Monthly Archives: September 2016

i am your mistaken love

i am your mistaken love—
make me into your revision,
learn of me as you would
from experience and wear
me out like a second-hand
shirt; extract from me what
you can as though i’m a pair
of hand-me-down jeans— proudly
accept me as your error, the
one you might always regret (i
promise, i’ll make up for it,
you’ll see!) because everyone
mistakes me for a nobody…,
but you’re the only one who
mistook me for somebody

poem©mrg 9/22/16

somebody ©mrg 9/29/16

somebody ©mrg 9/29/16

What Inspires You

The temperature reached almost 100 degrees outside. It was dry. The wind was hot. Even if the windows were closed, the heat tried to slip inside as though it was trying to seek relief from its own sorry self. I kept the windows closed. All of it. The doors I kept fully shut. What little cool we had in the room I wanted to protect.

“Abe, can you get me a glass of water?” She fanned herself with a piece of cardboard she tore from the bottom of the yellow pad she liked to scribble her notes on. A proposal for water restoration was due tomorrow. She worked for the city and was recently placed on the drought committee. She suggested they launch an even bigger campaign to save water.

I handed her the water. This was the third glass she requested. Her eyes focused on the screen when she lifted her right hand and took the frosty glass. “Thanks,” she said without looking at me.

“Does this inspire you?”

She didn’t respond. “Does this inspire you?” I repeated.

“What?” she turned briefly, then returned quickly back to the screen.

“Never mind. I know you’re busy.”

“I said thanks, didn’t I?” she said, with a hint of annoyance.

“Of course, of course.” I grabbed my phone and took a picture of her by the computer. I thought her silhouette, even under this dim light was handsome. Her long, wavy hair swept up and the slight bones protruding from her white tank seemed like tiny knobs on a window I wanted to open and let the cool air in. The shape of her body resembled a tiny violin I wanted to play over and over again. I had never so much as dreamed of playing a stringed instrument, but such a yearning arose every time I saw her back just like this. What kind of sound could I derive from her if I was to run my fingers down the long, shallow reservoir along her spine… what chord would I strike… what note would I discover if I touched her. I took another picture, but she turned and disrupted the photo altogether.

“I did say thank you!” she repeated.

“You did!”

“Then why do you sound like that…” mocking me, “of course, of course.”

“I didn’t want to bother you. I know you have a deadline.”

“I thought you understood.”

“I do.”

“Then why are you trying…?”

“I wasn’t trying to.”

“But you did… so what is this all about?”

“Nothing,” I emphasized.

“I said thanks.”

“I didn’t even ask for that.”

“Fine… fine.”

“Fine!” Both of us retreated to our corners. She by her desk and I by the side of the bed where I glanced at my phone. It was only 7 o’clock at night.

“I have a deadline.”

“I’m aware.”

“And I’m hot!”

“So am I.”

“I don’t want to argue.”

“That’s not what I’m doing.”

“You said something… I didn’t hear.”

“I asked if what you’re doing inspires you?”

“That’s what you asked?”

I rose and walked over to her. I pointed at her notes. “Yes, does this inspire you?”

“This is about inspiration? You think water conservation in the state of California is inspiring?”

“Well, does it? Does it inspire you, your work?”

A low, almost inaudible sarcastic laugh escaped from her.  “This is what you’re trying to distract me from? Whether the proposal I’m writing will be useful even if I see my boss let the water run from the faucet every time I bump into her in the restroom. Every time I see sprinklers go off for hours on end outside the apartment complex or hearing how man-made lake is constantly being replenished to beautify the city… you think it inspires me to work on this goddamn proposal?”

“What does inspire you?” I asked again.

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“What Inspires Me” ©mrg 9/28/16

She laughed at the absurdity of the question, the insincerity of my follow-up to her frustration. It was a question I thought too early to ask. She took her coffee with just cream, she liked turkey on wheat and her favorite boots were these black, worn pair she wore everywhere all the time. She preferred rock over hip-hop. She chose dark chocolate over milk chocolate. I figured this much about her, but she had no idea how much I extracted from her details to set up a drawing, figure out the colors of my paintings. But the derivative of her thoughts, what moved her in this world, I was almost afraid to ask, but she flung me in the middle of this pseudo-argument and I wanted to win somehow.

“I don’t know Abraham. It’s hot. I just want to finish this.”

“It was wrong for me to stay. I’ll leave.” I picked up my bag and the one notebook I always took with me wherever I go. She drank her water as she turned back to her screen. I shuffled towards the door. “I’ll come back tomorrow.”

I was about to pull the door closed when she turned and asked, “What inspires you, Abraham?”

“You.” I didn’t need to think about it. “You inspire me.” I pulled the door closed behind me. I wondered, though, whether I ought to come back at all.

your inevitability in my cupped hands

your inevitability in my cupped hands
remind me my senses often how
limited i am in perception—
i didn’t see you coming

neither winds nor sky can foretell
your homecoming… how senseless
i’ve become, struck dumb by
the subtleties of such sound…

your voice which renders each
fragile touch with blessed
fortitude… i can’t help reach
and hold steadfast onto you—

you who slap and offend me
with constant refrain
but who, in my struggle against,
i can never let go

poem©mrg 8/24/16

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Hands ©mrg 9/27/16

Forgiveness Is Power

The most powerful act we can carry out in this lifetime is forgiveness. It comes easy for many people, and I’ve got miles to go before I perfect this act. Is that even possible… mercy’s perfection? I didn’t realize my own impoverished state until I discovered mercy’s deficit inside me. I can forgive and let go minor acts, but the heavy stuff… the kind which weighs pounds against our hearts are often challenging and difficult to let go. The other aspect of love is forgiveness after all. To replace the opulence of hurt with forgiveness… well, in time. In time, there will be forgiveness. True love for ourselves doesn’t go away. It gets covered up, but once uncovered, love restores back our ability to forgive and let go. What about you? Are you ready to forgive?

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“love, if you are, i forgive”

love if it were
my power
to forgive
not once or twice
but seven hundred
times more than
the circumference
of sun where He
pushes with
open palms
the rigor of heat
against the throbbing
pain when first
slighted and made
foolish with
your insincerity—
in time
my mercy shall
embrace you
no matter the days,
no matter the lifetimes

poem©mrg 9/26/16

Kitchen Spanish 101

Arandano is blueberry in Spanish. Frambuesa… raspberry. Cherries are cerezas. These are some of the first words I learned when I first started working in a professional kitchen. Mora… blackberry. Aside from the phrases “donde esta el bano?” and “mi puede ayudar por favor?,” which translate to “where’s the bathroom” and “can you please help me,” all the words came in handy as I tried to grapple with this new environment which spared no room for an academic mind.

I’ve been working in the kitchen for a long time. Instead of getting my masters in literature after college, I went to culinary school. I set aside everything I knew about Faulkner, Toni Morrison and Michael Ondaatje in order to prepare for a new curriculum: world cuisine in application to the hotel industry, but in Spanish. Not even my knowledge of Sandra Cisneros could pull me out of this one, except I did like her use of “bien cabrona” in one of her poems. If anything, I tried to be bien chingona if not a bien cabrona in the kitchen. But the kitchen is tireless work… exhausting, and language is the least of what I wanted to worry about.

If I didn’t know humble then, I learned it quick through my colleagues who taught me Spanish. I was at their mercy for their patience, knowledge and understanding. I am ever so grateful being their estudiante. Learning Spanish, listening to it in the background, is one of the more invaluable learning experiences I will ever receive in this lifetime. It wasn’t just words I absorbed, learning Spanish allowed me to observe and participate in the culture, for all its best and its worst.

It didn’t take me long to pick up Spanish. It helped that I took Latin in high school and college. Not Latin like Latin America, but Latin like the language of Popes and Roman Emperors. Latin is the root of all Romance languages, Spanish being one of them. Tagalog, my mother tongue, also helped. It is a language comprised with many Spanish words due to Philippine colonization by the Spaniards long ago. People used to ask how I learned Spanish so quickly and this long winded explanation about how I sometimes trace root words from Latin to get the meaning of a word in Spanish seemed far out and complicated that I often just smile and comment, “bueno maestros mis amigos.” My friends are good teachers. It was, at the time, the best Spanish I could gather.

Sure, basic words like cuchillos, platos, ollas and charolas are useful, but I needed to learn more substantial Spanish to survive the kitchen environment. Knowledge of colors like amarillo and verde for descriptive purposes are cool, for example… la playa is azul, but what happens when politics or even human misunderstanding get in the way. More importantly, what happens when there’s an annoying someone constantly pestering you when you’re working… descriptive words won’t work here. To defend one’s self, one has to learn the mother of all words… “Callate!” or, to put nicely, “Be Quiet!”  When you need someone to move out of the way quickly, one would say, “Quitate!” Or if you know that person lies and you need them to get out of your f@#%ing way, right away, one says, “Quitate mentiroso!”

Kitchen Spanish is a different dialect altogether. This is not to take away from the beauty of the Spanish language as mastered by the likes of Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz and recent National Medal Recipient, Sandra Cisneros. I write about it because it is the language I learned out of necessity to communicate in a kitchen full of hard-working individuals who speak mostly Spanish. In retrospect, Spanish widened my understanding of people as I was able to draw correlations between our struggles as immigrants into this country. But being the outsider to the language, I still often disagree with its use as a way to deliberately isolate another human being. Even though this sort of unpleasantness balances out the beauty of any given language— in the end, it still stings when you’re the one not included in the conversation.

Though I love being able to speak and joke around in Spanish these days, one of the things I appreciate about the language is how some words just sound so much better in Spanish. One of my all time favorite kitchen Spanish word is zanahoria. It means carrot. The word is much longer in Spanish, but for me, as a writer, zanahoria sounds much more sophisticated than that harsh sounding word, carrot. If cakes had zanahoria in it, I think it would go so much better with a butter, cream cheese frosting.

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MR’s Carrot ©mrg 2016

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SJP’s Carrot ©SJP 2016