How You Write About Me

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Artwork by John Paul Antido

Silent-stepping, soft-caressing;

Tinsel-twittering, jasmine-sipping;

Everything I am not.

Behind a thousand legends,

An untold story.

Neither dragon nor butterfly

Nor tiger nor monkey

Nor helper nor victim

Nor mistress nor slave.

Woman of her own conception,

Unbeknownst to the Imagination;

She who stares, unflinchingly,

Saber-toothed student of Western tongues.

Cursed are the meek

For all that I am:

Giant-slaying, disobeying;

Unmoored outcast

Aboard a sailing ship,

Unmanned.

xx

S. Bansil

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That AM Sound

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Also known as the Soundtrack of Commonwealth Avenue.

Take a sip of your soul and it sounds like – wet-haired silence in front of a mirror. This is a mixtape for me at age 18. A parting gift along with a blessing: may your skin be spotless and your stories plentiful.

Spilling drinks on my settee – she trudges down Comm Ave half-dazed, thinking herself to be in love with her new best friend because oh, happy day, what a lovely storyline that would make. New city, new songs, new vocabulary. Nocturnal confessions: the album wills it to be true.

I want it all – after what feels like two decades of dormant sleep, she imbibes on everything life has to offer her. The downs, buried in a closet so her roommate won’t hear. The ups, slow motion on the dance floor, something out of a music video. Those moments, the splendid happy few.

Breathing in the dust – because anything is easier – even sucking on someone’s shadow – than finding your own air.

Come on, come on, before the moment’s gone – she’s trying on new skins, shutting windows. Staggering under the weight of moments with someone who was never really there.

xx

S. Bansil

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In a nostalgic mood. Here’s a tribute to the Arctic Monkeys for accompanying me throughout my freshman year of college.

The Other America

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There’s an America that we’re not part of. A nation that hears liberty where we hear hate. Maybe we, too, were blinded. Deaf to the layman’s sermon. Too proud, too naive, to have seen this coming.

Two countries damned by padded pockets, damned by frenzy: a plague upon both your houses.

It’s an age-old story, the taking back. From the tired, the poor. From the huddled masses. It’s their story too. Did they already forget?

A sinking boat once took sail on the wings of my mother. Once weary, once penniless. Behold the power of dreaming.

In the Other America, we were taught a different meaning of Greatness.

xx

S. Bansil

 

On listening to Across the Universe on the 7:34 train to New York after Brexit

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“Nothing’s gonna change my world”

In a world that feels
as though it’s on a collision course
For, well,
Something.
Maybe there’s a brighter horizon somewhere beyond the river
Maybe there’s just impending doom
Nothing to do but masturbate meditate
Come to work late
The city swallows you up,
Spits you out
The sea flows from Midtown
Without a doubt
And you always find your way home

photo credit: King’s Cross by Sunrise via photopin (license)

Transatlanticism

I hope we stay just as we are at the beginning:

Finding jewel mines in each other’s minds.

Each word a promise;

Each impression a slab of

Semi-precious stone.

 

Six long, consequential hours

How I hope our words won’t sour,

Apples painstakingly picked.

I hope you’ll still remember

The taste of toothpaste on my lips

 

 

I tread your sound waves

Across the ocean,

Broadcasting my prose

To you alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Au revoir, Paris

We’ll always have

Paris

City of second-hand

Smoke-screens

Squares of unknown

Significance

Mark this page

For old time’s sake

You can always

Play it again

-Sam


Author’s note: written as a goodbye both to Paris, the city that has become my home in the past few months; and to Megan, my dear friend who visited me. Paris will always hold a special place in my heart. I will be back here again one day.

À la prochaine.

 

In search of

I am at war with my apartment.
With the leaky faucets and the washing machine.
With the hair strands – a perpetual purgatory.
They fight my merciless vacuum in vain,
Ant trails against the pale tiling.

I am at war with the shower and it’s mismarked knobs and the wailing pipes
and the useless bidet that occupies the corner where a toilet should be.
I am at war with the lopsided bedsheets.
With the Type C sockets.
With the windows that overlook the courtyard
That I have to keep open to air out the humidity.

And then there’s the coffee machine, neglected
With several days’ (months’? years’?)
Worth of stains on the pot lid.
I scrub away the abuse as if I were coming to the aid of a BP-hit duck.
Then I run it several times under the tap in the too-narrow sink.
White again – a rebaptism, if you will.

I’ve lived in places like this before
Apartments that change hands several times a year.
When was the last time someone had lived here long enough to care?

You live somewhere else
A student studio
Fifteen meters squared,
Your aesthetic: blue
Something like a cross between a monk’s cell and a hotel room.
Six-month lease,
What else is there to do but leave those thin white walls bare?

What your apartment lacks in problems mine makes up for in character.
Mismatched patterns
Bleublancrouge
Flowers and flags and postcards from Albuquerque
My proprietor’s tastes are vibrant, eclectic,
But clearly not my own.

You’d think I’d be used to this by now.
People and places with missing pages and hidden histories.
You don’t come into a person’s life on page one
And we are far from virgin territory.

Try not to imagine the girls who came before me.
The other bodies who cried and loved and slept
Also with you,
Under these same sheets.

I’ve agonized in the shadow of comparison
Over a time that I have never known,
A time that is no longer relevant.
BCE – Before Common Era
(Before You Knew Me).

I remember this feeling, my teary confession one of those early nights:
I feel like your apartment.
Another chapter,
Another face for the next girl to excavate.
To be cleared and gutted for the next passing resident
Unlike my apartment, which proudly wears its dilapidated history
Instead: anonymous, nomadic, temporary.

I no longer dwell. Not the way I used to.
Now I look ahead, to a life post-Paris,
To a life in an another city.

I’m getting ahead of myself here, when I say that
We’ll find each other again
Somewhere,
I don’t care where
New York maybe.

Dog-ear this prologue-past.
We’ll be pioneers together,
Leave this fallow land in search of virgin soil.
Together we’ll battle those leaky faucets and wailing pipes
Discover mortgages and diaper rash
And other uncharted territory.

 

Six Kisses: A Chronology

The first – clumsy and unremarkable. It’s summer and I’m sixteen. Too young to know any better, yet I thought myself old. Old enough to know, to want to know, the weight of wandering hands.

It’s a hazy memory. Sweat mingling on the dance floor, tucking ourselves into dimly lit corners. I didn’t ask for a fairy tale.

“Hello beautiful,” he texts me the following morning. An omen, perhaps, for the ones who come afterwards. I erase it, never to reply, afraid that my parents might see.

The second – everything I might have wanted the first to be. Fall semester, Boston roof. Around us the air hangs heavy in the sky. My shirt clings to my skin on the walk back to our dorm. The remnants of August heat.

Our minds had become acquainted long before our lips. Friends speculated this would happen for a while now. I was surprised when it finally did – a stranger’s lips. He is still foreign to me.

He calls me the next day. We decide not to complicate things. It’s not relief I feel, but disappointment.

“A mistake,” he calls it.

Was it really?

Just friends after that – I say nothing. Swallow my words instead, a stomach full of knots.

The third – just when I thought I had learned. Nighttime/early morning on a Mass Pike bridge. Swell of cars whooshing beneath our feet. I’m too blinded by the distant headlights, by the vodka pumping through my veins, to realize what’s going on.

Semi-conscious sensations: chain link cool against my shoulder blades, bitter taste of ashtray. The insincere apology that follows.

“Took advantage of you for a moment,” he tells me. He takes me home. I don’t stop him.

More of an excuse rather than an apology now that I think about it.

The fifth was to forget everything that had happened in between. Tiled walls and bare feet. He experiences life like a chess game. Strategy leaves little room for passion but it makes no difference to me. Still slippery from the shower, I know I will never be able to grasp him completely.

As he leans in, I study his face. “Your eyes are green,” I remark, as though seeing him for the first time.

He chuckles, of course.”You’ve only seen me in the dark.”

Then there’s the sixth – a tiny act of vengeance for all those who came before. I’m older than he is,  and far more determined to make myself unforgettable.

A new semester and summer’s end. I take him to the church with the reflecting pool and pretty lights. I know nothing about him, don’t care to. We dance without music as though we were on screen.

There’s a full moon tonight. Fountains in the background. The perfect scene.

We kiss and I feel nothing, other than the self-satisfied certainty that at least one of them would always remember me.

The Patchless Flower and the Hiveless Bee

Let me tell you a story that happened not so long ago, in a kingdom not so far away. Let me tell you about a seedling that took root but a stone’s throw from all the others, yet there were times when she felt twenty thousand leagues under the sea. When the other trees would laugh so would the seedling, losing her voice amongst the chorus of rustling leaves. Around her, the forest breathed as one – and yet the seedling often found herself a heartbeat too late, one solstice too soon.

Let me tell you the story of the hiveless bee who happened one spring upon the seedling’s extraordinary blooms. This strange little bee hummed just a pitch above all the others. For she saw colors that the others bees could not. In the grass, she saw ten thousand shades of green; in the sky, fifty thousand shades of blue.

To the seedling, said the bee, “You’re a flower, not a tree. And I’ve been scouring the forest for a flower just like you.”

A flower!

And just like that, the seedling was born anew.


Author’s Note: Inspired entirely by my friendship with none other than Megan Tang (read her blog!)

 

the 1001st time | love, loss

| the 1001st time |


What’s it like, falling in love for the first time?

Asks he who’s fallen in love thrice before

He takes my hand in his

Hands that know so well the weight of another

I’ve fallen in love maybe a thousand times before

With witty banter and passerby

With featherlight fingers and drowsy kiss

I’ve fallen in love with outlines and ideas

Always moments but never a man

Never blood and bone

Never bliss after burning bliss

I know not a first-time love

And maybe I’ll fall in love a thousand times once more

But never a love that felt so whole

Never a love that felt like this


| love, loss |


The halves that halve you in half – 

A line I’d heard in a movie once

(I never quite understood it until you came along)

You didn’t mean it, I don’t think,

When you carved into me

Severed blood-muscle and artery

Down into my very bones

I thought I’d be able to rip you from my skin

As swiftly as you’d entered me

Extract you from my mind and muscle memory

Tempered emotions and one clean cut

Instead you leave behind:

Saliva and skin cells – traces underneath my fingernails

Kisses embedded in my skin like shrapnel

Be still, my jagged dagger heart

Against my better judgement

I loved you with unguarded eagerness

And cradled your face between unsteady hands

Mild winter turned to dusty spring

Come summer you’ll be gone

(Too late for an easy leave)

Maybe, one day, in a faraway fall

We’ll meet once again on a faraway bridge

Standing hand in unsteady hand

You trade your gory bits for mine

Flanked on both sides by rusted locks

Behind us, a sky ablaze with bleeding trees


*Inspired by the poem from the movie Like Crazy (2011)