Now that you have decided to stay
away, I have given up finding the quiet
gestures that lie behind us. What matters
cannot just be found in corners of what was
once your home. I have muted your imprint
in the last photograph we took as the plume
of dawn washed over us and what you said.
You wanted to understand the ordinariness
of hope, bought a ticket to Rio, confident
you’ll find its familiarity in the refugees
of Manaus. I did not want to ask why
that far. There was earnestness, after
all, not in how you said it but that you did.

Yesterday, I got your letter. You write
of the remnants of torment in water,
and also that the river knows how to kiss
an ocean a hundred different ways in Belém.
I wanted to imagine this, I did. Passing
interruptions come different ways as well,
you see. I wanted to tell you that turtles too
have a hundred ways of nuzzling through
the sand to nest in Guimaras. How, last week,
Mayon buried a season’s hard work, mudflow
cleaved banks and swallowed sleeping
houses whole. That there are even more
different ways of raping a nation. Chinese
soldiers carrying a woman like a stick
into a van after they feasted on giant clams,
for one. The list is long and I cannot find
the fascination to fit them all here.

All I wanted to say is, this is not as easy
as tumbling through the sheets and finding
the kindling of our bodies. We are left, after
all, bearing the fading embers of the stories
we tell. Losing heart to hear that the one
felled last night was no longer a stranger,
we now grant them names, refusing to refer
to them as numbers. We look beyond that
now, not minding that our voices cannot
find their way to each other anymore;
but missing, yes, missing, those nights when
the only thing that kept us up through dawn
was the particular terrors of torrential rain.

Leo Fernandez Almero

Leo is a lawyer and LGBTQ activist in the Philippines who writes in English, Filipino, and Bikol. Their poems and translations have been previously published in Sunday Inquirer Magazine, Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, BKL/ Bikol Bakla, Queer Southeast Asia, and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore.

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