For my niece. I wrote this for my creative writing class.
I can feel your bones, distant and soft, churning cool beneath your skin that is more warmth than flesh, like roots beneath soil. Your hands are now sapling ferns, still unfurling, still alighting on air. I dip one of these lilac tendrils between my lips, savoring its impermanence and marveling at its enormous heft. Paradoxical sweet-face, who are you to come and blow my mind? You’ve embraced your father’s dark cowlick mane with Grace, that vertical divot between your eyebrows (from the pendulum swing of galloping minds), those seashell whorls in your ears. Even your eyes, dewed almonds that peer above Ocampo cheeks like underwater eclipse.
But your palms…your palms are unmistakably your mother’s. So much like her already, you hold more than those serenading Atlases could ever fathom. While they held up worlds and boom boxes and glistening white teeth beneath my sister’s window in the still of the night, she held a trembling me. While Atlas held up infinite potential on his shoulders, Ivy cupped just one in her hands, a fragile little nothing like crystal lips.
I held you today for the second time, snuck you out of your velour nest and swaddled you in ramblings of poetry and ex-loves. I pooled my soul in the arcs of your eyelids and you sang me a story of truth, one that I forgot almost as soon as I remembered it. But I will always remember that ringing between your skin and soul that rattled both our bodies.
What presence! What verse and cadence!
Nine months, now three weeks – I wish our time together was measured less like puppies chomping at wind, more in eyelashes, more in praying fingers and toothless grins. My arms are becoming less and less able to hold you. My words are now showering you with more force. Adjust. I owe you that much.
I love what you’ve done with my sister – not so much tamed a free spirit, but tethered her with bone, given her flesh and blood to wear like gossamer. The two of you wear it well. Her voice creeps along the ground molding like a cat padding down the hall.
I will come to you in the silence
She croons in the tongues that possessed our own mother in the midst of her housework.
I will be your light…Come and rest in me…
The smoky rivulets cease for a moment as she plants a succulent kiss on your forehead.
Do not be afraid, I am with you…
Your life can be as long as your fingers, these same that levitated basketballs in a high school gymnasium thirteen years ago; that grasped the handles of machetes through the stifling Philippine heat before Marcos came into power; that held six screaming infants and one that never found its voice. Child with the uncooked skin, blotchy like longinisa, sweet like honeysuckle, O Pearl Goddess, Swaddled Geisha, Zeppelin of Grace whom your mother calls Sweet Face…stay pinched stay true, like a book spine. Stay the tide of adulthood for as long as you can, stay forever ours, forever mine.