Sunday, April 3, 2016

Eileen R. Tabios, Gabriela Sings Fado Into the 21st Century

Gabriela Silang, image by Irene Koronas

Gabriela Sings Fado Into the 21st Century
—for Gabriela Silang

I yearned for amnesia—Desiring amnesia from seeing
dragonflies off-kilter, shoving through air like husbands
with bruised eyes—Black dimes interrupted the sun’s glare,

an experience familiar to travelers visiting “Namibia in
search of pure light”—Uncertainty defined by farewells’
thermodynamics, exhaustion yielding the scent of armpits

until sight clung to a riding crop, suddenly admired for
its stiff leather spine—Centuries of woodcarvers immortal
-izing stigmata on the limbs of virgins and saints, eyes wide

and white in exaltation—Sometimes, days of unremitting
brightness from ignoring all ancestors to stare directly at
the sun, only to discover myself clasped by the cool dimness

of a cathedral where hands penetrated marble bowls for
holy water whose oily musk lingered on my filigreed fingers
as if to sheathe my flesh—Confusion over Love’s relevance—

Mornings broken by waking at quantum velocity—Where
bones erupted mountains in Guatemala and Peru—Perseve
-rance defined as green stalks holding up ylang-ylang orchids—

how their thin limbs refused to break from the weight of lush
petals and overly-fertile stamen! Mountains of bones shared
the pallor of thick, white candles burning in helplessly tin

candelabras—No metaphors exist for genocide—Should
one italicize the word God? Sudden longings for rose petals
yawning like little girls, like the daughters I never bore—

Possessing money for perfect hems consoles like martyrdom—
A scientist-poet cautioned against “enhancing music” as more
would trip “the fragile balance between sterility and sensuality”—

Diving so deeply to become salt witnessing coral form sky
-scrapers upside down as they narrowed towards the molten
center of earth—Schools of fish dispersing to reveal

the undulating sea floor as “suddenly flesh, suddenly scarred,
suddenly aglow”—“Geisha” defined as lipstick from nights
jousting at the West End Bar (New York City) when jazz still

rained and reigned—Heartbeats succumbing to radiance after
curiosity moved me to bait handcuffs and whips—Radiance
penetrating to complete its caress bearing a price that will never

reach blasphemy—Commitment costs—Today I hide from
what I once bartered willingly bartered for


“Civilized satiation”—Fabrics fraying but still mustering to
cover the shoulders of non-retired warriors—The chandelier
with 500 light bulbs branding immortal air—Together, we formed

tuning forks longing for emphatic hits—That video I created with
lies: its choreography of phantoms rated “X” by bureaucrats
expert only in a “failure to articulate”—Empathy defined through

a bent spine craving an ellipsis whose bulge implied arrival, not
departure or division—The salty pleasure of sisters elongating
pink necks to snag spotlights beamed from men experienced

in the utter aliveness of dying—Painting a floor red with my hair,
backing myself into a corner: when you grasped  my throat,
your greedy footprints completed my painting—Whispering,

“Step heavy.  No such thing as a sonafabitch in turning art into
flesh”—Press me against a steel door radiated by generous
halogen—Hunger defined as losing battle with courtesy—she

was not a petite doll urging sirloin on others while she settled
for sauce on rice—Longing for an intermission. But love is also
a source of difficulty—Pyres of ashes rise with a verve matching

Babel’s ambition—Sag, therefore, into night as if night is a lover—
The teacher likened the moon to an arsehole—A lake capitulated
to ripples from a stone’s impassive penetration—Can art fulminate

within gold Baroque frames? Smothering inch-high candles floating
with decontextualized petals in crystal water bowls—Inherited
pages crumbling between black leather, the font embossed

in tattered gold as “Holy Bible”—Melancholy rice fields a rippling
mirror of a sunset inside you—Generous beds of unpicked mint:
radically fragrant but untapped potential—Coins tossed at brass

fountains wish for the opposite of diminution—Craving kindness—
Photographs overcome by sepia, certainty demolished by screams—
Demeter’s statue languishing over water where orange manna set

goldfish ablaze. I had no excuse, not even History—Compromise
defined as writing typhoid fever instead of ecstasy—Inhale the biting
scent of tar—Chanting calculations of false theorems, weeping

as if there are gods to court—Soldiers whispered by a paltry stream,
their eyes locked on the slimness of my ankles revealed through
ripped cotton—I owned a widowhood to avenge—All men were my

sons. I could not afford any man reminding me pearls never yellow
when worn against flushed skin—Hollow cheeks on mothers
cradling dead warriors—Charisma defined as letters forming words

like myrrh, honey, balsam, pepper wormwood—flavors used
by Romans in Beaucaire to camouflage fermenting raisins spoiled
in amphoras now lining the Mediterranean with thousands and

thousands of shards—To savor my childhood house where
grandmother gave births with abundant abandon, where generations
died more radiant than a sun’s implosion—Seashells sleeping

on windowsills—Clouds of cushions recycling chicken feathers
softened every inch of narra furniture; stitched lace and sequin
tempted viewers to believe angels never fell and a harpsichord

can last for eternity—Foregoed milk for tapey rice wine as I pre-
ferred my tongue sodden—I forgot meticulousness in preserving
memory as proof that someone will always remember you and

me—Nights lactating morphine, roses rebelling against the after
-math of blooming, and vampires about to sin—Marble floors
with cobalt veins chilling the barefooted sleepwalker—Diego

lifting eyelashes to reveal soot—The Ilokano sea witnessing
eighty virgin men dangling from trees to protect me—Memorizing
combined scents of tobacco and milk—Suturing words by setting

calloused fingers free to roam across a piano’s ebony keys—
Marisa peeling the skin from a blue-boned fish, Shakira rustling
up an old clothesline for tying hands together after mosquitos bit,

Doris tuning ears to lullabyes emanating from the wings of fire-
flies, Luisa squatting besides betel-chewing crones with crooked
front teeth, Marjorie swallowing the scarless sky over Siquijor….

We played in a Kingdom waiting to happen, where palaces
contained empty thrones, where no one would have challenged
had we sat on rubicund damask cushions—Instructions ending

with the order: Do not cry—Envy for scout bees charged with
discovering new food supplies—how I coveted their eyes like
a series of mirrors able to split light: “the trigonometrical bee will

always / be able to trace the route from flower // to hive by taking
a reading from the sun”—Begging the 21st century reader: Will
you breathe                                             life into me by believing?

You today looking at the same sky of luminous sapphire
whose gap from earth she erased with

—Eileen R. Tabios