My stars are not your stars.
This is what I would say to you,
first. Your stars
are not my stars.
I am a child of driftwood and sunstruck flood,
of strangled song, eaten spears. Of monsters
drowned in storm. Encomienda. Benevolent
assimilation. Be silent to survive. They unspooled our speech,
called our music forbidden. A curse. And so it became. Swallowed
the night. Opened eyes in mirrors.
Laid eggs in our mouths. Hatched
-she is looking at you: a woman, brown-skinned
dark-haired, blood-mouthed. you see
her tongue is split.
This is what alamat becomes.
I am a child of stories stolen
under a sunless sky.
all over her arms, carved lines,
curves. they might have been letters, once.
they might have claimed meaning.
Still, you attempt speech. You offer your own histories: captured suns,
plundered cities. You tell me the sky is split with glory
of constellation upon constellation, then name for me each one,
shivering blue fires extinguished by maps demarcating the night.
You unfurl my veins and curl my fingers into your tongue:
press into my skin: words for terror, beauty, suffocation, forgetting,
she says, i do not remember what the word is
for cold. for asking: do you think the rains
will go on until tomorrow?
As if I knew brightness so little to fear the night.
No: my heart enkindles the stars by truer names.
I map skin tongue hands in defiance, in cities of glassy sails,
grain clawed out of earth, vinta and blade, marks cut
into wood to echo singing. In blood unerased
welling deep in the bodies of mountains, enwombed in moons,
earth-mounded graves, torrents of rain. Red. Red. Red.
around her neck, a scarf, a collar. no: a snake.
iridescent wound-purple, stolen copper,
beheaded green. the snake is her tongue.
Where stars burn red gold, aflame flare-beating:
daloy, alab, poot, hinagpis,
liyab, daloy, tibok
she says, i remember music. my blood is a song
my mother sang: binihag ka,
nasadlak sa dusa.
Where language is a typhoon.
Where we know to be careful of mirrors.
Where ashes, like salt,
speak more softly than fear.
she says: scars. (peklat.) stories. (ano?)
the moon is a scar,
a hungry wound.
Where I stand taller than air, the flood’s dark daughter,
scrabbling at naked cracks of histories birth-burnt into my body,
sun-deep fingers gouging out sounds you cannot unravel. The storm is calling,
singing. One day I shall drown my skin under the stars
and open: mouth and hands and feet
with all the aswang and slithering cursed creatures,
kamag-anak pinsan kapatid,
limbs beating a rhythm of pulse and typhoon
unstrung by lightning and sea
it is not that we do not break: we shatter
and remake ourselves, again and again
women reborn in ash and broken stones, rivers
unshattering the night
hindi kita malilimutan
all these scales cascading around me
shining like gold like glass like voices
like new-lit stories,
daloy tibok at awit
slick against these sluicing sheets
of the unnameable stars.
M Sereno is a queer Filipina artist and writer who lives in Australia and dreams in the Philippines. Her website ishttp://likhain.net, and she keeps a small writing blog at http://awitin.likhain.net as an excuse for variety in typography. She is on Twitter as @likhain.