Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Joseph O. Legaspi

Poem For My Navel

First mouth,
where my mother
first kissed
me, I offer my finger
to figure the depth
of my separation,
Gulf Divide, terra
in the Sea of Tranquillity,
a momentary attachment,
a detachment
for the rest of my life, Pangaea
before the continental drift,
an ocean subsided into white
desert, a whirlpool
quieted, my scooped-out
heart, depression,
epicenter of my first
quake, where I heard
my father's baritone
rumbling a folk song: Mynah
Bird, in your dark light
and feathers carry
me off to a castle
made of bamboo.
Navel: my hollowed
reminder, my dried
flower, bird's
nest, peach pit, poached
egg cup, empty
shell, scallop, my oyster
you burn along
an equator, my homeland,
my Philippines I
never conceived
of leaving, mother, dear
sustenance, my senses
in the obsidian darkness,
cross-wires of my existence
and non-existence.

Men With Breast

When I see men with breasts,
mammillary, twin elfin mounds
bulging through
shirts, I suppress
the bubbles of emotions
that might burp out of me—a moan,
a giggle. I think: nubile children trapped
in adult men, daughters
hidden in their bodies,
the women in these men
manifesting themselves.
Do their hands make pilgrimages
to these holy places? Do they
gently stroke the knobs
of their areolas to summon
a lover from anywhere across snow banks or Eden fields?
Or do they curse them
for obstructing intimate embrace
with pillows? Do they desire
the armor chests of Greek
heroes, demigods and gods?
At the beach they parade
in front of me like platters
of fruits: Chinese plums,
glossy pink and cup-sized, pale
strawberries, hairy kiwis. My father,
too, possesses a pair of dwarf papayas,
elongated, sagging into cusps
of rosy resin, languid, nestled
on his stomach like the Buddha's.
I know my father's breasts
are empty and my thirst
will remain
unquenched, I can suck
and suckle, work them
like the teats of a newly-birthed sow
or bitch, play the spherical
instrument of his nipples
with my tongue to hear
celestial music, and there will be no
warm, nourishing colostrum.

Dispel the Angel

Lately his loneliness has sprouted wings.
It hovers above his darkened head like a desecrated
angel. It clouds his eyes with the milk of nostalgia.
It is the ghostly geyser effect of the spouting steam
when the kettle boils for his private tea.
In bed, balled up under the sheets
in a cove of darkness, he thinks
of Orpheus: if only he could’ve contained
his forlorn love for Eurydice
and not turn back.
Such gulf, sad bereavement.
Recently he’s gotten into the habit
of talking to himself, at first in front
of the foggy mirror while shaving,
the blade scraping off lather to reveal
his translucent face, but now, often, he talks
in movie theaters, public gardens, on the corner
of Houston and Ludlow. At dinner, he discusses
Magritte and Hopper with his duck l’orange.
The salt and pepper shakers can-can for him.
Later, he says to the lamp, I haven’t been touched
in weeks.
He senses he’s transcended
the loneliness of the inanimate: of empty
corridors, of solitary light illuminating a house
on a stretch of highway in daytime,
of wet matches, rotting fruits, and dust.
On a summer’s morning, he then dispels
the sullied angel from his shower, makes
an appointment at his neighborhood salon
where the shampoo girl will shi-atsu his erogenous
scalp with her thin fingers. Soon after, on the subway,
sitting next to a man, their arms touch—heat traveling
by the wires of their hair—then rub slowly against one another
like the first friction of the earth.

The Socks

This pair once belonged to my father,
army green,

golden on the thinning
heels and toes, decades old—

they have disappeared into the dryer-netherworld
only to return repeatedly, wiser than before—

their elastics still grasp my lower calves.
When I slip into them,

I see my father in his footwear, like Mercury,
a copper-eyed young man, like myself,

brewing with stormy promise,
prepared to soar over the dusty world.

Dear socks, don't lead me astray.
Propel me from this dissatisfied life

to places where my father has never been.

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