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Two Poems
by Barbara Jane Reyes

[ave maria]

our lady who crushes serpents

our lady of lamentation

our lady full of grace whose weeping statues bleed,

our lady who makes the sun dance, pray for us

our lady of salt pilgrimage

our lady of building demolition

our lady of crack houses

santa maría, madre de dios, pray for us sinners

our lady of unbroken hymen

preteen vessel of god’s seed,

your uterus is a blessed receptacle.

our lady of neon strip joints

our lady of blowjobs in kerouac alley

our lady of tricked out street kids, pray for us

blessed mother of cholo tattoos

you are the tightest homegirl

our lady of filas and lipliner

our lady of viernes santo procession

our lady of garbage-sifting toothless men

our lady of urban renewal’s blight

pray for us sinners         ipanalangin n’yo kaming makasalanan

now and at thehour         ngayon at kung

of our death         kami ay mamamatay


from diwata

in the penthouse resides el más supremo, and none but the servants are allowed entrance into his suite. barefoot, and with brass anklets jangling, they bring him the softest cloth and silks woven by virgins to drape upon his divans. lazing about in linen robes, he gazes up at his ceiling, a clear dome filled with night sky. there in the stars, a tattooed prince, a many headed beast slain by his hand. there, the string of pearls given to his princess. there, she waves away malevolent spirits by mimicking the ocean.

el más supremo sips chilled palm wine mixed with blue curaçao and the juice of calamansi, served in hollowed out buko vessels. what meat has been scraped from inside of this shell, the chefs soak in this same azure cocktail, then sprinkle with sea salts and green sili.

what a banquet for el más supremo’s eyes, these panorama sunsets the color of orchids, trees of the beloved orphan spirit swaying in guava scented breezes. processions from afar bring the offerings of pearl farmers and miners of silver. those who harvest rice fields also come to bring tribute.

from above he cannot smell the salt of their bodies, nor can he see the lines carved into their brows. from above, the numerous are so very small.


often, she speaks of the tattooed angel whom she found sifting through the foulest smelling garbage. no cherub was he, no plump and rosy cheeked babe, but a glorious archangel, who would otherwise have been armored in gold, and sandaled with leather, had he not been hit by hard times. this one wore no shining breastplates, no crimson cloak billowing in aethereal winds. no, this one bore the leanest muscles; his every sinew and ripple inked from throat to navel. slithering along his spine, a ruby serpent, its eyes bright as morning star. and there, where the ribcage opens, yet another serpent, goldened, slick. this one coiled into a perfect circle, devouring its own tail.

concealed in the deepest pockets of his fatigues, no splendid archangel sword with which to slay those fallen from grace, but a balisong, compact, eloquent, deadly.

the archangel disappeared when the winds were chilly, and she believes he slept in the bowels of rusted dumpsters. during rainstorms, these echoed with his verses, as whalesong resounding within the hulls of great ships. he sunned himself on fire escapes at summer solstice, and his chants and incantations ascended past rooftops, touching the feet of old sages.

yes, he was a vessel of song, she smiles, remembering the honey of his voice, how she swayed weightless, euphoric with his body, filled with ancient words of so many tongues, and the lamenting of seafarers on starless nights.

About the author:
Barbara Jane Reyes was born in Manila, Philippines and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She will complete her MFA at SF State University in May 2005.

Her work was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and appears or is forthcoming in Asian Pacific American Journal, Chain, Interlope, Nocturnes (Re)view, North American Review, and Tinfish. She is the author of Gravities of Center (SF: Arkipelago Books, 2003), and her second book, poeta en san Francisco, is forthcoming from Tinfish Press.

© 2011 Word Riot

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