even the crickets are silent
as if they felt the earth
quake from rifle shots
each one landing louder than the last.
Only the echoes of my footsteps on the pavement
cut through the night sky
a row of houses holding their breath
waiting hoping praying
for anything, something
As if you can blink away the guns
hide in cookie cutter neighborhoods
until things die down
until someone else solves the problem
until another shot pierces through your window.
A decade ago I had a different blog and website, which I neglected in my hiatus from the arts. Unfortunately, I never saved my posts before I let go of the domain. I know, I regret it a bit. Ok, a lot. But today I was able to find some work I saved on my laptop!
Back then I traveled to DC three to four times a week. I spent the majority of the day in my car, on the train, thinking, dreaming. So I started what I called the Commuter Series, a series of writing inspired by a commute, written or conceived while on a commute, written about commuting (a movement and migration of bodies) whether by car, by bus, by train, by plane, by my own feet.
Here is arguably the best work to come out of the series, a poem called A deep love poem:
You've turned into a favorite poem of mine.
I used to recite you on train rides
Not for practice
But like a cloud looming over my head
You were always there.
I thought if I repeated you enough times
I’d rhyme my way to a resolution.
With every attempt at memorization
The words would ease the discomfort in my chest
But the pain was still mine and mine alone
And you weren't going anywhere.
So I gathered my courage and told the world about you.
As the room sighed and ached with me
The microphone leading the way
I saw you slip away
Just as quickly as the time
You ran your fingers down my arm as if to catch me
But didn’t hold my hand.
Now you’re no longer mine
You’re no longer you.
Just a poem.
A deep love poem
A bittersweet poem
A clichéd heartbreak comfort poem
Shaped by an audience to fit their story.
I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities to perform, share my work, and advocate for the arts. Here’s where I’ll be in the next two weeks!
Tabling for the Baltimore Asian Pasifika Arts Collective at the Baltimore APA Heritage Month Celebration // Friday, May 31 // 5:00 – 9:00 PM // Brown Center, MICA // The event is FREE but advanced registration is required via Event Brite.
Judging the Capturing Fire Semifinal Poetry Slam // Friday, May 31 // 8:30 – 11:00 PM // Busboys & Poets Takoma
Hosting the Filipino American Association of Upper Chesapeake (FAAUC) 33rd Anniversary Dinner Dance // Saturday, June 1 // 7:00 PM – 1:00 AM // Richlin Ballroom, Edgewood, MD // Tickets $60 in advance
Performing a short set at Katipunan Filipino Festival // Saturday, June 8 // 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM (my performance is at 1:00 PM) // Timonium Fairgrounds // $5 tickets
The closing of Tornkid, the collaboration between Baltimore Asian Pasifika Arts Collective and Cohesion Theatre Company // Sunday, June 9 // 4:00 PM // 923 S East Avenue, Baltimore // Tickets are Pay What You Can available online and at the door
For months now, I’ve had this on my to do list: journal about things ending. I wanted to write something after reading about major changes to a few of the creatives I follow on social media. One online publication/community announced it was closing down in a year; the other scaled back their business to a staff of one. The announcement resonated with me as I remembered what it was like to make the decision to step down from Sulu DC, an arts organization in DC I co-founded and lead for four years.
There was something about the way that they “ended” their business that stuck with me. These women made the changes to their business on their own terms. They closed out with a sincere and thoughtful message; they expressed so much openness and hope about the future.
I had wanted to dive into that more because I felt like I didn’t give myself the chance to say goodbye the way I really wanted to. But then I kept delaying writing about it, pushing it to the following week and then the next, until here we are.
At some point between then and now, I put myself out there and contacted a new, local arts organization, the Baltimore Asian Pasifika Arts Collective (BAPAC), to see if I could help in any way and to connect with AAPI artists again. A few days later, I didn’t flake out on going to an event at the University of Maryland and reconnected with my fairy godmother (of poetry), Regie Cabico. Now I’m making a comeback performance at Busboys & Poets (14th & V location) tomorrow night and have joined the staff of BAPAC as the Marketing & Communications Manager!
I was going to write about things ending, but now I’m living a new beginning. Or is it not so much “new” as returning to what once was?
It took five years for me to come back to this path. Before, I sometimes thought of this time as a waste (but not the people I met during this time, of course–they’re the ones that held me up). Now it isn’t so much a waste, but a necessary part of the process. A necessary part of life.
I am both nervous and excited about performing tomorrow night. I am reminding myself to enjoy it–to really enjoy it this time around. To shake off any pressure of a “perfect” performance, or debuting a new poem. To let the poems carry the night.
A few weeks ago, my sister and I went to Color Factory, an interactive exhibit celebrating color and creativity. It began last year in San Francisco, and this year, took inspiration from the color palette of New York City.
The exhibit was an absolute delight! Every room was a unique experience, and we had a grand old time playing, dancing, eating treats (which was brilliant!), and discovering our secret color (mine was a purple called “psychological thriller”).
One of my favorite things about Color Factory was the “Poems for the City” by Won McIntosh, a Queens-based writer. Won McIntosh translated the color palette into ten poems about daily life in New York City. The poems were displayed on the wall in the lobby for all to see and absorb while waiting in line. It inspired me to try and write short poems about the city but as someone who’s not a New Yorker and not quite a tourist either. Something in between?
Mercer Street (SoHo)
Here we are
Footsteps on cobblestones
Stepping sideways around strangers
In pace with people
Who have places to go
Canal Street Market
Here we are
Greeted by merchandise stalls and cafe regulars
A one-stop shop
Where choices are plenty
And nourishment always possible
They’re not the best poems, and have nowhere near the profoundness of Won’s poems, but hey, I’m just glad I actually wrote something! Hopefully, the trend will continue. Here’s to more color and inspiration in daily life.
armed with truths, we are the new guards of our future
friends and brethren, we govern with a purpose
in this world, we are formidable, independent populations
our towns, though distant, have no boundaries
we are free
present and divine
connected by common trials, rights, and laws
a people invested in justice and consent
a people absolute in their pursuit of happiness
but the powers of the earth and oppression
cause dangers of unparalleled allegiance and invasion
reducing liberty to swarms of bodies without life
a long train of repeated injuries
we are instruments of opinion
of honor and obstruction
may we not be deaf to the voice of justice
and protect and pledge
that we are
a free people
*Found poem: when you take words that resonate with you from another piece of literature and create a poem from those words. This is the poem I “found” in the Declaration of Independence.