i breathe in the dust that you leave behind each morning
and i learn to crawl out of bed in the wounds you’ve
left open for me to kneel in.
altar cradle, child deity; i remembered how you
crumpled your eyelids before him every night and how
much i learned to despise his gold-lined robe in return.
how you drink from used trumpets, how you caress
plastic rosaries in deep reverence, how your shrunken heart
stitches itself with church hymns, how you escape the
mangling beast within, how you collect dead
sampaguitas and hackles from angel wings, how you
don’t know the difference or rather, how you can’t tell
the two apart.
i miss churches even if it only peeled my skin open and
declare me as something known. the drag of your knees against
black tiles stay most vivid and brightest among my memories of it.
even five row seats away your prayers echo the loudest;
perhaps it’s because i know
the crawl of your silence, more so what happens next.
you’d marvel about the majesty of nuestro
padre jesus nazareno; your eyes won’t be as into it as
your mouth is. when we get home and we sleep with our
backs against each other, i’d hear your hands
swarmed across your face and you’re
stopping yourself from crying again.
there’s the gurgle of my cousins’ hushed laughter;
cherubims on my shoulder. the house swelled with people from
the rosary group. a brother from the church telling bible stories
with a statue of mama mary at the heart of the cage.
you take them as life lessons. i soak up my cousin’s joke
more than a dead man’s words. you’d send a glare my way
as if to say, “ba’t ka nanaman ganyan? makinig ka,”
i pretend to listen in the same way i pretend to understand
after we pass down mama mary to another, my cousins
would walk ahead of us and we’re left alone.
you would pinch me
and reprimand me for not listening properly again.
i’d laugh at you—how you take things far too
seriously for your own good—and a frown would stay
fixed on your face but there are times
when you’d laugh with me
when that happens, i feel less like a stolen hatchling
in an open cage.
ika-apat na misteryo.
i could fashion a better rosary to pray with from your tears.
i can never be bothered to hear the pleas you lift to heaven
but i see you hunched over the altar again but instead of speaking
prayers you’re spilling sobs.
i forgot how to tell them apart, or rather, i don’t know the difference
hushed ave marias and silent whys and i see
your hands touching the glass of his altar again;
you can never touch him: you can never have your
fingers lay on that dusty velvet cape, those finely woven
lily corollas on his dress, those eyes glossed black and the wiry
threads of the hair on his head. but there’s a putrid longing in
those revering eyes of yours that never fails to split my throat
things i hate possess things i cannot forgive in myself.
i cannot look the child deity in the eyes in the same
way i cannot look in the mirror without flinching.
the unspoken question delivered in the sighs
you send my way each time we pray burns
faint yet real:
“ba’t hindi ka naniniwala sa Kanya?” after every writhe of the night there comes
the sting of the morning breeze, the
stink of dried tears on your cheeks, the candles lay
still like half-dead
bodies, prayer books blessed from quiapo closed,
rosary limbs rubbed bright by anxious fingers
left atop the altar as you kiss me goodbye again and
i remain paralyzed by my own helplessness as you
stand as an emergency yet
no one is coming.
unang misteryo up to ikalimang misteryo translates to “first to fifth mystery” which signifies the five mysteries of the rosary.
“ba’t ka nanaman ganyan? makinig ka,” translates to “why are you being like that again? listen,”
“ba’t hindi ka naniniwala sa Kanya?” translates to “why do you not believe in Him?”
nuestro padre jesus nazareno is what filipinos call the statue of the black nazarene in churches as far as i know.