God Never Blinks

Here are your results.
Your body is no temple.

Look instead at how
the cancer has bloomed
pinkly into a forest
wedged roots down the holes
in your bones.

against any medical
procedure—too late
but look how beautiful
the devastation.

This is the secret we
uncover in none
of those white rooms
where doctors convince us
the machines see everything

though they have no hands
to lay on us no mouths
to whisper your sins
are forgiven stand up
and live. Every created thing

can forget its own death.
This gift alone is proof
there is a God
and that He loves us.

Object Permanence

The hardest lesson to teach a child is about the axis
on which the universe spins. When you’re young
you hold the world at arms’ length. From ages zero to x,
we fix ourselves in the inevitable center, the only place
from which we need not be afraid of missing something.
Mom, I’ll tell you now that this is the first difficult
conversation we will ever have. You wonder why
it feels as though you’re playing peek-a-boo with a wall,
why the baby doesn’t laugh. I hate this game. I always have,
because it’s a magic trick I can’t see inside of, no more
than you can read the signs in my head. The question
of your existence is too grave to tickle my funny bone.
When the tiny steel balls of my fists batter your arms,
remember this is the only way my youngest self
knows how to love, always half-terrified of things
it can’t see. Put down your hands so I can remember
what you look like, relearn the shape of your nose.
Convince me your eyes haven’t transformed,
suddenly, into the most lightless of black holes—
that since I can observe you, you must still be here.

The Law of Impenetrability

If, as science says, no two bodies can occupy the same space at the same time, then please explain to
me why there is longing.

We can experiment around this hypothesis: If I lie beside you, then at least one of us will mistake
close for whole. Possibly both of us. We will imagine breaking ourselves down to the same subatomic
particle. We will think we have found ourselves one there. The desire to believe this occurs naturally,
compulsive as breathing—

but I know for a fact our bodies would get between. All matter is impenetrable by law. There is no
cure for lonely, no more opaque surface than our flesh, and the only site of connection that matters
is made electric in the brain, jumping between synapses to initiate chemistry.

In light of these findings, you are no more than a temporary chemical imbalance, a premature
ventricular contraction, what happens when I forget that the only thing the heart moves is blood.

There is a rational explanation for everything—
this is mine, for why you aren’t allowed to touch me.


First poem for CW 322. The prompt is to write a science poem, with that rather bombastic first line. I promise myself I’m not going to write a science love poem. The result is, of course, a very reluctantly written science love poem.

Day 30: Exorcism

The body knows better than you
can ever tell it, how to expel
what is unwelcome. The allergen
is that which places itself in the path
of your breathing, enters you
without permission. The sneeze
is responding with fire. Sometimes
this violence is necessary in the face
of the most everyday toxins.


Day 30: Write a poem of farewell.

Unpleasant dreams about hateful people + near-constant hay fever do not a happy Nica make, but OMG IN THE WORDS OF JESUS IT IS FINISHED asjkhskgjhdaskjhr gargles.

Day 29: Coffee with the Angel

He slouches in the chair across
from mine, and ten packets
of brown sugar empty themselves
like so much life-sand dissolving
itself away into his cup. I ask is that
not too much sweetness for your taste?
Or, to turn the question on its side
and show you a different face—
why are we here? What’s it all about?

He answers no, sweetness, all I taste
is still black, but I like the light here.
It reminds me of butter. See how
everything appears lit by candles
that think they have all the world’s time,
and burn as softly as they please.
I could sit here all day fiddling
with the pages of a sketchbook—
to draw someone is a different means
of harvesting, when you conjecture
a story onto their image rather than
pinch a soul between your fingers
and pull it resisting from its vessel.
I would be that sort of man for you,
the kind who looks good in cardigans
and never gets enough sleep.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we were real
and neither of us had somewhere
else to be? You are all the warmth
in a room. You are all sweetness needed
by an anthropomorphic concept
without the gift of senses. I wish
you were not imagining me.


Day 29: Write a poem that incorporates all of Jim Slimmerman’s “20 Little Poetry Projects.”

Filing this constraint away for when I have more time and energy; in the meantime I continue making small talk with Death.

Day 28: Headlines

Life at sea begins by chance.
Incheon-to-Jeju ferry passengers assured
of a “safe and pleasant experience.”
Captain said to have spent four decades
at sea. A colleague describes Captain
as the nicest person on the ship. Captain
speaks with poetic flair about countless sunsets
and sunrises. Captain appears on television
dressed in a white uniform with gold epaulettes
on his shoulders. Crew members interviewed
know little about Captain’s personal life.
Captain is paraded before cameras, face hidden
by the dark hood of a windbreaker.
Captain crashed into a door on the bridge,
but sustained only light injuries according
to onshore doctor. Captain decides to delay
evacuation. Transcript of interview shows ship’s crew
worried about lack of rescue boats for passengers.
Captain and crew take to rescue boats before
passengers. All fifteen of surviving crew face charges
of negligence and abandoning passengers.
The conduct of captain and crew declared
unfathomable from the viewpoint of common
sense, tantamount to murder, intolerable.
Captain has not explained why he left the vessel.
Captain feared passengers being swept away
by ferocious currents if they leapt into the sea.
Trouserless captain of sinking ferry scrambles
to safety as hundreds remain trapped inside.
Captain runs out of ship without his pants on.


Day 28: Write a poem using words lifted from a news article.

Obviously pulled things from a couple of articles I read online about the sinking of the Sewol, and a feature on its captain, Lee Joon-seok, because these things have a way of haunting you after you hear about them.

Day 27: Alms for the Birds

where the earth
closes stonily
into itself
and refuses
to embrace
our dead
we give them
to the sky

all that grows
rides on
the mountain
air, waits
for a new life
while birds
live off its shell

we believe
a spirit, too, is
a winged thing,
that even corpses
retain a wish
to give


Day 27: Write a poem based on a photograph.

I chose this, and its attendant anecdote, because the practice of the sky burial fascinates me.

Day 26: [Incontrovertible evidence for the existence]

Incontrovertible evidence for the existence
of aliens is currently seated across from me
in the person of you. I can count all the things
you love more than coffee on the fingers
of one hand. Everything that breathes knows how,
subliminally, to love. Our city is populated
by cats that entreat us with their eyes to play
with them. We hail a cab by reaching out
as though to take it by the hand. I am the third
thing you would give up coffee for. I hate you.
Crack the moon in the center of an egg cooked
sunny side-up and all the light spills out
waiting for you to salt it. What would you
give up to prevent the apocalypse?


Day 26: Write a curtal sonnet.

Freeverse sonnet instead because strange incongruities and seemingly out of nowhere statements = McPoetry. Dis wan is 4d luv of my lyf, coffee.

Day 25: The Sense of Place

Where I am from is 7, 107 islands and one time zone and almost two hundred languages. Where I am from, there is no word for snow, but numerous words for rice, basket, and carry. Where I am from the people almost never say directly what they mean; instead they ask questions and tell jokes and smile at everything.

Where I am from is a Spanish town, home of the saint who gave me my name. Where I am from is an American ship carrying men of the cloth carrying books carrying the words that will warp me as I speak them for the better part of my life.

Where I am from: ancestral house on Corregidor Street long since torn down to make space for a Buddhist temple, townhouse in Xavierville, maternal grandparents’ house in LGV, paternal grandparents’ house in Valle Verde 3, a house in Baguio cut into the side of the mountain almost as old as the mountain and home to just as many ghosts, Barangay Old Balara where jeepneys and stray dogs share the road equitably between them, Commonwealth Avenue incidentally the highway with the greatest number of fatal accidents in the Philippines, fairytale castle Ever Gotesco, a tall house on a hill from which you can see the stars outside of a dirty Metro Manila sky.

Where I am from, prayer is endurance training, on your knees with your eyes shut and your hands folded and your mouth moving soundlessly for hours. Where I am from, God is something they don’t teach you at school. Where I am from, you will never find him alone.

Where I am from there is nothing you cannot build with enough scrap metal. You can live in it. You can make it move.

Where I am from, there are no signs; the alley-cats carry the names of the streets on their paws. Where I am from, you will always find the sea if you drive in a straight line.

Where I am from, we are solicitous of visitors, we are especially friendly to tourists, we will speak your language, we will send our girls to take care of you, we will give you the bed, the car, the best barbecue in the city, a case of beer.

Where I am from, the storms are women, but the sun is almost assuredly a man. Where I am from, we leave food offerings out for the dwarves, we walk arm-in-arm in pairs through the forests, we know rain on a sunny day for a wedding somewhere in the spirit world. Banana trees were once hands. Pineapples see everything. When a beautiful girl dies a volcano rises up over her grave.

Where I am from, nearly all insects have wings to carry them toward light.

Where I am from, you can buy anything from an old lady by the roadside—flowers, vegetables, dried fish, long skirts in a patchwork rainbow, marbles, decks of cards, medicine, love-charms, aphrodisiacs, abortifacients, good luck, your future, your way home.


Day 25: Write a poem that makes use of anaphora.

The phrase “where I am from” is one of my favorites for this sort of thing. Recycled from this writing exercise, which I originally did for a grad school poetry class.

Day 24: Bricklaying (A Love Poem)

You fit into me
like a hook into an eye.

– Margaret Atwood

beloved I would not presume
to ask us to fit into each other
your atoms commingling with
my atoms when the truth remains
that matter is impenetrable by law
and we love that we are not one
it is enough for you to lie flat
against me, your weight a brick
against another brick against
another brick in an ancient
Roman aqueduct built of some
twenty-four thousand bricks
and not an iota of mortar to make
a wall out of its building blocks—
only the natural pull of the earth
and an exceptional knowledge


Day 24: Write a masonry-themed poem.

Margaret Atwood is going to come after me with a knife for mangling the same poem of hers twice in one NaPoWriMo run. But yes, it will always amaze me that the Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain, was constructed entirely without mortar.