by Bibeth Orteza

A Blessed Day
Jan. 18, 2005

No GSCF for me tomorrow;
No acupuncture.

I will stay home, perhaps
To simply crochet

Or lie in bed and listen
To lizards run across the ceiling

Birds chirping as they fly
Dogs barking and cats meaowing

Water dripping from a faucet
That refuses to get fixed.

And maybe if I’m still enough
I shall hear the precious sound

Of grass pushing earth to rise
And finally see the sky.

A Prayer of Thanks
Jan. 18, 2005

I thank God for the man he put on my bed
He who not-so-gently snores
But oh-so-tenderly moves to put
An arm on where there used to be two breasts,
Uncaring that now there’s only one.

I am bald
Jan. 20, 2005

I am bald. But please explain

the gentle breeze
that wafts to kiss
the top of my head, newly shaved.

How like my son’s touch,
my daughters caress,
my husband’s flirting, wow.

This loving wind that blows
from nowhere, but their hearts.

Batang Babae
Jan. 23, 2005

Sampu siguro ako
N’ong mabalitang may bukol
Si Aling Azon sa suso.

Aligaga ang matatanda
May nangurus at nagsipag-iyakan,
Nagitla ang kapitbahayan.

Di ko pansin ang usapan
Nakatuon ako sa panalo
Sa tumbang-preso at piko.

Singkwenta’y uno na ako
Ako na ang may bukol sa suso.
May batang babae rin kayang walang paki?

Bastos na Sakit Jan. 23, 2005

Walang galang siyang dumating
at sumulpot sa buhay ko.
Walang excuse me, padaan,
Wala ring do you mind man lang.

Bastos na sakit.
Walang good manners & right conduct.

Hitsura ng imperyalistang kumamkam
Sa yaman ng inangkin na bayan;
Hitsura ng kapitalistang yumaman
Sa manggagawang inapi;
Hitsura ng asawang kunwa’y tapat
May kabit naman palang apat.

Bastos na sakit.
Politically incorrect.

Buti na lang, at sa tulong ng Diyos,
Sa dasal ng mapagmahal na lahat
(pasintabi na rin kay Balagtas):
“O kanser na makapangyarihan,
Pag pumasok sa suso ng sinuman,
Hahamakin ang lahat, masugpo ka lamang!”

Jan. 23, 2005

I haven’t seen my sisters’ faces
except perhaps for a few.
I know them mostly by name,
through stories they tell
laughing, while dancing with pain.

When candles snuff,
we recall the flame
that shone so brightly
when all was well
and all is well again.

We weep each other’s tears
and live each other’s sorrow.
We are mothers, daughters, sisters, wives:
Not merely breasts, or cervices,
traitorous body parts that fester.

We are a sisterhood.
We serve.

In control
Jan. 31, 2005

I had my head shaved
immediately after Chemo one:
I wanted to be in control.

I didn’t want to be depressed
by falling clumps or patches:
I wanted to be in control.

When finally my hair fell
on the letter my son’s school sent
to tell me he had gotten honors

thus was I reminded:
for every door that closes,
a window opens.

I am bald and humbled.
My God is in control.

I am not deformed
Feb. 4, 2005

I stare at myself in the mirror,
bald, and one breast less.

But I am not deformed;
none of us are. I know
imperfection lies elsewhere.

I think of those who preach
platitudes, sermons and homilies
when deep in their hearts they sing:
“Thank heaven for little boys!”

I deem politicians callous liars
mouthing only the correct,
pockets bulging with money,
bribed by scoundrels and thieves.

And what of teachers who turn
blind eyes to the tampering
of votes, the trampling
of genuine people’s will?

Or the military’s top guns,
shameless in perjury,
cocksure dollar-salting and
other crimes shall go unpunished?

The Church, the government,
ersatz educators and men in uniform
stole breasts lopped off from us
and unconscionably put them on their backs,

the Quasimodos of our time,
hunchbacks by personal intent and design,
flotsam and jetsam of cancer.

They are deformed.
Not me. Not us.

Like a Cat
Feb. 4, 2005

I shed hair all over the house.
In the bedrooms, on the beds:
Matrimonial, my daughter’s, my son’s.
On oatmeal.

I lounge all over the place.
Wherever, whenever weary:
On the couch, the computer chair,
The bathroom floor.

Hands reach out to touch me
Love me, feel me
Caress on my head fur
No longer there.

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