Everyday,
I come across a lot of
smiles.

My dad, my dog,
myself in the mirror,
my mom as she kisses me
goodbye.

I smile back.

The janitor down the
first floor,

the kid and his mom
on the way to preschool,

the nice old man
who buys his wife flowers
every morning.

I smile back.

But there’s a girl who smiles.

Eight in the morning;
Glasses, a couple of books on one arm;

Strides down the walkway
like the speed of her footsteps
keeps the world in its balance.

Everyday,
I come across a lot of
smiles.

But there’s a girl who smiles.

There’s a girl who smiles
not only for the is,
but for the will be.

The crinkle in her eyes tells me she will be going far.

I smile back,
following behind her.

– “There’s a girl who smiles.” — for Quiana.

LL.

I gave my
rose-tinted glasses
to a blind girl
down the street
thinking
she’d need
to see the world
in a haze
more than
I did;

but maybe
I was wrong,

when I came home
to my mother’s blood
on the kitchen sink.

– “Rose-tinted Glasses” — for Sheila.

LL.

On nights when the questions might overwhelm me–
I find my bare feet dragging me through the shifting sand,
to face the unending sea.

The city lights are too noisy, too loud;
Every person wants to speak, every person wants to be heard.

The city lights have too many answers, I muse.

I find the sea only has one:

peace.

– “The Unending Sea” — for Eeya.

LL.

The king of fire descends once more.

He was so vibrant,
he remembers.

His grass gleamed like crystals.
His trees stood tall, his flowers swayed in the wind.
The dew on his leaves always tasted sweet.

The ash crumbles in the king’s hand.

He was so…. alive.

.

He has always known,
it is a burden of the light to live without knowing the warmth of a touch.

Perhaps,
it is also another burden–

to evermore fall in love, with that he cannot touch.

– “The King of Fire” — for Shy.

LL.

The girl who cried woke up early today;
Wiped the vomit off her chin, pushed the bloodstained blankets at bay.

The girl who cried sat up straight today;
Pasted band-aids on her wrists, put on her clothes in mild disarray.

The girl who cried walked to the mirror today;
Washed mascara off her cheeks, pulled the sides of her mouth far far away.

The girl who cried stood at the front door today;
Straightened her back, counted to ten, pushed the door all the way.

“Good morning!”
she said; a yell, if I may.

The girl who cried was a girl of a yesterday;
Come what sunshine, come what rain– she’s the girl who smiled, today.

– “The Girl Who Smiled” — for Krissi.

LL.

The walls are thin,
The murmurs are loud;

The town is falling, falling in flames;
Shout a little louder, my love, perhaps light responds to sound.

.

In a town cocooned in darkness,
Can light only bring malice?
Can light only bring fear?

Have we drifted so far in
painting terror
with our own shades of black
that the only light that can no longer blind us
is the shade of light we choose to see?

.

Are all kids born with skin tags, I wonder?
With birthmarks, scars, patches of skin lighter than the rest?
Are some born with hair more frizzy, with teeth more white?
With strides more skipped, with stances ever slouched?

Because how else do we decide which child gets to live,
and which child gets to live with the reality
that their death amounts to
nothing more than
a casualty, a statistic,
a minor obstacle to a default picture’s
good intentions?

To a six-year-old
with missing front teeth
and a bullet lodged inside their cute little skull,
could our good intentions be any different
from the mirage of a man
with a god residing in a finger,
itching, itching,
not a moment’s hesitation
in letting divine judgment fly?

From the mirage of a man
who looked at the “please” in their eyes and said:
“No. This is when you die.”

“This is when you are handed a sentence,
wherein I would never let my own child utter a phrase.”

“This is when you are robbed of an existence
the chosen ones can bathe in freely without a blink of an eye.”

“This is when mass morality goes out the window,

for there is no greater darkness
than the shadow behind the camera.”

“So, child;
run.

Run like your life depends on it.

Run like your family’s lives depend on it.

Run like your culture,
your religion, your autonomy,
the freedom you were born with,
depend on it.

Run, child.

Because even if you do,
the bullet does not discriminate;

it chooses not, whether to enter from the front or the back.

Run, child.

For there is no greater darkness
than the shadow behind the camera.

Run.”

Bang.

.

The problem is not that the people at the top are sleeping with the enemy.

The problem is that we made love to ideals over our own people; long enough, emphatically enough, to see each other turn into enemies.

The problem is that we began to see guns as salvation, and peace as a traitor’s wasted efforts.

The problem is that we look at a body count, numbers on a screen trickling up as blood trickles down, and see the steps of a ladder leading to a future we can’t even sketch on paper.

The problem is that our identity has become a problem instead of a solution,
and solutions have dwindled to a tug-of-war between the black and the white.

Red. Blue. Yellow.

The problem is that we can no longer see beyond the colors we have painted our tongues with,

multicolored saliva dripping onto a canvas of
freedom

so convoluted

we can no longer tell which side is up.

Red. Blue. Yellow.

The problem is that colors ceased to be for beauty; today, they have grown to become weaponry.

.

Blue, and red, and yellow.
In the dark, can you tell which is which?

Blue, and red, and yellow.
In the light, do we not stand under the shadow of a single woven flag?

Blue, and red, and yellow.
Do we stand together, or do we not stand at all?

– “Brown”

LL.