Eileen Tabios

Missionary Effect

As Gabriela Reads Baudelaire (I)



If your wallet bulges like MacArthur’s ego

and you expect to dine tonight


with a companion affable and fit

for sharing a 1967 Chateau d’Yquem


then “you forget everything—

But there are days when the insults


of all the idiots fell your mind”

until a beggar’s chance for breakfast


hinges upon geometric angles

traversing connections between red


and green traffic lights at

the intersection of Sacramento and Clay


whose N-E corner props up a father’s palm

cupping wrinkles beneath a gray sky—


Once, I smothered inch-high candles floating

with de-stemmed lilies in crystal water bowls—


Sometimes the dimmest flame holds

the power to irradiate the Ilokos mountains


by torching suppressed energy, like my hands’

desire to load all 24 rifles awaiting commission


from my father’s and brothers’ gun racks

after learning coal and diamond miners


sacrifice canaries

to test for the existence of lethal gas


in subterranean caverns—I was looking

for the English name of a tiny bird


with a purple breast and orange beak—

Why must a new vocabulary


require me to hand out hacked bits

of my “Innocence”


which Mother once preserved

so that all of her daughters could


inherit this would-be-paradise called

“Earth”—the pages of my inheritance


continue to crumble between black leather

embossed in tattered gold as “Holy Bible”—


Wedding Veil

            While Gabriela Watches A Vow Occur



If it was woven

from man-made fabric


whose process increased

atmospheric carcinogens


its transparency

and skeletal structure


still would tantalize

a man into fondling


the air a half-inch

over a blushing cheek—


I recall the scent

of milk


between your



I swear my memory

is not influenced


by the cream



you used to remedy

my thirst—


“You have become cruel

to please me”—


I shall paint a floor

with my hair


until I am backed

into a corner—


When you approach

to grasp my throat


your footprints shall brand

“gestures” to complete my painting—


Step heavy:

“no such thing


as a sonafabitch

in this poem”—


Only beauty,



            As Gabriela Stares Down An Empty Boulevard


                                                (--after the paintings of Eve Aschheim)



If I believe

any bird circling


over a parched valley

casts a vulture’s shadow


then purple precedes

red as much as


red precedes purple

and walls define space


like a scratch

creating a stage—


Under a stone slab

lies simulacra—


Simulacra lies

despite the “forlorn”


thus “more affecting”

limp carnations


shadowing alabaster—

I am searching


for a frontier not doomed to obsolescence

for a perfectly-choreographed lightning storm—


I am craving

with a bent spine


for an ellipsis



to imply arrival

not departure or division—


The Effort

            As Gabriela Considers The Price She Pays



History sculpted

my current face


its complexion rougher

than pineapple skin


Weren’t you the advocate

of sunscreen?


That was a narrative

device, I tell my Muse


mocking me, smoking

through lips smeared


with “Geisha” lipstick

while jousting with nights


of metallic teeth

at the West End Bar


when jazz still

rained and reigned—


I was poised to succumb

before radiance


to discover if

light can be held—


Curiosity taught me

to bait


handcuffs and whips—

After I fed the blind


-fold with sodden thighs

and sunset cheeks


I learned to forego

sunscreen and other


filters of illumination—

When my Muse turns


serious, I hear

Commitment costs—


If radiance penetrates

to enable its caress


the price can never reach



Torch me

as the sun hides


against what I barter

for Lucidity—





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