The Whispered Desert of Almosts

A Poem by Iris Orpi

I could have written the dawn over the quivers of your conflicted flesh,
soothed the wars on planets that were always retrograding while you
were busy not seeing the breaks in your brooding sky, busy not feeling
the tidal pulls of a vast, empty distance being filled with more emptiness,
shaped like bodies. I might have loved you that impossible love, for that
shade of brown you couldn’t find in our corner of the world except in the
mirror, might have held our mutual truth hostage like the native language
you were so possessive of in your non-inclusive silences, but I guess we
would never know. The door was solid molave, you were barricaded in
several lifetimes’ worth of cigarette smoke, and you fed your solitude
with echoes that were impervious to all the ways we could have been
more than strangers on a collision course. In lieu of touching you, I’d run
my fingers over the DNA of the wood, markings that nature had left there
that we could have read as symbols, that might have shaped the landscape
of some novel conversation we could have had about the burdened pasts
that sanctuaries are sometimes built from, but maybe to you they were
maps of places one could only get to by sea, and all the vessels had either
sunken or surrendered.

Iris Orpi is a Filipina poet, novelist, and screenwriter living in Chicago, IL. She is the author of four books of compiled poems, including Hand Painted and Rampant and Golden. Her work has appeared in over two dozen online and print publications all over Asia, North America, Europe, and Africa. She was an 2014 Honorable Mention for the Contemporary American Poetry Prize, given annually by Chicago Poetry Press.

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