Behind the Words


As a child, I was preoccupied with the idea of “discovered” writing. I had been writing in diaries ever since I was six, and growing up, I was fascinated with the idea of a stranger reading it. The fascination turned into writing diary entries addressed to the reader, and every time I started on a fresh, new notebook, I’d write: “To you, dear reader, this is my mark in the world.”

It was nothing but some fancy sentiment for a nine-year-old then. Now, I think it was the beginning of awakening to what had pulled me to write in the first place.

I see initials carved into a tree with a heart locking it in. It’s not a testament of love, but a testament of fear: at the fact that the only thing constant in the world is change, that what and who you hold precious now will, inevitably, become obsolete.

Even in graffiti, even by children holding crayon and coal and chalk, inscribing ways of life and names on walls, and myself, feverishly writing miniscule details in journal entries, addressing the reader over and over; in love letters, where, as a romantic touch, I write that memories may fade but ink never will: there is an acknowledgement of the universal, centuries-old fear of demise and disintegration; of feeling like a mere spark in a bonfire; a speck in the world.

In whatever way, we write to cope, to commemorate, to prove: this is us. We exist. Let us tell you our stories. Let us carve our names into your skin.




All decisions unmade and paths not taken,
words unsaid and people unmet, doors
left open, skin untouched, hearts unbroken,
stories all unwritten and untold, shores
uncharted and places unexplored thrive
in parallel universes: where the
maybes and the perhaps can rest easy uncontrived. The odds are infinite; wrought

in time and space, and I try not to dwell
on the existence of another self –
happier elsewhere; without regret; held
by hands gentler; the future still undelved.


Poem made in tribute of the passing of the physicist Stephen Hawking.

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READ: Dark Hours; elsewhere held and lingered by Conchitina Cruz 


For trips to bookstores and people lending books have become increasingly scarce, Twitter became a lifesaver with two tweets that linked downloadable PDF files of two poetry books: elsewhere held and lingered and Dark Hours, both by Conchitina Cruz. 

Poetry is good when the answer is yes to all of these: did it make me think? Did I have to read a line or a verse twice and know that it was to haunt me for nights on end? Did I feel a weight that made my heart seem heavier; was I breathless because of incoherent emotions? Did I wish I had this writer’s hands and mind; did I wish I was the poem’s creator instead? 

With Conchitina’s poems – all of these questions were answered with a resounding yes. 

I was literally whispering the words under my breath as I read, and felt entirely enraptured by them. Instant imagery forms itself in your mind as you read her poems. What concept I spend sentences and paragraphs on to fully embody she does in a few spare lines and I am entirely blown away by how powerful it is.

In Dark Hours:


You  never  know  when  somebody  will  walk  away  from  you  on  a  bright  day  on  a  busy  street,  never looking back and you  cannot  believe  the  slow  disappearance,  cannot  believe  what  is  moving  away  from  your  reach until the busy street no longer needs its presence to look the same, because it is the same. 

And  the  city  offers  you  its  fruits  and  fish,  and  the  churchgoers  lift  their  veils  as  they  step  out  into the open and you know the picture is incomplete but it can stand for itself

and who are you to ask for more, who are you to insist on hunger?

In elsewhere held and lingered: 

It should be enough

It should be enough to wake 

from the dream

and find

the doors still opening 

into the wrong rooms,

the keys still hanging 

like tongues from keyholes, the staircase still 

leading nowhere, the shelves 

still infested 

with indecipherable titles. It should be 

enough, the eyes

in photographs restless, 

the birds tugging themselves 

off  the surface

of  teacups, the curtains 

poised for migration, the roaches gone 

to the neighbors. And still, we insist 

on staying, flicking the switches 

on and off

in the dark, 

heating the leftover rice. 

Stay we must,

nodding our heads, 

our fingerprints on every object, our signatures 

on every page.

Passages where I am held breathless; passages that are like gossamer strands of spider webs that lure you in and traps you inside it. All I can say is that I cannot wait to discover more of her work. 


Share the awe with me! Download Dark Hours here and elsewhere held and lingered here. Tell me what you think!

In frame: Conchitina Cruz

Of sudden disappearances:


Consider change. Consider time. Stare blankly at the fresh green leaves of the neighbor’s tree and hear her bent over scraping at dried wilted leaves on the ground, swept away to lie with crushed cans and torn plastic sachets; disposable items used up to be thrown to waste. 

Look out. See the skyscrapers – you would never have recognized that place in my time, a voice chimes in from your mind – and at the heavy gray clouds surrounding it. Feel the last few remnants of warmth on your skin fade as the sun hides and a wind picks up, making you shiver. 

Consider the last time you were warm from the touch of another. The memory comes, but it is not concretely recalled: the places and faces seems to be a blur, and however slight, the feeling of fingertips sliding down your arm to intertwine with your hand is there. It is there. 

Consider longing. Consider absence. Walk to the door and open it; shout over your shoulder you have an errand to run and know that they will barely look up from the television. But with no warning will come knitted eyebrows and questions of where have you been, and why didn’t you tell us? You feel the first drops of rain on your skin. You wish you could ask the same of the shadows. You wish you could ask the same of the memories. The drops of rain seem to seep into your bones.

Lose yourself into the handful of people with neon umbrellas and rain boots. Stare after the children running after one another and splashing into puddles, laughing even as the rain trickles down their face. Wonder if they will remember these moments as they grow into someone they never would have expected; if they would recall merely the exhilaration or even the heavy breathing, the laughter, the dirt that sticks to their legs and their clothes sticking to their skin. Wonder what they would say if you tell them you were once a child, too; you once played in the rain; as your parents did in this same place, on the same pavements they skinned their knees and rode bicycles on. The pavements are indifferent to what memories they retain; to whose tracks have been blazed onto them; to the stories of those who followed their trails. You aren’t. You chase after memories. You long to trap the moments you’ve lived in the palms of your hands. You could tell them over and over until it is impossible to forget.

Shift your eyes to the crowd again. Feel the warmth of memory on your skin; see a familiar profile that disappears within the sea of people and leaves you blinking away the drops of rain from your eyelashes, and think that you may have just tricked yourself. You feel the warmth fade away.

Consider change. Consider time. With a last look over your shoulder, you turn away, back to the roads that’ll lead you home. You decide to buy merienda just in case they ask what you went out for. Look up, and see the sun slowly crawling back out of its hiding space. 

Where have you been? Why didn’t you tell us? 

You feel warm again.

The Moon 


She is the sole witness to the whispers in the dark,
The fire of guns, the shadows and silhouettes Hidden from sight – growing 
Larger, advancing on a victim –
And the blood that stains the streets
That reeks to the heavens;
She is the sole witness to the cries of children
To the wail of a mother, to 
The panicked scream as a door is struck 
Down; bodies clad in blue sworn to
Secure the safety of the masses after 
Their lives, heroes of a society
Broken, never to be mistaken; to the 
Sick and innocent dead by the hand of 
Their own people, their lives reduced
To a statistic and scorned as the
Disease that rots away civilization, 
Better off dead for progress, the 
Hypocritical progress that is supposed 
To grow but kills and is lost in the
Lines blurred between justice
And ethics and the rights of every 
Human being turned into a punchline instead of a priority and
By God, she watches every night,
She does, she counts the minutes till
Dawn, she wishes the clouds were 
Thicker to hide her,
To stop her from giving them light 
That aids them – but in darkness too in her Absence they are all the more aided,
And the glowing streetlamps of the
Country bathing the pavements in orange
Are brighter than she is – and she 
She desires,
For the sun
To rise.

VICE: Duterte’s Drug War Has Now Killed 54 Children

What went wrong with bloody Mandaluyong shootout?

voices unsung


We wield words 
as both armor and weapon, 
but too often,
forget what we are in the battlefield for. 

To write is to explore a hidden jungle deep within us,
but to write is also to transcend self-discovery:
it is to serve,
it is to cause,
it is to ripple across hearts and minds
– across generations, even – 
it is to remember,
and to remind;
it is to fight,
it is to heal and
it is to reflect. 
we are to serve as writers to those who cannot speak what they feel,
we fight not with the glint of of both shining armor and weapon but with the armor scarred, bloodied (we fight not with the beauty of our words,
but the message; the truth, 
the reality
that it holds);
we are to serve as witnesses to those who doubt, who mock; 
we sing the melodies for the voices unsung.

With this,
we must not keep
getting lost in the wonder,
the power 
of rhyme and rhythm that flow through every verse.
We escape it. 
We produce for heroic matters.



The house was always dead silent. 

No, not in the way one might imagine. There were the steady thuds of footsteps up and down the stairs, the noise of a shoe sliding against the floor, the clicks of doors closing, the sizzling sound of cooking oil touching a hot pan – all of these daily, mundane sounds of the typical household existed. What was lacking were voices: filling the air, high-pitched in laughter, overlapping the other word after word. 

The day comes. The night passes. The house is still. 

They talk with their eyes: with a bat of an eyelid, a look through eyelashes, and a swift glance. They talk with their lips: a frown, pursed and tight; a slight smile lifting aged cheeks and brightening the eyes. They talk with the briefest of nods and the slightest touch. They talk through the silence; with the silence.

How I wish it was enough. I wish it was enough to fill the empty chair at the head of the kitchen table, the clothes and shoes never to be used again, the missing indent of the body on the bed, and the fading scent of cologne – musk, if you will – that still lingered in the air. 

The day comes. The night passes. 

The house is still.

In response to the daily prompt: Conversation.