OPERA: POEMS 1981-2002 by BARRY SCHWABSKY (2)MICHELLE BAUTISTA Reviews
Opera: Poems 1981 to 2002 by Barry Schwabsky
(Meritage Press, St. Helena & San Francisco, 2003)
Upon Reading an Opera
I promised I would get to know him.
Cover to cover. An Opera. Words standing in the
spotlight of this page. I have no patience for black
tea. He tells his friends he never sees me write
poetry. Like holding your breath through the tunnel
to make your wish come true. It is difficult.
My eyes wander. Read. Reread. I still have trouble
understanding what I have read. I have no patience
for black tea. Wait for it to brew. He tells me that
he falls into my skin. Yet I resist his entrance. Like
holding your breath through the tunnel. Scientists
have measured the amount of dilation, the flushness
of skin, the redness of lips. Pleasure, he says, is the
Line after line. It is difficult to hang on till the last
period. Counting to 8 till the bull decides he is done.
My sister and I talk of turkey and bibingka recipes. How
I grimace as white people speak of marshmallows on
sweet yams? Is this what their face looks like when
I tell them chocolate is not an ingredient of chocolate
meat? I have no patience for black tea. I read another
poem. A balance of sugar and milk.
The tea darkens as I pour. The milk falls like mushroom
clouds. the color inside my wrists where your lips
pressed upon them, too much milk. The shade of my
tanned forehead, too much tea. I have no patience.
I will ask, what would you ask of yourself. He never
sees me write poetry as my eyes widen. The ink within
pupils. Between a woman's voice crooning Mona Lisa's
smile and the theme song from Once upon a time in
China that women like cranes ruffle red tipped feathers
to. He pleads, "Pleasure is the new pain." Asks
me to hang on as he falls into my skin the shade of
caramel, of rose petals in black tea.
it is just air.
He tells his friends he never sees me write poetry
as if, he says, "it comes from air". My eyelids widen. I
feel their tension in my cheeks. Like holding your
breath. Reading white words on white paper. The
black letters grow so I may see the spaces within
as he falls into my skin. Bautista y Lorca have
given birth to a new duende.
Please keep it secret.
He blows smoke into my mouth so I don't have
to lie about holding my breath. About cigarettes
touching lips. Speak white words on white paper.
Milk swirl like clouds that enter my skin. Tension
in my cheeks. Flush. Read. Reread.
Water, mochiko, sugar, a stick of butter. Simple.
Reread each line. I do not understand white words
on white paper. He has never seen me write poetry.
The way lungs burn when he pleads, "Stay with me."
Make the wish come true. The tightening of my chest.
The color of my palms. Milk mushrooming clouds.
I swirl the cup as if mining for gold. Find sugar
crystals, milk, and tea. He has never seen me write
poetry. My eyes widen, dissolved crystals in tea like air.
This is where I write poetry.
In my eyes, he sees, his reflection falling into my skin.
The tightening of my chest gasping, pleading for me
to stay. Wait. Patience. Insert the key, pull back slightly,
turn. There is a trick. Hanging on. I count the pages
left. Count the minutes til closing. add. 1+1. Count to
Ride. Ride. Read. Ride.
Resist. Read. Rose. Rose.
Red. Rose. Read. Red. Reread.
Pleasure is the new pain. Clenched. Water, sugar, tea,
rose petals fall. Like holding your breath. Like poems
never written. Like wishes that come true. Like lungs
boiling black tea. Like secrets of birth. You asked me
Hold the breath long. Fall deeper into my skin;
the way sugar permeates tea, air dissolves. Strain
of my neck to keep breath still while kisses
dissolve on caramel skin. Hold on. While my
eyes widen as if closing them will end this dream.
Let me fall. Deeper. Black tea. Breath. Air. Poetry.
My arms clutch his body. Press him into me. White
words on white paper. Stay with me as I fall. A pain
so great as pleasure. The pupils of my eyes.
The last period.
Gura Michelle Bautista is a 4th degree black belt in the Kamatuuran school of Kali under the direction of Tuhan Joseph T. Oliva Arriola. She recently released her first book, Kali's Blade (Meritage PRess, 2006). She is a SF Bay Area poet and performer, having worked with Kearney Street Workshop, Bindlestiff Studios, Asian American Theater Company, KulArts, and Teatro Ng Tanan. She has been published in Going Home To A Landscape, Babaylan, maganda magazine, Eros Pinoy, Asian Pacific American Journal, TMP Irregular and MiPoesias Magazine.