Image © Unsplash/Kinga Cichewicz

“Sorry” rolls off your tongue too easily
your mother must have said it plenty
herself since she was a little girl
and you simply inherit the propensity
along with her love for smooth jazz and her bee allergy.

You learned early to trade “sorry” for peace and safety,
a hail mary before things go too far,
the 5-letter word that may save you a trip to the ER;
if I didn’t know any better, “sorry” sounds almost

powerful.

But I’m sorry that you have to resort to “sorry”
when you mean to say something braver,
even if apologizing comes as naturally
to you…


Image © Unsplash/Aaron Burden

Did you perchance
on your twelfth birthday blow the candles
and wish for immortality?
Because the lord said yes, child, you shall—
and he went on to work
in a mysterious way.
But he didn’t mean immortal like himself;
oh, no,
no one is as immortal as he is.
He didn’t mean immortal like the few freak accidents
where people throw themselves off buildings
and miraculously survive.
He didn’t mean immortal like how
people in their twenties feel
on exceptionally clear nights.
He meant one day you will meet a writer and
you will, despite all your good intentions,
break his heart.


Image © Unsplash/Des Récits

i’m fine
i’m good
can’t complain
same old
i’m fine

except:
not really, but

what else is there to say?

any other permutation of
variation of a response risks you
peering curiously, perilously,
through the smudged window only to
spot my feelings piling up in the sink
and my laundry list of laments sitting
unattended.

so,
let us try again:

i’m fine
the usual
i’m okay
i’m alright
i’m fine


Image © Unsplash/Womanizer

An 80-year-old woman walked into my lingerie store.

I knew her age not because of the reams of wrinkles or the gracious slight stoop, but for the delicate way she squeezed my hand and said,

Help me feel pretty for my eightieth birthday.

Pretty! At eighty! In lingerie!

How brave, I thought behind my saleswoman smile. How radical.

I know what you’re thinking, she chuckled. What am I doing squeezing myself into skimpy lace at this age?

Is it for your husband?

She shook her head. He’s been gone for five years now.

It’s just for me.

She arched a…


Image © Unsplash/gryffyn m

On the day it happened, Medusa was in a rush.

Her priestess robe was rumpled and she couldn’t find her brush.

But whom across Olympus’ bound would look at a wrinkled cloth when the fairest of the Gorgon sisters was around?

Oh, to catch a glimpse of her emerald eyes but once!

Her mother, sensing the hurricane of a girl in her room, called out:
Medusa, Medusa!

The name rolled soft on her tongue: mé-doo-saah!

What in Gaia’s name are you doing?

I’m late, Mother, I’m late for Athena’s temple, as she sprang out into the field, trailing oil and flowers.

Be careful, her mother called after her. Be careful!

Stay out of the path of the gods!

But Medusa was already on her way,

her long, golden hair twisting in the wind.


Image © Freepik

Loss is a thing of beauty.

Anything — a black hole, a wound, yourself — is a thing of beauty if you philosophize it long enough.

As with other beautiful things, loss demands all your attention.

When something, someone, is separated from you, you fixate on that oddly-shaped hole for a while. You stare and stare hard, trying to trace your way back to where you last saw it whole — as if you simply misplaced it, as if you can coax it back home.

As with other beautiful things, the value of loss is often in the mind of…


Image © Unsplash/Henrique Félix

This is the love song of my girlhood:

The lilting peal of spoon and bowl
The Buddhist chant in the kitchen
My grandmother stirring the soup, greeting me with a rasp,

Welcome home. How’s your day, my dear?

Actually, she wouldn’t really say that; we’re not that kind of family.

Instead, she’d say,

Nî chī le ma? Have you eaten?

And now I know they meant the same thing.

So when I ask my lovers, have you eaten, I’m really humming the love song of my girlhood.

Have you eaten?

And if you haven’t, let’s get some food, let’s feed you.

Truly: let me love you.


Image © Unsplash/Erik Müller

Regret

Slithers into your bed past midnight whispering things that you did or didn’t do, should have or shouldn’t have done. Likes to moan “what if… what if…”

Your past

Phantom taps on your shoulder and shadows out of the corner of your eye. Other times manifests as a door that keeps creaking open on its own and won’t stay shut.

Worry

Takes over your body and common sense to show you premonitions of disasters and everything that could go wrong.

Restlessness

A semi poltergeist-like entity that tickles your feet, rattles your fingers, and makes loud noises calling for a…


Image © SM

Are whales happy where they are?

I’d like to think so.

When a school of tuna tickles against their flippers,
I imagine the neurons in their brains lighting giddy.

Or when the sun is kind on their backs and the breeze gentle,
I feel perhaps life’s pretty swell.

But do you think they’re truly happy where they are?

Do you think they ever tilt their heads toward the vast dark sky
and wish to swim against the streams of stars,

where whaling ships are but dimming dream on a distant dot

and elsewhere, a man called Jonah told tale of being swallowed by a turtle instead?


Image © Wes Grant/Unsplash

Growth is an uncomfortable island and
I wish to sail back to my soft, downy comfort zone.

I’m tired of looking for wisdom in scraped knees
and silver lining in abandoned dreams.

I’m weary of being plucked from a restful slumber
and told to soldier on with no end in sight.

The purpose of pain keeps falling into my lap,
but my fingers have gone numb untangling it.

I long, for so long,
for things to be easy,

For life to measure my height
and eventually find it right.

Really, I long, simply,
for someone to say:

There, there,
you’re finally here.

Steffi Teo

Indonesian. I gotta put all these thoughts somewhere.

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