stain; wearing it down eroding its strength. I prayed for the perennials beyond the shadows of the wall that rst called me. And every day since, I wait just beyond the clearing. And I pray for rain.

Photo by Migo Antonio

I call her love. It was sunny and humid all day as we walked on carved concrete lines sweat dripped down backs turned bronzed and golden streaks into brass snakes on the napes of our necks. Watched her lips form words, heard the low bass in her voice tinge with exhaustion, it felt like rain. Clouds nally relented, washed our tired minds and broken bodies of our sins. It was too much to cry, so we laughed. Called ourselves Gods cosmic joke, hoped loneliness would grow faint, wished that together, we could wash away.

If You Only Knew

Heres a secret: He will kiss every breath of you. Breathe in the scent of you. Tattoo the taste of you onto the tip of his tongue so that the avor of your person will be with him forever. And when the tide has taken you out for a wave in the universe, he will mount his board, paddle out, wash away on a wave just like yours. He will die because, 45 years ago, beneath that 4 o clock moon, inebriated and deeply in love, he knew that he never wanted to live a day without you.

Fallen Stars
Like a hyper giant blue star too hot to survive an extended period of time they live and burn magnicently then die. A body of heaven falls to earth and theres one less star in the sky.

Sketch by Vipin Chammakala

Space Cadets Roam the World

What if I told you about her mind? How she lost it in a car crash because she was tired of walking the earth without bumping into things and places and people? Said she felt like a little girl in a space suit. There was no gravity where she lived, just concrete and skyscrapers and lights the color of rainbows. She lived without loving to ensure no hurting. Without running to save from falling. What if I told you that she carried the broken parts of her brain in a honey jar? That we tried to piece her together on our lunch breaks.

A College Kind of Love

I found her sitting on her bed, barely clothed in her Victorias Secret lace underwear, black sports bra and knee-highs. It was mid-afternoon, around 5 p.m. and it was getting dark out. She turned on all of her lights, brightest room Ive ever stepped into. I think she lights it up like that to keep out the sadness. She told me once that she was born in sadness and when I asked her what she meant she looked at me wide-eyed and guilty explaining that it wasnt because her mom didnt want her, she said it was just in her nature, in her way, in the calm and peace that consumes her when she listens to songs in D minor. She sat there, smoking a cigarette in between gulps of freshly brewed coffee. I watched her bring the mug to her lips. She inhaled slowly, closed her eyes, sipped some life into her and took a drag of those harsh cigarettes. She gets them for $6 at the corner store, the owner thinks shes hot. She held the cigarette between her ngers, watched the ash form and fall, through her clothes, on her skin, burning. She watched the small hairs on her arm disintegrate unconcerned. I remember the rst time I saw her in that state of seeming mindlessness. It was the morning after we had sex for the rst time. She woke up once the sun had shone through the gaps in the blinds. She moved around the room like a ghost, walking on the balls of her feet to a small cabinet in the corner which housed her endless supply of notebooks. She took her black Moleskin and sign pen out, slipped back into bed and started writing furiously. The scratch of the pen hardly spoke a whisper but I could hear thoughts forming and clouding over her dark brown eyes. I felt like an intruder then. I think it was because I had just witnessed the truth of her but I consigned myself to oblivion anyway. The girl was just so talented at hiding herself. Tucked away beneath rufes, brightly colored bracelets and a swagger that sings to I Dont Give a Flying Fuck.

Her cellphone started ringing, breaking the silence that I was on the verge of tainting. Hey honey, whats up? How is it already time to get our drank on? Yeah, I had a Cliff bar and some stink veg I swear on my dead dogs grave asparagus stinks your pee up. What are you drinking tonight? No... Im going for frat boy stupidity and theres a bottle of Captain Morgan with my name on it. Word. See you in a few. The transformation was so evident to me. She was a goddamned angel excommunicated from Heaven with a lust for learning human. She turned on her laptop and started blasting some Lauryn Hill when she realized she still had company. Shit. Do you mind? What are you reading? No, its ne. Whatever. New York City politics. She tuned out before I answered as her body took the shape of music. She sat on the edge of her desk pulling up skin tone tights over lean legs, feet forming vertical arches and back bent straight in genuection. Her eyes slowly regained their chocolate color and were fully saturated once she put on her fur vest. I would have her for a few more minutes before she walked out into the world and she was no longer only mine. Thats why I held her. Grasped her all throughout the night and into the morning because I was afraid that she might resurrect without me knowing, beneath my eyes, just like a dream and all I would be left with was an inkling, a phantom of memory composed only of the feeling that I had witnessed a beautiful soul and did nothing to realize it.

Photo by Rachel Posas

Fight or Flight
I wonder what she was thinking as she climbed over the banister. Eyes focused on pearl white tiles six stories below her. Jet black hair formed a curtain around a doll-like face. She had: the hands of an artist, touch so gentle fairies let her repair their wings. Maybe... she thought she could y.

When I was younger I was convinced I was going to die early. I wrote letters to all of the people I ever loved, certain that they loved me too - even if they had never confessed this to me. I told them not to worry, I was going to ask God for wings. No, not buttery wings. They would think so Im sure because I always marveled at them, caught the white ones as they uttered in the garden, propped them on my left arm only to watch them y away. I made sure never to rub my eyes after holding them, the powder from their wings would take my sight then all Id be left with were daydreams and I couldnt be left to my dreams. They were always so vivid I sometimes believed my life at sleep has happened. I would only realize this much later, when Id lose a lover to an imaginary girl he liked better than me. Her name was Anna and when I asked him about her one night as he walked me home from class, hed say who is she? I never told you that. Hed look at me funny, sad, some of it I think was fear for my minds images that created whole nations. Imagination. If we all had superpowers I have a feeling mine would be the ability to conjure up whole other worlds. I wouldnt make them perfect, learned this much since the rst time I realized my parents own humanity. When I understood that they couldnt read my mind, couldnt see the invisible marks he planted on my thighs, around my waist, could only read the silences as age when what they really meant was someone hurt me really bad that I think Im going to die early and Im writing letters to every person Ive ever loved. But listen, I wrote, it isnt your fault. When I die early and you hear the delicate utter of wings, know that they are not mine. Mine are large and wide, they will make trees sway and shake the fruit from their branches for your tongues delight. You will hear not only the motion, but the song that oats on particles that make up the wind. I will sing and the rests wont mean that someone hurt me, they will mean Im alive, let me hold you here in this quiet so that I may nally hear your whisper when you say you love me too.

Missing Dog
Boy: Sometimes I wish I was a dog. A Lab. Or a Husky. Girl: Or a Dalmatian. Boy: Ya. Life would be so simple. Id eat, sleep, play dead. Id sleep... A LOT. Drink toilet water, jump and roll over for orangecolored treats. Girl: I wish that too sometimes, to simply live. The girl nds the window where the boys gaze has settled. Girl: Youre tired. Arent you. The boy lets out a sigh. Girl: If you were a cute little puppy, I could rub your head like this. *rubs his head* And hug you like this. *hugs him tightly* And I could talk to you like you were my best friend in the whole wide world. But we could never do this. *takes his hand, stitches her ngers into his, brings his knuckles to her lips to kiss, holds his vision* Girl: This part wed be missing.

What Remains
I was supposed to be taking a standardized test to determine my admission into medical school today. Instead I found myself dreaming up this two-legged animal with scales and feathers they found at some fossil site in Europe. There was a question about it in the Biology subtest, rst of four for Part Two, thirty minutes, fty questions and all I could think about was: Where are the remains of this animal, and were the scales all over her body or did they only cover her eyelids, emerald-like and luminous, were the feathers atop her head? Were they in royal colors like the tail of a peacock, or were they hidden beneath her arms, or in between her shoulder blades? Did her scales and feathers mix together like a mixed-media mural, did they shed? Did she shed her skin like snakes, grew out of it the way we outgrow friends, lovers, and knee-high school socks? Did she lock her old skin in a treasure chest she kept under the rst row in the fourth column of oorboards in her younger sisters room? Did she pick out a feather when she forgot her sign pen, and when the boys teased her on the playground, did she hiss or did she sing?

Banner by Maeve Callagy

Letter to the Brickman

I found an almost naked girl in your bed today. She had owerspotted, rufed underwear and her left arm was bent over her eyes to keep the sun out - or the dark in, I wasnt sure. You must have kissed her hard last night because her lips were a crushed cherry red. A mosquito landed on her right thigh, pressed its legs against hers. I apologize. I couldnt swat it away. Had to watch it suck the sweet from her blood, form a light pink mound. She woke to the sound of children laughing, the day only a few hours old and already exposed, wiped the sleep from her doe eyes. She has four blue stars etched into the swell of her breast . I dont know what it means or if theres any purpose to it at all but I thought you should know that the lady listens to piano as her mind and body unfold.

Lost and Found

I know a girl who leaves parts of herself with every person she thinks she can love. This makes for an incredible game of lost and found. So often the lost leave her, on a shining avenue, or lush eld, or even in her own home. She waits. For them to travel roads that werent inked into the maps on their palms, or in the rivers of their arms, legs, and satin cheeks. Until one day, when they are so exhausted by the enormous possibilities that make up their lives, they linger. At an age-old fountain, or an overgrown garden, or a shore with sand so ne they sink with each heartbeat. To think before trudging they nally falter, knees meet earth as if in prayer, hands never clasped together, they wander tracing history on their skin, on the strains of their backs, on the things they collected since the day they thought they didnt know where to go or who they were. Most of them nd the gift on the retracing. The trinket that the girl gave them days or centuries ago, they remember. An instant when everything made sense, when they saw themselves real and true, naked and laughing on a shining avenue, or lush eld, or home of someone they once knew. The girl waits. At the place where she gave part of herself away so that when they decide to seek, she will be found.

Tio Joselito
Sometimes my hands fail me. They close up into empty sts to keep my heart from breaking or sit on the left side of my chest like a shield to keep words from hurting. They come up to push away, to extend beyond myself, to keep anything from crashing into me. They sweat, tiny beads of perspiration drip into rivers carved into its palms. I wish I could be more like him because his hands never failed him. I think its because he walked around the earth with them wide and open, said he kept them uncurled like that so he could catch tears from Heaven because we dont know if theyre from joy or sadness, just that they wash the dirt off our skin and add to the tide coming in. And on the night that a man, in painful desperation held him at gunpoint, his hands didnt crumple at his sides, or come up around his eyes. They bloomed, stretched out the way owers search for the sun in the way of this man. He said, you do not want to do that and I see you. I dont think this man had ever been seen before. He was one of those people who stays broken because theres no one with enough time to put them back together. That night my tios angel came into the light, saw the gun and the men. One with arms held up in praise and the others formed into a trigger, she whispered to the broken man, to take his shards of glass with him and walk away. His soul would be whole again one day. That night my tio cried, from joy, not sadness.

A Recipe: How She Loves

1. Make a warm spinach salad with apple-dijon dressing Cut the onions in slivers. I like them medium in thickness. Use a good knife, unless you want to cry and you think this is a good enough trigger as any. I cut onions when I need to cry too, with an old, weathered knife. Cut out a big chunk of butter and leave it to melt on a non-stick pan. Throw in the onions. Take the wooden spatula from the drawer to the left of the sink. Stir slowly. Let it sit, simmer, set, stir sparingly, caramelize to melt in your mouth. Fry the Canadian bacon in its own fat. Let it burn. Find the mushrooms, leave the stalks, throw them in with the onions, fold them into each other, kill the re. Wash what dishes youre done with. When he comes over to kiss you, buttery dough in hand, pucker up, smile, continue to scrub. Run the water over your hands, dont burn yourself, but if you do, dont worry. It was worth it. Youll heal. Look for a saucepan, pour in the apple cider, whisk in all the Dijon you want. Let it boil for a sec then turn down the heat. Reduce, sift pepper, and stir. If it isnt sweet enough, add some honey or candy some almonds. Cram the spinach in bowls. Pour it all on. 2. Assemble the apple pie even if you dont know how. Hell teach you. Listen. Watch. Learn. Layer. Sprinkle butter, cinnamon, sugar. Layer till you run out of apple slices then use up all the crumble. Pop it into the oven, set the timer, have a candlelit dinner with the spring breeze coming in through the large screened window. When the buzzer goes off, let him take it out of the oven, take his advice and wait for it to cool... a little. Smell its sweetness, you know his. Take a large slice, a big bite, savor it. Dont be shy. Have some more.

3. Leave her alone. I can tell shes sad because Ive only ever seen her happy. Theres a slight hesitation in her breath and a pleading in her voice Im not sure shes aware of. I marvel at how familiar this feels, these beautiful women hurting and searching for answers and trying their minds at defying their hearts. This is how we love. It is also how we break because it isnt fair that he doesnt call, or always sets the only times to meet, or says no more than he says yes, or says yes when he means no, or doesnt say anything at all. It isnt fair that she wears her heart on her sleeve and on the dip in her top lip and around her right eyelid like a black eye, and just when shes had enough he delivers hope by promising change. A glimmer is all we need. She will hold on and I will too even if a single rey is too small to light its way. She holds her water in an old jelly jar. I think how we can punch some holes into the cover and collect reies. I saw ve at Madison Park. I know this is wrong and she knows it too. We cant catch reies all day. Besides, theyll be dead in the morning. Twelve hours isnt enough to change perception, or the way a person loves, or the way he thinks a woman should be loved, sparingly or at his earliest convenience. I tell her, let him go, you deserve more than this, he isnt ready and might never be. All of these are truths. She asks, and has asked him, to leave her alone but he needs her when shes gone. She tells me he is beautiful, has the potential for magnicent but shes scared hell only settle for good, or worse, none of the above. I say, that isnt for you to decide. Young man, please leave her alone. 4. Clean the table, blow out the candles, kill the lights. 5. Lay in bed, clear your mind, let him hold you, kiss him goodnight, fall asleep in his arms.

Photo by Mara Pineda

He told me to cut the onions underwater. That way the amino acid sulfoxides wouldnt be released into the air. I peeled four red onions on the kitchen counter, crushed their skins in my right hand till I found the oldest knife in the cupboard. I read somewhere that using a newly sharpened one helps reduce the tear gas. I cut the ends off rst, sliced them into halves, quarters, imperfect dice, till the glands in my eyes told my brain that I should cry. A friend once told me that when she cries, it isnt only about the trigger. Its about everything else and I believe her.

Suadade is Portuguese for a deep longing for someone or something that you have lost forever. There is no word for it in English. There should be.

Ive started rewriting my memories, lling them in with good things to push out the saudade that seeped into its curled corners. We said goodbye close to a year ago but didnt seal the casket till the night before last. I cut three red roses from my grandmothers garden to lay in the grass. He bought a large cactus from the Texan at the Sunday market. I told him once that I cleaned out a sick mans two-bedroom house to nd one room occupied by a glorious array of different cacti. He bought one for everything he loved that died too early. When there werent dates and species italicized on those orange clay pots, there were names, and words for who they represented. Like:

green-tailed comet in an empty sky, bluebird melody perched to y, and more simply, always, and, she taught me how to cry.

April Afternoon
His ngers are on my spine, began with some ve centimeters of skin covered by my new denim shorts. Its close to 80 degrees out so Ive taken my shirt off, left it on the wicker table with our bottle of white. He traces every hill and valley of my spine till he reaches the curve of my neck, holds my hair in his hands as he kisses the space behind my left ear. Ive rested my head on my knees, closed my eyes, wrapped my arms around my thighs because this feels electric and I want to keep this scene for painting later. I watch us reected on this skyscrapers glass. His pale skin against mine, blue of his eyes trained on each of my dark lashes, hes buried his nose in my black hair. Palms open, hands cupped around my limbs, hes memorizing parts of me to piece together later, when we arent together anymore, when I am twelve timezones away and he is laying in his bed at four in the morning because he cant sleep and doesnt know why. I imagine hell hear my voice, the ring in my laughter, the breath in my sigh. He will conjure up my moan. The one that births slowly when he places his lips on my breasts, licks sweat from my collarbones, spreads legs to move inside me. His ngers are on my spine, sun has begun to set, city still stretching upward to challenge the brightness of evening sky, he stands to face me, plants a smile on my kiss.

Photo by Lisa Revilla

Heres a premonition: someday soon we will pick tomatoes off the vine in a place whose name we dont care to know because were all together. Clothed in summer denims, plaid, and barefoot running through lush elds. We will fall, scrape our knees on tiny rocks in the soil, wash out the cuts in rain water, giggle because were dirty and the smell of sun has seeped into our every pore. We will rest in the shadow of mango trees and when the wind blows them off their branches we will collect them, bring them to our home by the ocean, slice them into strips, throw them into a blonde wooden bowl with tomato wedges, fresh lettuce, chili bits, alfalfa sprouts, crushed peanuts, and sweetened patis. We will eat, laugh, nd smiles in each others eyes. Talk till the sun rises and listen past the sunset.

Sweet Smell of Soul

She rested her small hands on the car door rufed dress gathered around her bleached white party socks and black patent shoes hovering in the air of a cream, leather-lined convertible. Face delicately round, young and unformed engraved with think lines between eyes the color of warm milk chocolate. Nose pressed up against the dark car window breath forming patches of white to write prayers for the stars pinky nger wiping moisture away to reveal the solitude of old script Mi abuela she whispered under the murmur of her parents words and engine soothing her into slumber. She dreamed of the soft smell of roses drifting on the wind from her grandmothers house, sugar and cinnamon impregnated with lavender tea escaping shell windows cracked open Mi abuela she whispered and found herself nestled in the arms of a woman strong and luscious with eyes the color of mood rings. She held her grandchilds soul in her sight long before she was conceived. There was a desperate knock on the door, she was already awake consumed by the tragic sensitivity of soul her abuela had prophesied. She had already known that he had let go he rested, and she rested her newly manicured hands on his chest still warm from the life that had just escaped him

and for a moment she thought how moments turned into eternity the day of the funeral was an anthology of holy moments that were and were not there empty words in between rich narratives of truth she sat, back straight against condolences and wooden pews tears told like white lies to appease tradition she knew the soft smell of roses drifting on the wind from her grandmothers house sugar and cinnamon impregnated with lavender tea. Mi abuela she whispered Youve met my lolo Lolo she said Youve met the very beginning of the sweet strength of my soul.

In loving memory of Nelmy Posas and Federico Pineda

Photo by Ken Ang

Dreams are Real by Jessica De Borja

Last night I slept like I hadnt slept in years and it felt good to let my body rest, let my mind slow down In my dream, you were telling me something though I dont remember what And when my eyes uttered open in the morning I had already forgotten you were ever there. All my tomorrows start here.

Favorite Things
Heres a secret: time is not linear. Our past, present, and future happen as we wish. All you need to do is close your eyes. Choose your thought. One of my favorites is lived on a deck of a cruise ship, sky from starstruck to sunset in minutes, air crisp and salty, middle of the Baltic, and all I can ever say is, magnicent. Another is lived in a bedroom where a man whispers to me all night, not that I am his, but that he is mine.

The depth of my heart is


A bottomless pit for you to fall in like the manhole on West 4th Street you


around daily. broken beautiful bones

I pray you trip into it

and never emerge.

My heart is a collection of tears. It is an ocean that stretches into the atmosphere and then into


It is the entire fucking universe. You cannot stop its expansion

its complete

and its certain evolution

utter devotion to you.

Photo by Sean O Connor

The West Lake by Eileen McShane

Fold on a stick The pagodas bare back. Perspiring ctions, The broken red bridge, My mans spine on a hook. The who frets in melodies of A man or a sh, Paper or plastic, To go or to stay, To have and to what word? To go, to go, to go. When the world creaks, Man nuclearizes in caves, The grand assassinate, The boys chuck Hades, Organs scale into anniversaries, The scent is too familiar to place. She carves into a stick, She globes on a stick, She fades on a stick. Characters were just buried. Buried with the motley Of dynasty, The dusty sinews of unmade health. A home left on for rage and loyalty. Raw eggs pattered across the Orioles painted in the willows.

Have I told you yet about your lungs? How Id sew its every surface end to end to show you its breadth? There is a tennis court of breathing inside you. Whole oceans churn beneath your breath.

Watercolor by Nicole Pineda

Snail shaped cavity within the shells of our ears For us to listen and not just hear

I wake up to the sound of rain and glare of the sun seeping in through silk curtains the color of rust. The air conditioner hums, ceiling fan blowing mosquito nets into a graceful dance. The couple in the room above us creating a ruckus, hard wood against cement walls, pockets of silence littered with moans of ecstasy, maybe even love. I leave the room to be alone with my thoughts, to ponder on the days I have allowed to pass by without committing experience to paper, only words scribbled in margins, circles drawn around primary ideas, lines to divide one event from another. *** The morning we woke up at four in the morning. Quickly showered, dressed, ran down to meet our driver and guide in the cold of morning night. Sitting in an old van, the sound of Mr. Ohms voice lling sleepy consciousnesses. We received our passports after some confusion about my nationality no, I do not look Southeast Asian, but I assure you that I am. The darkness was subsiding and suddenly heartbeats quickened, prayers whispered pleading that we might see Angkor Wat with the sunrise. Walking along stone steps placed in the 12th century, adrenaline rush strengthened by the royal blue that twilight coated upon us, a great stone bridge anked by still waters stretching out farther than the eyes can see. We stepped into the doorway and before us stood the City Temple, Angkor Wat, grand and inviting, reected in pools of lilied water. While waiting for the sun to peek through marshmallow clouds, deep skinned women queried if we would like to have breakfast sitting on plastic chairs marked with their initials. Green baskets swelling with thick glasses half-lled with instant coffee, cans of evaporated and condensed milk, mismatched spoons, sugar. We waited and snapped photos along with dozens of other tourists, sharing a vision so close to divine. Click, click, ash, click. We try to record its beauty, its architecture, its design carved stone, cold to the touch, intricate details showing warriors, serpents curled around villages, sh and turtles swimming in streams, women helping in the labor of

life. Two hallways paying homage to Indias greatest epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata tales of idealism, of duty, and gods. Fingers outlining Sanskrit only to meet statues of Buddha under domes extending upward till all one can see is a pin of sunlight. Two religions existing together, imploring visitors to pray in its many wishing rooms where pounding st to chest generates a reverberation of sound greater than any clapping of hands or stomping of feet. We made our wishes, our prayers to our God, and in recognition of another tradition pounded our chests three times. The sky temple reminded me of the Tower of Babel, the stairs seemed to stretch up to Heaven. Steep steps rising up, white sun blinding, we climbed, sat in shade and looked out over ancient foliage still giving life, fresh air, roots the size of anacondas enveloping stone smiles, holding walls together and breaking them apart. Standing in a particular spot one perceives the portrait through another lens, another light temples reected in still water, ve towers or three, four smiling faces of Bayon, joy, hope, compassion, sympathy, roots like snakes or elephant trunks, tusks rising or falling, beauty in the still standing or just mending. *** Sitting in lounge chairs the color of blood, set atop brown wicker, below yellow light. Looking out upon a busy street, the smell of freshly cooked noodles, chicken broth, and vegetables permeate the air. Laughter, language hard accents, sultry tones, harmonious like a song, converging in an Irish Pub found in the middle of the world. The rain pours violently while the sun watches on, Cambodian women strolling along unconcerned about the weather, pales and clothing still piled high upon their heads, going about their business, setting up shop for when tourists awake from late afternoon siestas and youth come back from Bar Street and Pub Street inebriated, hungry, and generous. *** Victims of land mines. They play traditional Khmer music in front of the bookstore and the fair trade store. There are other victims too, children with missing hands, arms, legs. Results of Khmer Rouge, land mines what Pol Pot called his perfect soldiers. The wars continue, in Mindanao, in Afghanistan, in Iraq land mines laid everywhere, set up to hurt, to kill and here in Cambodia, after years of peace still hurting, still killing. Erasing lives, plant a land mine in a

eld where poor people farm, their lives arent as important as mine. Plant a land mine in a country with weapons of mass destruction, their lives arent as important as mine. Planting land mines, those are the weapons of mass destruction, destroying children who did not live during the war, destroying men and women who were driven out during the war and are only trying to reclaim land that is rightfully theirs, generation after generation. Can they trust that land again? Plant a land mine, destroy a life that sounds about right. *** I sat down at one of the tables lining Pub Street. The boys ordered their noodles fried rice, and vegetables. It was midnight. A boy, brown skin, dark eyes, grasps my hand. You hungry, he says. No, I am not hungry only the boys are hungry. You hungry? No, honey. Im sorry, Im not hungry. He wraps his arms around me, bone, esh and bone, intertwines his hands in mine, steps back, holds my hands and brings them to his chest. Hungry You are hungry, I say. You are hungry. I understand now. He giggles, nods his head. I count a few bills, surrender them to him, his tiny arms still wrapped around my waist. Promise to get some dinner. You have to eat. He nods his head, one last embrace. He skips down the street. We laugh. *** Siem Reap was lovely. We didnt want to go. We made promises to come back and to stay at the Irish Pub in the middle of the world. We spoke to the owner, said our goodbyes to the Cambodian staff, they were sad to watch us go. They hugged us and smiled and took photos with us and smiled. They always smiled. They watched us write in our journals, laughed when I bought my third glass of bubble tea in one day, gently refused to take shots of vodka with us, gave us room discounts, arranged guides and drivers for us, asked Migo if he was a Chinese celebrity, asked us where we were from, what we were taking in college, they wanted to learn about us, give and take, a lovely exchange, we fell in love with them and oh they loved us too.

I Am Your Witness
I like getting lost in New York Citys vibrant avenues and picturesque side streets. I like tripping into tiny cafs, warm, light streaming in from long windows, the atmosphere plump with the smell of freshly brewed coffee and old books. Walking along cobble-lined streets, the sound of jazz music escaping barely lit hallways, well-heeled women emerging with wine stained lips. Discovering vintage shops in esquinitas, harbored beside sh markets, ripe fruit hanging enticingly in Cambodian sun. Riding on bikes, the sight of which make little children jump and wave, in awe and wonder. Listening to thunderous clouds roll in with the blessing of light water, feeling the droplets on rose-colored cheeks from a windy afternoon. I can write about my day in excruciating detail. The way swine give their crew a play by play on the last virgin they devoured, unashamedly and without apology. Sometimes I cast myself as the hero, as some kind of savior, other times I admit my vulnerability, my imperfections displayed like trophies, medals pinned on like Im a part of the Honors Society. The process of the story does not always come easy. The experience is hard to put into words, hard to condense into a few sentences, arranged into paragraphs, decorated with the right punctuations so that it may echo, no matter how poorly, reality. The story must be told because if I dont tell it, somehow, I dont know how it loses its legitimacy, because then its only real to me. And I know, I know that the way in which I swim through the current, what I choose to take with me, what destination picks me, I know that it is really, truly only mine my reality, but I nd the lovely in the act of sharing. In the relationships that blossom from feeling, from seeing and hearing another person tell his or her story, history. When you allow me to read the pages in your book, you are giving, giving me an opportunity to learn about you. That I may bear witness to you and your dreams, and that you may be witness to mine.

Feel the warm air around you. The ceiling fans steady rhythm and the heaviness of pale eyelids over your vibrant blue eyes. Sleep upon antique rockers made of pineapple bers, or lay yourself down on lush Persian carpets. Light a ame on wrought iron candelabras and let the wind from Philippine Sea and Indian Ocean reignite your spirits calm. Sit on the kitchen countertop as I preheat the oven. Pick two onions from the garden, unpeel and slice into halves, cut imperfect vertical lines for me. Dont shield your eyes. Throw them into the pan with a quarter stick of salted butter, let its golden smell console you as we watch and stir over Chilean Malbec and dreams and seeds planted in college. Set the table with ne white china and strong silver while I massage fresh herbs and ground pepper into the pure folds of seabass. When my family comes, exhausted by the chores of school and ofce to us preparing a small banquet... smile, ask them how they feel, carefully listen to their answers. The response does not lie in their words but in the beats and rests of their voices. When they compliment us on a well prepared dinner, accept it with another pour of good red wine. Take your time. Relax and unfold at this table. Dinner will last another two hours. Dont fret. It will end with a mug of fresh, warm milk and a ripe orange mango. Retire to your bedroom, the one I set up just for you, with its deep blue walls, archaic lamps, dim yellow lights, and sight of angry seas. And if you cant sleep (and dont want to wake me), walk around my home like it is your own. Stand at compositions, in every angle and light, and think. Of the multitudes of memories we are going to make within these safe walls.

About the Author

Erika Magdalena Pineda is an avid traveler and purveyor of stories, a soul who loves to meet people from all walks of life and listen with sincerity to their hopes, joys, and pains. This is the mark of a true artist: someone who observes and reects. Whether through poetry, song, or dance, she shares her reections about life and love generously. But her words do not merely echo the human experience--her poetry redenes the world, as well, imagining a better world that could be. After graduating from Fordham University in New York, Erika took the rst step in turning her vision into a reality by cofounding JeepNeed, a green mobile science and technology lab for rural public schools in the Philippines. Currently studying medicine in Davao, Erika seeks to apply her degree in innovative ways to help those in need. A passionate soul, Erika's re is an inspiration to those around her. As for those of us living half a world away, her words serve as a reminder of her unique spirit. -Judith Engracia

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