a snippet of praise

Who holds up the world?

A pagan god, an idol, a beautiful pea coat, a boy?

I choose God (my God!) to hold up my world.

I choose my God to be the center of my world.

Praise Him.





“The architectural structure was nestled under the curve of a hill.” Or was it tucked under some towering trees? My memory fails as to the precise words that were read out that fall day five years ago. I was a freshman then, and falls and freshman years went together like cold breezes through rain-drenched leaves. With difficulty.

The girl reading that sentence was not me. She was a petite senior with a crispness to her voice that reminded me of bubbles in apple cider, smooth hair plaited into perfect braids, and a dancer – all characteristics that I had not. She read out to a seminar of ten her essay that had been picked by the Art History professor as an example we should model.

The words – if not the physique and impact of this student – have faded throughout the many ensuing days that have preceded to-day – not a Tuesday or a double-day but a day of many when I pray for our daily bread – but the word “nestled” remains nestled in some ridge in my brain that brings forth the memory of this petite dancer-senior with glossy plaits and an exemplary paper.

A Google search of “nestle” without any qualifiers brings at first the food and beverage company that I know as the chocolate drink company with the bunny. Except the word comes with an accent, like é, as if the letter were nestled under some towering trees – dry – or a sheltering hill.

Prompted to search for the word’s definition, the search engine brings up a curious etymology: “from the Old English nestlian, from nest.” The nest is thus nestled within its child, the nestle, whose kinship cannot be invalidated. They are not the same: the LE becomes a branch that extends from the vine of the four-lettered root, a bramble that slides between the teeth with a sull-sull motion.

Why is it that nestles sound like chocolate milk while thistles evoke prickles, but pickles are just sour? I guess fermented materials always are.



A pine tree is an old lady in loose trousers

bent over her neighbor’s garbage bag. She digs

for food to feed her grandson whose mind

roams like a child’s, whose right eye

is clouded over by a film of the world’s indifference, whose

gratitude abounds for the kimchi that his grandmother made

from which white spores had been scraped away.


A pine tree is a woman, whose perm resembles

an iron scouring pad framing tucks around eyes that curve

upward while she soaps the limp body of her husband

at dawn. Her hips hurt. Her heart wrings while she washes away

suds from a man who has another child and wife elsewhere, somewhere

where her mind goes before it shuts down.


A pine tree is a man whose hands reach, upward

in supplication for a spark amongst the multitude of

neurons that have stopped for decades responding,

and so his hands remain at his side

while his mind wanders off and off somewhere, maybe – on some days –

to his former daughter and wife.


Sonamu: the literal characters meaning

cow-tree, translated:

Pine treewhose needles stay green and attached

to their branches, year round. A brother, soon to be

cloistered brother, sits straight-backed at a wooden desk

organized into compartments of booklets and icons.

Heavy rosary beads chain his waist. Not a word escapes

of the pain in his back.


Cow trees:

clang cacophony, cauliflowers, kalinkas, colore — but




breathes out,

like a sighing amongst needles,

suited to the people they metaphorically represent.




breathes into concave creases that remain hidden from sight.


Their fragrance reaches to the heavens, unburdened by worldly recognition,

and become a sweet perfume for my Lord, who sees all.

Leather Boots

He lurched to his feet and threw up. All over his new leather boots. Not literally though. Nothing had escaped his mouth; no half-digested food particles had been brought up in the sour half-liquid-half-bile solution to mark the cool tiles of his friend’s bathroom floor. Or his new leather boots.

He sat back down toilet where his butt met concave air. The lid was put down, and then his butt, meeting blessed solidness in contrast to the painful twists in his empty stomach and the tumble of thoughts in his mind. He had once sat – as he was now sitting – on a stool in front of the laundry machines in the basement of his college dorm watching the therapeutic rounds his clothes were making when the machine started vibrating violently, which caused the clothes inside of its cloistered stomach to spin faster and faster until with an ultimate wheeze, it shuddered to a stop.

The memory took momentary precedence before being pushed to the side by a mahogany table located in the campus’ main library on which a thick sheaf of papers lay – his friend’s thesis, completed weeks before the deadline – before that memory was swept into a sea of smiling faces he had found during one of his rare Facebook forays – before the present sounds of the party taking place in the spacious rooms downstairs filtered through his mind and the vision of Alice and his best friend sharing a kiss threatened to swamp his mind and spill out through some orifice in his body.

But as his thoughts began to weigh heavily on his mind, another sensation began with insistence to clamor for his attention: his feet. Slowly, they were turning into wooden clubs in this unheated room. His hands had already found shelter under his arms, but he did not want to pull out his feet from his boots, boots which Alice had bought for him on their first anniversary together just a month before. He hated all things leather – they had a rubbery texture that did not suit his aesthetics – but from Alice, the leather boots were his most prized possession.

He at first had refused to wear them. They were kept on top of his dresser and kept free from all dust motes by frequent wipes – had a rather easy life until Alice suggested that he wear them to the party tonight.

He looked down and to his amazement, saw leather feet instead of shoes. How long had leather and feet been fusing into one entity? When had his life turned into one long offering for the girl he had once imagined would stand by his side for time eternal?

With a thrust, he pulled off the new leather boots and threw them into the corner, where they lay on their sides, their leather tops already sagging from the unaccustomed wear they had taken the day.


mild fantasies

“I’m going to caper off into the mountains where no one can bother me. I’ll pick greens from my garden and wallow in solitude.”

Behind the welling silence, the TV that drones on without care.

“Don’t run away. Please.”

I glance sharply at him. “Why not? You’ll do fine without me! But me, I’ll die here beside you.”

Provocation does not work. It never has and it doesn’t disappoint today. His face pinches inward and the usual silence shrouds over him. He has used up his word limit for the day. I sigh and shove down the thoughts that arise from deep within… lonely … I long for … I stay for … I will stay for … too late for …… a conversation! … hurt….

My mind capers off and onward until I am upon death’s threshold, where I turn around and see him left behind. Before I can take another step, Death has also taken a look, rescinded her invitation, and sent me back home.


Let us choose the word

It is a known fact that our forefathers praised the quill as being mightier than the sword.

Nowadays, quills, if at use at all, have their origins from the ordinary pigeon and the porcupine. The colonists on the other hand snapped their feathers from the heads of bald eagles. They had noticed how effective these feathers were against the blade, against the reaches of death itself.

The Founders knew old Ben had floundered in his judgment when he suggested the turkey as the national bird – turkeys only fed the first pilgrims; they did not win wars. They had not sacrificed their plumage to states of baldness. How could Thanksgiving compare to Independence? Without the turkey, the country might not have started; but if the country had been lacking in its bald eagles, it would better not have started at all. Did not even the Teacher say that man does not live on bread alone, but on the Word? So let Ivan choose his bread. May we choose the Word.



Ms. Savage writes a sentence on the whiteboard and turns around to explain.

Her strawberry-blonde hair is pulled back into her usual pony tail. She stands at a compact five feet in height, and pulls off pencil skirts and stiletto heels with ease. She looks all around savage: a bulldozer blasting away all grammatical pitfalls and wolves in lambs’ skins. Her explanations are manicured, sandpapered raw, and sharpened on several whetstones before they are presented on the table. Staring back at 30 pairs of eyes — some drooping with boredom, some directed at windows or at each other, some glazed over like the skins of munchkins — she looks imperturbable.

You have remained in my mind for these past years. Here’s my homage to you.


yoked by violence together

The jangling of keys, hung from the janitor’s belt, echoed through the hall and entered classrooms. Stealing glances at the clock, the students wait for the bell’s final ring.

The keys jangled as they hit the blue ceramic bowl on the mantelpiece. Splash. Hole in one. Uno. The fireplace sputters to life.

The children wait, huddled together, as they hear the familiar jangle of keys and a lock turned aside. Their hollow eyes and hollow hearts beat in tandem with the discarded rooms in the apartment. The floors are strewn with bottles.

The key jangles in the confines of a glass bottle released into the sea. The current carries its load away from me and pushes it into the abyss, where its jangle is silenced at last.


I am tethers

Tether (n.): a teether that has lost one of its teeth.

I frown and type again.

Teether(n.): one who has teeth, esp. infants or infantile cats.

I look down and see my cat curled up against my stool. A minute later, a disgruntled tabby goes streaking down the hallway, mouth sore from meddling human fingers.

So. Alice isn’t a tether – although he is infantile and seems to be teething all the time. Perching back on my stool, I don’t know if I’m relieved at my cat’s absence of conditions or disappointed at my possession of an ordinary cat. I try again.

Infant(n.): one who is in the stage of development.

Might I say that I am an infant? Isn’t my desk at this very moment strewn with self-help tomes, covers plastered with smiling folks with the smug desire to help others pass from stages of infancy to success?

I had lost several teeth to cavities.

Well then: so I am tethers.


Substitute “Confidence”

“I wish you had more pluck in yourself,” her friend texts.

She imagines herself as a plump chicken with feathers begging to be plucked. The other day, she had been gutting out her computer of unnecessary files and had come across a diary entry: “I have grown more plucky after my harrowing 10-minute presentation in class.” Dated seven years ago.

Had she not been accumulating more pluck since that budding repertoire? Or had this pluck been slipping out through some unmonitored leak while she had been sleeping?

Harrowing: maybe her life hasn’t been harrowing enough. Swapping horror happenings around the globe with her friends (…refugees denied havens, mothers fed their own children, children’s stomachs bloated with hunger…), she has questioned life that has yet to hoist hardships upon her. How was she supposed to prove her pluck if there had been no tests thrown her way?

“I like you as you are though,” another text chimes. “Pluck or no pluck.”