2 Poems

Poetry / Louie Leyson


:: pinay cyborg manifesto ::

I’ve been sick with woman’s want
to become beyond body—closer to chrome

glint & pearl oil than blood, than organ. this is how
I understand perfection after years watching

lola tuck herself beneath shadow, bending
like soft metal in her mistaking of bronze

for burning. my lipsticked titas under willow trees,
a collective absence of bone. each brown, full

limb a bruise refusing to heal, each charcoal
shade a fruitless makeshift cast. august a lesson

in how the injured pinay body has parts too rooted
to the human. when nanay said I wish she was born

whiter she meant wishing I entered this world intact,
born a heap of gleaming silver. & how could I

blame her? after so many motions to smooth the lines
rippling the round lake of her face, drawn from the wisps

of a father’s smoke. we both know the cyborg
is an unholy thing, spared edenic origins & therefore

cannot die. there is nothing she dreams of more
than to reach that point of endless healing, to spend

hours submerged in freezing water but still swim up,
intact. to drive through agate swaths of fire but still

speed out, old toyota charred to nothing, skin painted
ash like dove belly. perhaps there’s already

a cyborg quality to the pinay’s long survival, which
to this point has been bulletproof. I don’t know

titanium sturdy enough to withstand the plain hurt
of centuries, coalescing to meet my nanay like wounds

from ancient lives. pained, we keep peeling tamarind
for sinigang. keep gathering okra, patis, chilli pepper,

taro. isn’t that bionic? isn’t that miraculous?

:: a conversation between two choirs ::

ave, ave, ave maria. i am trying to find the root
of silence, like a voice that carries another voice
inside. mary thy praises we sing to the backs of a hundred
upturned heads. like tulips asleep inside the pillow
of your fist. in heaven the blessed crouch to dirty
dance atop a fruitless garden. a stone that falls in winter
& the intact walls of its crater. erupting from our chests
a bird named alleluia! alleluia! how stones make perfect bowls
out of snow. oh lord you arrive & sorrow goes like sparrow heads
buried in holy bark. is there anything more sharp than below
zero quiet. sun on the blood on the wood of the cross, bright
on bright on bright. is anything born from an absence
of mouths. on the pew i shake like a root in the rain.
from the soundlessness of a dead bug. twelfth Sunday
of ordinary time. mistaking a womb for the cave
of my throat. or was it during lenten season.
entombing the wound of my tongue
when you come. holy spirit i too burn like the wick
of a violent candle. a violet candle lit up & noiseless
in its yearning. yes, yes that’s what i always
meant. amen.

From the writer


:: Account ::

I was tired of want­i­ng word­less­ly. I need­ed some con­text, a tex­ture upon which to con­tem­plate desire, and so I wrote these poems. Desire, then, dic­tates the tone of these poems. Much of it restrained, as queer desire often is. There is so much on earth to long for. I need­ed to put that long­ing down, build it a bed in which to sleep through the night.

In her sem­i­nal essay “A Cyborg Man­i­festo,” Don­na Har­away writes, “Cyborg imagery can sug­gest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bod­ies and our tools to our­selves.” Since first encoun­ter­ing this, I’ve obses­sive­ly fig­ured the cyborg in my own work as a utopi­an shapeshifter, or as a nar­ra­tive machine with which to pro­pel our­selves from the dam­ag­ing mytholo­gies that have been instilled in us since child­hood. In “pinay cyborg man­i­festo” specif­i­cal­ly, I allude to mytholo­gies around what con­sti­tutes an ide­al Fil­ip­ina that have been informed by cen­turies of occu­pa­tion, patri­archy, and vio­lence. “This is a dream not of a com­mon lan­guage,” Har­away also writes, “but of a pow­er­ful infi­del het­eroglos­sia.” It is through the cyborg’s poten­tial towards this “pow­er­ful infi­del het­eroglos­sia” that I find new and lib­er­at­ed modes of pos­si­bil­i­ty, of exist­ing at last as myself in the world.


Louie Leyson is a UBC grad­u­ate and writer who lives on the unced­ed ances­tral ter­ri­to­ry of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Wau­tuth Nations. Their work has been nomi­nat­ed for the Push­cart Prize and Nation­al Mag­a­zine Awards. You can find their works in Cat­a­pult, The Mala­hat Review, Palette Poet­ry, The Rup­ture, Nat. Brut, Pleni­tude, and else­where. Their twit­ter is @aswang­po­em, their insta­gram is @cyborg­saints.