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shifting consciousness
at dawn, to become
the bamboo



The Last Temptation

(for J. )

By: Anne Stephanie Cruz

How long must you keep me waiting?
I'm the only one here.

Light me.

I’m a stick of poison poised to strike
like a viper in a basket;
I enthrall and never cease to satisfy
until even your pores reek of my essence.

No one has to know.

You can have me in the bathroom,
flush away evidence and walk out whistling—
smelling of breath mints.

It's not a sin to give in.

Years from now you’ll still remember
how I felt like and tasted,
just be sure to make this last time count.

Savor the moment.

You can heed the Surgeon General’s appeal
some other time.

Today, you're mine.


Mirror on the Wall...

new moon---
casting charms
on old mirrors



For Rain, a haiku

A lotus sits
and blooms
on its own



Anger Management

watching smoke
from flared nostrils---
counting to ten



Shopping for (N)one

by: Anne Stephanie Cruz

"Shopping for one took time, a little more thought than it had for two."---Wilma Hankins Hlawiczka

Three cartons of non-fat milk, two liters of grapefruit juice, a loaf of wheat bread, a pack of spinach pasta, oatmeal and several cans of spicy tuna. That pretty much comprises my bi-weekly grocery list. If its a weeknight and the produce is good, I throw in a head of lettuce, tomatoes, onions and some carrots---you'll never know when you'll crave for fresh salad.

Once I get home, I'll take everything out of the plastic bags and arrange them in the shelves or put them away in the fridge---praying that I remember to eat the vegetables before they mutate (one time, a large potato looked as though it actually grew green eyes after sitting inside the vegetable bin for almost a month!) or turn into mush---whichever comes first.

There are days too when I am hardly able to find anything in the freezer because ice has practically engulfed everything. And its only after a thorough defrosting that I stupidly realize that what looked like a pack of beef tapa was actually slices of chicken breast, heavily discolored by freezer burns after being forgotten for more than two months.

Yes, it's that bad. But what can I do? I'm a single yuppie living alone.

It's been a year and a half since I started living independently again. After the house in the bukid was completed in February last year, my Dad and kid brother moved out of the two-bedroom apartment we temporarily rented in Muntinlupa. I, on the other hand, moved to a smaller, single-bedroom pad 15 minutes away from work.

Sure, I could have gotten a housemate. But I've been there, and I've done that far too many times. I no longer have the energy to grin and bear seeing another person's underwear hanging by the shower stall, or finding that we're fresh out of soda crackers or pancit canton after having shopped only two days ago.

I used to enjoy shopping, I mean I still do. It's just that shopping for no one other than myself makes me feel like the loneliest person on earth. I used to drag in two grocery carts at the counter, adding or taking away items at the last minute, and then clucking my tongue when I see the numbers flitting at the cash register. I almost always shop out of budget.

That was before---when I had a brother to spoil and a Dad who was on a restricted diet. Nowadays, I can pretty much buy anything, depending on whether I'm in pig out or diet mode.
But truth be told, I haven't set foot in a grocery store in almost two months.

Watching Diane Lane's character Sarah (Must Love Dogs) eat her chicken-breast dinner near the kitchen counter actually hurt. I know how pathetic it feels to consume what would otherwise have been a tasty dinner by your lonesome. For some reason, even the best cuts of chicken end up tasting like cardboard and you'd rather cry yourself to sleep on a hungry stomach than go through that routine every night.

Now you know why I skip dinner altogether.

The scenes where she would argue with the man-who-keeps-offering-chicken-by the bulk-specials at the grocery were meant to be funny, but it was also a stab at society's callousness to the plight of singletons----whether they chose to be single or were just victims of circumstance.
Really, why would someone like me want to buy a whole roasted chicken when I could barely finish the drumsticks? Even if it were on sale, that would leave me eating chicken for one whole week---by that time, I would probably be cringing from the mere smell of it.

Come on, there was a reason why individual and single-serve packagings were invented.

One time, as I was waiting for my turn at the counter, the woman ahead of me (obviously married with kids judging by her overflowing cart) curiously looked at the contents of my cart and non-chalantly asked: student?

I blanched, then felt the blood rush back to my cheeks as I stammered a reply. In less than five minutes I pretty much summed up my life and explained my civil status to a total stranger. I was holding back the tears as the cashier was ringing up my purchases---never in my life did buying milk, bread and soda crackers belittle me so. It made me feel like a social aberration, just because I was shopping for one.

I've since recovered from that experience, managing to hold my head high and match the nosy women looking at my cart stare for stare.

However, on days when I'm really feeling low, I spare myself the agony. I just head for the nearest 7-11 or the sari-sari store around the block---where the clerks and tinderas don't give you a condescending look for purchasing supplies in retail.

I realized it isn't always cheaper to buy things by the dozen.



Letting Go

Haiku: Letting Go

end of summer---
blowing dandelion seeds
from my open palm





By: Pinoypoets

I am going to wear a red shirt today

to hide the bloodstains impressed
like thumbed moths on my body
to forget the sins of memory.

And I'll go flying to the night
like the lone moon but red
in haze due to clouds -
I will cast my gaze
like stars in constant watch
of my tainted earth.

But what will this bring me?
A swim in the opulent nothingness of the dark
or hiding in a hollow skull
or nothing, like abstract images
attempting to conceive
these saline pools of mystery
formed in my skin,

hidden by the red shirt I'm wearing today.



Shelling Shrimps

By: Anne Stephanie Cruz

Déjà vu.

I swear this has already happened before. And this feeling, although somewhat surreal, seems oddly familiar. This is just the third time that I’ve felt like this in my 26 years of existence---and it always hits me while I’m shelling shrimps.

I’ve stayed in at least 15 different houses in the last decade: a relative’s house, apartments, boarding houses and dormitories and have gotten used to the transient lifestyle---moving to a new place every six months or so.

With each transfer it becomes easier and easier to detach from the people, situations, and memories one normally associates to a place of abode. It’s as though I can uproot and replant myself in a new patch of soil with hardly any effort or discomfort.

In a way, I am the proverbial rolling stone that gathers no moss. I have become so adept at moving that I bolt at the slightest provocation. And oftentimes I leave nary a trace of having once lived there.

But I digress, let me go back to my shrimp story.

The first time this alien emotion washed over me was in my parent’s house in Valenzuela. Pre-separation days, I was about 11. Mom left a small basinful of shrimps for me to shell for the pansit palabok we were set to prepare.

It was midmorning and sunlight was freely streaming through the window—the bunched up red and yellow and curtains cast shadows over the dining table where I stood hunched over the basin of ice-cold shrimps.

A hundred eyes stared at me from the table but I distinctly remember smiling as I picked up the first firm shrimp.

Peeling and shelling methodically, separating the pointed tip from the rich shrimp heads awaiting the consummation of their grim fates over mortal and pestle, I felt happy and secured.

Even the hungry wails of my newborn brother Robert did not disturb the peace that I felt within.

I went about my task until the last of the shrimps had been decapitated and stripped off their exoskeletons. The mound of shelled crustaceans was at the center of glass-topped table, sitting like a raw offering to the woman who brought me into this world—my mother, the goddess I could never connect with at any level.


Metrica Street, Sampaloc---My best friend Victoria rapidly chattered away her latest classroom gossip. It was a blistering hot afternoon and beads of sweat clung to my upper lip. We were in the small kitchen of the two-bedroom apartment we shared with several of her cousins.

On her way out, she handed me a plateful of prawns fresh from Mindoro. It was my turn to cook dinner---a repast of sautéed prawns and vegetables for me and my five housemates.

A loud thud informed me that Victoria had already left. I felt isolated, all alone with a plateful of prawns in a crumbling apartment. Outside, Sampaloc was buzzing with life. I, on the other hand, felt that welcoming sense of peace arrive as I began shelling prawns.

I was 16, a freshman, newly abandoned by a father who left for America, and very recently thrown out of the house by a goddess keeling over the collapse of her 21-year marriage.

I pondered on my uncertain future as I deftly shucked shrimps, wondering what to do with the countless days and nights that lay ahead of me.

I figured life wasn’t so bad. After all, I was on the Dean’s List, held the distinction of being the youngest varsity debater on campus, and on top of everything, I knew I had friends and relatives who looked after me from time to time.

As I held up a king prawn by the tail, I mused at how, devoid of their plastic-like coverings, they were just as vulnerable and defenseless as I was once exposed to life’s harsh realities.

That day, I resolved to grow an exoskeleton.


Like a continuing daydream, I found myself shelling a pot full of shrimps on this rainy Saturday morning.

Humming a tune as I worked on the iceberg of shrimps floating in tap water, I would stick my tongue out playfully to catch a few raindrops bouncing from the rain guards. I’ve always loved the sound and feel of the rain.

I was standing over the kitchen sink in our new house in Guiginto, Bulacan, when the surreal feeling began spreading all over me. Like an invisible embrace, the sensation was warm, welcoming, and all-enveloping.

I sighed and smiled as I snuck a peek at Dad sitting at his favorite spot in the living room, under the frame of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I haven’t felt this way in years.

I’m now pushing 27 and shifted to writing advertising copy after tiring from a life of newspaper deadlines. Apart from shedding my old skin, I’ve also done away with my exoskeleton.

I have no need for it now.

A decade after Dad left for America; 10 years after the goddess evicted me from what is now solely her house; after living in more or less 15 different addresses all over Metro Manila and meeting hundreds of borders and housemates, most of whom are now nameless faces--- I finally realized what the odd but welcome feeling meant.

Just as my expertly shelled shrimp curled perfectly from neck to tail, I too have come full circle.

Blissfully, I pause to drink in my surroundings:

To the left was Green Estate’s famed green rice fields, to my extreme right was Dad’s prized garden---the yellow English roses bowing with the weight of raindrops on its petals; red and green bell peppers, purple eggplants and other plants all competing for space.

It was a patch of earth bursting with color and teeming with life---a place where I myself could permanently take root and thrive.

From out of nowhere, bullfrogs burst into chorus, and, startled, I drop a few shelled shrimp from the plate. Bending over to pick up the strays, I feel that warm feeling trickle in once again.

I prayed. May I never have to shell shrimps anywhere else.