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When whalesong. When oceans
are rooms

I could never breathe in, the city
held its breath. When mouth

is full of rainwater, my name
always marches out

from the larynx, nail
grip like an apology.

Wish to clasp my lips
against hers, this desire

for her staggering
breath

like released rounds of artillery.
When a country is all

but a life sentence.
When we are only flesh

bared just for hunger.
When a prayer is nothing

but the distance
between God and his slave.

What miracle. When blood
is black roses. What sight.

When the body withstands
the flesh cracking

like a sun-scorched skin
swelling this viciously

and keeps functioning.
What slaughter.

When the first scream blooms
like a wound in her tongue,

she looks up in the sky, fingertips
cold under distended skin

and feels safe. What carnage.
When birds sing blithely

across the phosphorescent blue
of the moonlight beaming

through clouds. When war ends
depending on body parts

you need to bargain. When she asks
about her kiss—I said wildfires.

Said the smoke escaping the cave
of her mouth are from the ashes

of red spider lilies—careful not
to be poisoned as you walk

towards it—and I mean the ocean,
barefoot, tight-lipped and hope

to churn us beneath seabed—
its belly and spit us out.



Jeff William Acosta is a Filipino poet from the Philippines. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Boston Review, Poetry Wales, 聲韻詩刊 Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, The Dark Horse, CAROUSEL, Matter Press, Philippines Graphic, Kritika Kultura, Tomás Journal, The Margins, West Trade Review, UPD: Sahaya, and elsewhere.
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