I’ve been minimizing my time on social media as I’ve spent sleepless nights worrying, wondering, and enraged about the terrifying fate of Roe, as well as worrying, wondering, and enraged about gun owners who pledge their cultish allegiance to the Second Amendment, when overturning Roe and tooting Second Amendment rights have absolutely nothing to do with preserving the sanctity of life.
I haven’t been creating new poems but rather returning to old ones. Though they are old does not make them irrelevant. If anything, old poems reveal the stasis, or more accurately, the gross reversion that our country, and our world, are hurtling towards.
I think about clinics shutting down; the rise of back alley abortions once again; the rise of reproductive cancers among women and men who have no access to screening; the countless children and churchgoers and patrons who will die in a heap by another AR-15. And the opposition wails, “Save the unborn!” and “America The Beautiful of Assault Rifles!”
My mind reaches even further, stretching to my Ináng-bayan, where a former dictator’s son has been elected, and valuable lessons of a brutal past have been ignored.
I’ve paired the poem below with a piece by Philippine visual artist, Kalem, the honorary 35th Pinay artist featured on Slicing Tomatoes. I’ve long been drawn to Kalem’s work with her lonely, haunting, and androgynous self-portraits stripped of any accouterments, and yet whose settings and subtle facial expressions with wide captivating eyes hold so much meaning behind them. The poem was first drafted in 2015, though you’d think it was written in the past couple of weeks.
I don’t have any long answers to give except scouring over old poems drives me to do as much as I can away from social media. Maybe it will drive you too.
Vocals and poem by Elsa Valmidiano
ANGELS (N)OR DEMONS AND WE
There are those who float in mid-air while others are
rooted by the bases of their backs.
Our names have changed from healers and priestesses to
witches and warlocks to finally the mad and mentally ill.
For those who don’t understand, and
this includes even ourselves, our weary magic makes us
stay in bed, sleep for hours, wreak havoc in our lives and others.
We curdle like spoiled milk in overflowing amounts.
Black and Brown bodies littered lifeless on the streets
do not even have spaces to haunt
while the occult inside Hollywood sensationalizes poltergeists
in white colonial farmhouses.
We implode. We are interpreted as possessed by demons
when we fail to find balance in this world.
We are constantly fighting for a place,
trying hard to remember our purpose
as passed down in our DNA
while we are all cursed with amnesia.
Our ancient languages instruct our existence
but have been cut from descendant tongues.
We have been humiliated-beaten-starved-raped
hung from trees, and burned alive.
Victims are pushed out as white entities try to monopolize
the significance of our suffering as divine retribution
relentlessly brainwashing us into believing “Only Jesus Saves”
while feeding us mindless entertainment, escapism, and xenophobia.
Even falling in love gets masked as the man who
steals our pelt, clips our wings, sets us in chains, or traps us down below.
Note: We are not declaring war on the Christians.
It’s not what they’d have you believe.
For some of us who dig deep enough,
we find portions of ourselves, little by little.
How do we navigate ourselves in a dark sea
when the stars have been blotted out?
Who is evil now?
Manila-based visual artist, Kalem, is an artist/architect with a natural passion for painting scenarios based on personal views. Her signature bald blue naked character symbolizes her in the experience but shows boldness, neutrality, and equality as she often tackles issues of gender inequality.