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Sweater

When it comes to love, it’s been said that
my rose-colored lenses are 7 to the power of 9
Too blinded by the earnestness of my own trust
Enough to be guided by hands that lead to dead-end paths
It’s been said, that
disabling every red flag alarm is my form of self-harm
And all I could think about, was how urgent it was
that my fragile heart could keep cracking and still serve love perfectly warm

Now that’s just the fairy tale philosophy talking
The hopeless infatuation of Top 40 hits teachings
Sacrificing without knowing how to fight
Worshiping without knowing how to doubt
Under the covers of a love disguise,
recklessness strips me bare over and over,
my naked chest leaves comfort for others and me utterly careless

Naked, is what you shouldn’t be when you go around offering people a shirt
Trust me, I’d been putting 10-digit price tags on the smiles of my lovers
While I’d never even once own an ‘I am worthy’ sweater
Until I dialed my self-emergency number, and it said,
“Sorry, you are no friend to your soul. Press 1 to continue the war, or Press 2 to withdraw and begin to patch up the hole.”
I’d already lost the sword
But my finger was too heavy to pick up the thread-and-needle work

Someone came to me and said,
“What would you do if you were someone you loved?”

So I led myself out and stood in the desert,
held my hand under the sun until it didn’t burn anymore
Under a shelter I crafted together from impossible mercy and more impossible hope,
I mapped out all the places I have gambled with my heart
I traced my losses back to an ignorance of value
I broke into my safe to find it mostly empty, insecure

Someone came to me and said,
“What would you see if you were someone you loved?”

So I led myself out and stood over the river,
faced the image on my mirror until I didn’t want to break it anymore
In front of a reflection I framed with kindness that had to be possible,
I stitched together a sweater with the cotton thread of my sanity
and the wools of my madness
I weaved soft pastel hues of my tenderness
with the steel gray shades of my fierceness
On my sleeves, I wear patches of my broken heart pieces
And puzzles of dreams I have yet to assemble,
Of prayers and poems and anecdotes and quotes like,
“Sometimes I feel like giving up, then I realize I have a lot of motherfuckers to prove wrong.”

It still wears itself thin in the cold,
but moving my fingers to stitch it stronger is the only way to keep myself whole

Yes, loving yourself is an art
And I wish there was a Prize
for owning the parts of yourself you’re still learning to like
I wish there was a gallery of post-it notes
of how more than pretty you are
That there was a museum of figures, sculpted with the strength of their mind,
to show exactly how it’s done

Then maybe, we’ll rewrite fairytales of soul courtships with no excuses
We’ll rewrite songs and sing,
“Darling, don’t forget to fall in love with yourself first.”

Tya
xx.10.15.

“And if I asked you to name all the things that you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?”

As performed at Betelnut for the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2015 Poetry Slam on October 30, 2015. Bali, Indonesia.

Because, to be Loved by You

It takes a lot of guts for me to stand here right now,

because for a poet, I really don’t have much to rhyme about

 
 
For a grown woman I’m a cry-baby,

forever a child at heart;

with a blatant lack of flair for patience,

I kind of carry around a ‘hard-ass aura’

 
For a lady I’ve got a pair of very bulky calves

and heels that always end up dry,

visible stretch-marks and a slightly above-average BMI

 
On top of that I am tailed around by a mountain-heavy baggage,

having lived at least several grueling lifetimes

 
And for that I unapologetically

– sometimes publicly –

cry,

many nights;

and many times do I fall into a mode of automatic ‘Self-Destruct’

 
 
Then, there was you

 
 
You with your warmth,

your charms,

your inexplicable eagerness to be a part of this soap opera

 
 
And suddenly,

there was a need for me to be a little bit more –

‘qualified’

To start having some kind of self-regard

 
And then there was that fear of being

– God forbid –

found

 
Because the idea of me unmasked

is, sincerely,

a nerve-wracking alarm

 
 
You see I worry about these permanently stamped dark circles around my eyes,

 
The oil pool of a forehead that no matter how much powder I mount it with,

still shines

 
And a well-supplied reserve of fat that hangs from my arms,

my thighs

 
 
And when you count for my teaspoon-size emotional control,

 
My fingertip-level of impressionability threshold before I give it up for love,

 
And how I make up my mind like how you’d cross a suspended rope on your toes

– swaying from side to side –

 
I really don’t have much left in terms of bragging rights

 
 
But, somehow,

I begin to care none for these hand-me-down, pre-programmed flaws

 
Because,

to be seen past all that by you…

 
 
And if you look back through my history,

Worse than Eve,

I’ve not only fallen for that forbidden apple trick;

I’ve climbed that tree and plunged from it freely

 
Unlike whoever that guy is,

I’ve not only ignored Pandora’s stupid warning;

I’ve hammered that box and dissected its every piece

 
And I’ve not only gone out of my trail in the deep woods like Red Riding Hood;

I’ve recreated paths, that lead travellers to dark cul-de-sacs,

just out of proving

 
 
Now I know, you know, they know, I’ve done a lot of bad things

(I radiate an afterglow of loyal grief and faithful guilt)

 
But to not be left by you…

 
 
And if they say, that humankind is God’s work of art

 
I won’t be found at some contemporary high-end gallery

 
Only in the living rooms of colonial houses that smell like the 20’s

Bordered by a frame that keeps changing,

each new one more polished and 21st-century in design

But within,

chipping paints and worn out colour shades make up this image

that no one can seem to fit into some sort of a schema

God, what the hell even am I?

 
 
But somehow,

I begin to care none whether they see me as a brilliant abstract,

or plain junk in aesthetic disguise

 
Because,

to be admired by you…

 
 
And just as I begin to withdraw,

in terror of being further found,

 
You put a ‘Priceless’ tag on the way I smile,

 
The way I feel –

everything extra,

the way I absorb every emotion twice the recommended amount

 
You find –

exhilaration,

in the way my wild-child impulse still roams about inside,

 
You find strength,

in the on-going crusade between my penchant for self-corrupt and my desire to remain satisfied,

 
And most of all you find beauty,

in how my baggage-ful of mistakes, mysteries and cries,

made me who I am now

And who I am now, is still,

in every way,

impossible to define

 
 
But for a world that more than anything needs sugar, spice and everything nice,

is perfectly, enough

 
 
 
Tya

23.11.11 – 27.11.11.

 
 
As performed at The Red Carnival 2011 outside Sungei Wang Plaza on November 27, 2011.