Hello, February. We both know what this month means, my heart and I.

One Is One
Marie Ponsot

Heart, you bully, you punk, I’m wrecked, I’m shocked
stiff. You? you still try to rule the world–though
I’ve got you: identified, starving, locked
in a cage you will not leave alive, no
matter how you hate it, pound its walls,
& thrill its corridors with messages.

Brute. Spy. I trusted you. Now you reel & brawl
in your cell but I’m deaf to your rages,
your greed to go solo, your eloquent
threats of worse things you (knowing me) could do.
You scare me, bragging you’re a double agent

since jailers are prisoners’ prisoners too.
Think! Reform! Make us one. Join the rest of us,
and joy may come, and make its test of us.

I’ve lost my mind sometime between the hour of the 35-degree heat and the death of Kuya Cesar, whose significance in my life mattered more than that of Vonnegut’s. I can’t remember right now how he died – Kuya Cesar, not Vonnegut – only that he’s gone. I remember days from my childhood when we would all sit around the radio and listen to him talk: that low drawl, that slow enunciation, the feeling of waiting for a drop of water to finally fall from the spigot. I was in the middle of Ayala Avenue when I heard about it. Ayala, where chunks of my brain might be found somewhere, squished together with some leftover gum.

Been weaving in and out of Makati for the past few weeks, looking for employment. I am just a blubber right now. At one point I think I really did stop in the middle of the street, cocked my finger to my temple and prayed for a bullet to stop me right then and there. It wasn’t for lack of trying that I still don’t have a job, it wasn’t a difficult process to look for something that I can do altogether. However, what really did me in was finding something that I would like, something where the fit would be right. I don’t think any of this is something that my father could understand nor handle, so right now our relationship is sour. I am not a daughter in this house; I am more of an extra mouth to feed now.

And when that fact is lodged somewhere in his mind it is something difficult to not think about, thereby making me a constant target for an adult to convey all his pent-up rage at this changing generation of what he thinks is a wasted youth. It is not unusual these days to hear diatribes about how it was when he was much younger, how the lack of choices simply propelled him to move forward and do what has to be done, and how that should still be the same approach I must do today, despite the obvious change in years and situation, despite the fact that I obviously do not want to work in a corporate office, despite the fact that I’ve always dreamt of writing for a living.

How have I come to this point, from simply growing into a person, into growing up? I felt hostaged, with no other choice but to be an adult. Where have I gone while everybody else was busy stepping into their grown-up shoes?

But I got patience. I’m really not worried about myself. What I do think about is the people around me, you know. I am afraid that they won’t understand. I’ve always been the odd one out around here, and after a while, people stopped bothering, stopped trying to figure me out. It takes a lot of energy, I guess.

How good is odd, do you think? Are adults allowed to be odd? Today I learned that a jacketed hollow point bullet is better at destroying somebody’s internal organs than a full metal jacket, since it expands inside the body after the shot, unlike the latter which only pierces a hole and goes through. One who has been shot in the heart can keep on shooting for at least twenty seconds more before the brain completely stops, so if you really want to shoot somebody and completely incapacitate him, ask for hollow bullets.

Bullet lessons and a heart with cracks – that’s what I am composed of today, mostly. Tomorrow is another story. And the day after that, and the day after that. I wonder when I’ll ever grow up. I wonder if it’s possible to wish for never. And then I think about my future, and my father, and my old notebooks, and poems: I just hope I don’t melt away into obscurity, you know. People move on with their lives while I have the tendency to lag behind a little because all the lucky ones get the luck first. I have to sit for awhile and wait for it, something I learned early on to do. The lovely catch here is, when I do finally get the groove going, it’s going to be beautiful for a long, long while.

Now excuse me I’m going to make a ham sandwich.

Marie Ponsot

(for my daughter)

Composed in a shine of laughing, Monique brings in sacks
of groceries, unloads them, straightens, and stretches her back.

The child was a girl, the girl is a woman; the shift
is subtle and absolute, worn like a gift.

The woman, once girl once child, now is deft in her ease,
is door to the forum, is cutter of keys.

In space that her torque and lift have prefigured and set free
between her mother and her child the woman stands
having emptied her hands.

Long conversations all night. Drunk with other people’s thoughts.

The Problem of Fiction
Marie Ponsot

She always writes poems. This summer
she’s starting a novel. It’s in trouble already.
The characters are easy—a girl
and her friend who is a girl
and the boy down the block with his first car,
an older boy, sixteen, who sometimes
these warm evenings leaves his house to go dancing
in dressy clothes though it’s still light out.
The girl has a brother who has lots of friends,
is good in math, and just plain good which
doesn’t help the story. The story
should have rescues & escapes in it
which means who’s the bad guy; he couldn’t be
the brother or the grandpa or the father either,
or even the boy down the block with his first car.
People in novels have to need something,
she thinks, that it takes about
two hundred pages to get.
She can’t imagine that. Nothing
she needs can be got; if it could
she’d go get it: the answer to nightmares;
a mother who’d be proud of her; doing things
a mother could be proud of; having hips
& knowing how to squeal at the beach laughing
when the boy down the block picked her up & carried her
& threw her in the water. If she’d laughed
squealing he might still take her swimming
& his mother wouldn’t say she’s crazy, she would
not have got her teeth into his shoulder till
well yes she bit him, and the marks
lasted & lasted, his mother said so,
but that couldn’t be in a novel.

She’ll never squeal laughing, she’d never
not bite him, she hates cute girls, she hates
boys who like them. Biting is embarrassing
and wrong & she has no intention of doing it again
but she would if he did if he dared,
and there’s no story if there’s no hope of change.