the incomplete thesaurus of loss

1. ocean
1   the whole body of saltwater that covers nearly three-fourths of the earth

blue, deep

words related to ocean
the emptiness of you, probably, covering nearly three-fourths of everything I see
the weight that stretches on from one day to the other
and I’m still learning how to swim

2   an immeasurable depth or space

chasm, abyss

words related to ocean
hollow, black hole
everything you left me with
I’m wondering if I loved you enough, because there is still so much left over


2. empty
1   lacking contents that could or should be present


words related to empty
the chair to my left at the dining table
the room downstairs
the bed with white sheets

the chair to my left at the dining table, with you telling me I shouldn’t eat cake for breakfast
the room downstairs and me knocking again and again because you always kept it locked
the urn beside Lolo Ferdie
supposedly, home

2   not expressing any emotion

expressionless, numb

words related to empty
you, when they told you for the third or fourth time that you were decaying
you, taking everything they told you to take, even the ones you hated
you, climbing up and down steep staircases, clutching my arm
you, that one night we came into your room to pray for you
you, except for a few rare moments like

you, telling me old love stories (and Hollywood starlet gossip)
you, telling me stories of the island you still call home
that one night your lungs refused to let you breathe
the last night, when I made you promises

3   having no meaning

meaningless, senseless, pointless

words related to empty
September that year
especially October, the first birthday without the celebrant
and November
and December

January the next year, when I decided it was time to start healing


3. piece
1   a broken or irregular part of something that often remains incomplete


words related to piece
your voice when I’m watching black and white films, even the ones you probably haven’t seen
your footsteps when I stand by the hallway that leads to your room
your name when I absentmindedly scribble
your eyes when it’s night and the stars are out
scattered everywhere, on everything, always

you now, in a place where windows are wide and pearls dangle from the gates


4. morning
1   the first appearance of light

daybreak, dawn

words related to morning
the day I stop writing sadness and you in the same poem
the day I learned that the pain is just a reminder that I still love you
the day I stopped fighting a battle that’s already been won
your last breath

refusing to let rivers flow through my words

2   the point at which something begins

birth, beginning

words related to morning
knowing that there is a time for everything
not filling the void, but building around it
not picking up pieces, but letting new ones grow

your last breath, birthing the beginning of peace


CW 10 assignment - Write a creative nonfiction in a nontraditional form.


we will always have the same sky

Last August I found out that you can still make me cry. And to think it’s been three years.
Brother, I have always been afraid to write about you. I have always been afraid that you would somehow find my poetry, my prose, whatever you call these letters I stitch together and see that my embroidery looks kind of a lot like you.

That city used to be a safe place after home. But last August I also discovered that there are landmines under almost every sidewalk. Those places have traces of the ice cream we ate, our laughter on the train, echoes of all the poetry and music and stories we gave each other. Each explosion pushed my lips into a smile, maybe even a small laugh, but only long enough for it to be choked out by its dark smoke. Now I see bloodstains in the footprints you left behind.

I only cry for the dead, but you saw how I cried over you at the apartment elevator that night. You might have told me to stop, but I'm not sure. You might have hugged me. I’m not sure. All I remember is street lights, the taste of wet salt, and you looking like you were having a hard time breathing. Know that I felt the same. Or not. You once gave me a list of people you’ve lost, and I used to wonder why God never let me lose as many as you have. Maybe He knew that I would barely be able to handle you.

I haven't heard you breathe in years. All I see are your Instagram pictures and Facebook posts, intangible you. I can see you have grown in some parts. I hope you have. But I also see a lot of tiredness. And pain. And change. I don't think I can make you laugh anymore.

I don't know what your plans are now. I don't know if you still want to make everything you said you’d make, if you still want to go everywhere you said you'd go. But I hope you know that my door is always open. And even if I will never hear you knock again, somehow I am comforted knowing

we will always have the same sky.


CW 10 assignment - Write a creative nonfiction about a first. (I actually wrote this a few months ago but just fixed it up for the class because I'm running low on time and creativity to write a new one. Oops. Might turn this into a spoken word piece. Might.)



she slips in silently
seeking sanctuary, and
every step is a prayer.

father, forgive me for I have sinned.
father, forgive me for I have...
deaf god, dead god.

too many horizons hold his heart
he is hardened and headstrong, yet
every step is a prayer.

father? forgive me for?
father, forgive me for...
deaf god, dead god.

we won't wake to weeping
walking with our veils pulled tight
over eyes, and we know it. maybe
every step is a prayer.

father, forgive me.
father, forgive --
do you hear me?
deaf god
dead god
do you hear me?


CW 10 assignment - Write a poem using different sound devices based off an artwork at the Vargas Museum. I picked Noberto Roldan's installation "Archangel."


when the river runs

hold me when the river runs
don't let go.
watch it wind,
see me sink.

hold me when the river runs 
to wherever it can't wait to be
rushing, roaring, rigid flowing
sudden stops -- please,
give me warnings

hold me when it all floats up,
when the bones pierce through,
when the gold is birthed,
when my palms fail to release,
when they fail to keep.

hold me when the river runs
let go.
I'll learn to follow echoes.


CW 10 assignment - Picture poetry. The picture I got was my friend and seatmate Kristine as a baby being carried by her dad at the entrance of the Underground River in Puerto Prinsesa.


on we run

"I don't know. I guess some dreams just stay dreams."

I immediately regret the words as soon as they leave my mouth. I've always strived to be the one who tells him stories about mermaids, who tells him that the moon isn't as far off as it looks, the first person to hand him a magical stone when he says he wants to go on an adventure. But lately I've tasted the bitterness of harsh reality, and the last thing I want is for him to end up like me.

He raises an eyebrow at me as if saying, The hell is wrong with you? but thinks the better of it before saying it out loud. Instead, he looks far off where the Sunken Garden lies before us. We are sitting at its edge, not caring that our bottoms will probably be caked with mud after. I wait for his reply, but when he doesn't, I continue.

"I'm not saying that you should give up now, Miguel. I just don't want you to end up like me, I guess. So just... don't dream too big," I look down and start ripping blades of grass from their roots. Shut up, I think. Shut up.

"So if I make my dreams a bit smaller, they'll come true?" Miguel raises an eyebrow at me again.

"Most likely." A cool rush of wind rustles the leaves of the trees we are sitting under. I feel a bit better and try to change the subject. "So guess what word Luis managed to say yesterday --" 

"Some dreams just stay dreams. You're right. But not all. You remember that dream of mine I've been talking about since first year?" Miguel gets up and starts to remove the red shirt he's wearing.

"Miguel." I try to say his name as sternly as possible but I can't help but suppress a smile. "You can't be serious." I continue protesting and tug on his arm but he's already made up his mind.

"There are some dreams you can do something about, Ate. Like this one!" Off goes his shorts, then brief, and within seconds my nineteen year old brother is running down to the middle of the Sunken Garden, butt naked and jumping and yelling as he does.

I don't care to see the reactions of the people around us because I'm laughing too hard. I laugh until my stomach feels like it's caving in and tears are rolling down my cheeks.

I watch as my brother continues yelling and dancing around the garden wearing only what he wore when he came into this world. All that to tell me that my unwanted pregnancy shouldn't stop me from working to make my dreams a reality.

I can only hope my son Luis will one day be as fearless and kind as his uncle.

I'm snapped out of my daydreaming and emotions by the sharp tug of Miguel on my arm. A policeman is running towards us, yelling for us to stay where we are.

"Run!" Miguel shrieks in delight, clumsily throwing on his clothes as he does. We run and run until the policeman's figure gets smaller and smaller and we keep on running.

"Ate!" Miguel half pants, half shouts. "We made two of my dreams come true in a span of ten minutes!"

I laugh and shove him and we keep running until the policeman, all our fears and worries and mistakes are far behind us. And on we run.

On we run.


CW 10 assignment - Imagine you're in the Sunken Garden and someone suddenly strips naked. Write your experience from the point of view of either a new mother, an alien, a policeman, a taho vendor, or a politician.