Friday, August 11, 2017


FIVE POEMS by Jean Vengua


Something festers. Nodes of light, scarlet spines, memory. Passing trauma gestures by the side of the road, waves from the flooded shore. Thought shivers, seeks metaphors while flesh gets right to the point, clinging to its makeshift raft. Mind desires completeness; sentence thought to the cage of speech, in the cage of writing, in the cage of print, in the cage of a pixel. Tell me. I want to penetrate you, the stories inked into your skin. You, my own. Own you. Is fleshiness its own language? I don’t know. The thumbs know, the swollen eyes and broken throats. Tell me.


There is uncertainty about the functions, the mysteries of the body, what rituals might be appropriate to unlock its speech. Pressures build behind the left ear and along the back of the neck; pinpoints spark the left shoulder, and now the muscles give in to a formal rictus; how, some mornings, one rises still fastened in its clasp. Yet, water penetrates. I watch a documentary about flooding; the pressure expands, sentences flow into each other, lose proportion, bubble up. The whole population migrates toward the freeway. They travel toward a dome, a river, a jugular vein; transformations sever control from the eye. Tear down barricades. Supplicate.

The body, panglawasnon, as foreigner martyr saint. I could take a piece of flesh and cut it into small pieces, each symbolizing a letter or syllable, a falling or rising taken into the mouth as communion. Could say words over my feet or my hands, light incense to scent my breasts, my hair. Take these letters; cut them into wafers, mix into a poultice, burn in a pyre, scatter over the soil, the internet.


is this what it is to be
human a constant manu-
facture of selves. clipping
the threads, stitching the
hem. by hand or machinery,
a cottage industry. careful
to shape the settings and
stages. this is where she
lives. these the implements;
changing syntax to adjust
to a stereoscopic, flickering
politic. and when i hears
the voice of an other, i
takes it up in mimicry until
handcrafted self dangles
from the needle’s point:
on the rock wall,
clinging to the threads
of a new angel, thrashing
in the wings.


she is refreshingly
limp after

as if the
mind had

extracted a particle
of horror

now looking at
a black

in the palm
can only

a vague sadness


inhabits flesh
shifts sites, altars

borders upon
borders that open

not cross
that divide

has it
already crossed you?


Jean Vengua is the author of Prau, a collection of experimental poetry (for which she received the Filamore Tabios, Sr., Memorial Prize (Meritage Press), and a chapbook, The Aching Vicinities (Otoliths Press). With Mark Young, she co-edited the First Hay(na)ku Anthology, and The Hay(na)ku Anthology Vol. II. In the mid 1990s, Elizabeth H. Pisares and Jean Vengua formed Tulitos Press and published and edited the Debut: the Making of a Filipino American Film by Gene Cajayon and John Manal Castro, and The Flipside, by Rod Pulido. Jean's poetry and essays have been published in many journals and anthologies. She is editor of the literary/art journal, Local Nomad and lives in Monterey, CA. Her book, Corporeal, will be published by Black Radish Books in 2019.

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