"Righteous Indignation and her Long, Dark Hair," "The Riots against Forgetting," and "Hands over the Atlantic"

Righteous Indignation and her Long, Dark Hair

Like a phosphorescence,
locus of commuted light-
ness, ruth and raw instinct
spreading their legs
to freedom,
        giving birth to power.

A starved medium being
methodically claimed
by the radiance of
the unmistakable.

They tell me the resistance
is female, and of that
I have no doubt.
Compassion is a dress
of heirloom roses
with all the thorns
turned inward;
revolution is equal
parts amniotic water
and blood.

There are dominant,
delicate theses
in those voices—
dreams aborted
from unslept sleep,
burdens of loneliness,
maternal roar.
You won’t get apologies
from the curve of
those hips, nor
from the throttling
of the status quo.

As in phosphorescence,
the rage is luminous
because it used to
be forbidden.
Give it time and
the justice arbitrated
in the streets will
feel like home.



The Riots against Forgetting

We are bullheaded
and make paper planes of pages
torn from history books
and sleep on the ashes
of burnt symbols—
the snatched hijab,
the defaced flag,
the mangled fist,

Voodoo dolls in
the age of social media
for the purpose of their
spiritual genocide

and the words
spray-painted over with words
that oppose,
that silence,
that bite off and chew
and regurgitate intentions
as clickbait and satire,
that round up voices into a chorus
then fling their causes
to drown
in misappropriated time,
in intimidating jargon,
in rising sea levels,
or in ignorance

each day is a shouting match
between two different pains
but then the two streams
of blood both
go down the same drain

and underneath
all the smoke bombs
and stinging eyes and nights
that bear witness to just
how grotesquely the human
spirit can bend before
something breaks

are the hearts shoved
down the throat of the big,
well-oiled, relentless machine,
hearts desperately grasping
for foothold in the echoes
of faiths once solid
enough to kneel on,
now sublimated into toxic
vapors of propaganda
stealing through windows
someone forgot to shutter,
making the children sick
and the parents high with
habit-forming rage

the hearts with the most
basic of languages,
the last surviving unscathed
and universal symbol,
with ignored wisdom and
overworked arteries
and the dichotomy of choice
of whether to keep beating
or stop.

I wish they talked more.
I wish we listened more.



Hands over the Atlantic 

I send you love—

the politically correct kind,
or the pick your words carefully
and offend no one kind

I send you irreverent love,
love that crosses borders
without a passport

and openly weeps
and uses profanity
and drives fists into concrete
until they bleed.

I send you love
of breached walls
and unprotected lungs
breathing deeply the smoky air
permeated by the miasma
of your grief.

I send you love
of bared feet
walking boldly where shards
of screaming and gunfire
will litter the streets
for years to come.

I send you love
through the gap under the door
that you have locked
to take off your clothes
to inventory your bruises
and draw a map
of the aching world
on your nakedness.

I send you love,
I hope,
at the place you need it most,
the most torn,
the most lost,
the place where the horizon
is all skewed and prayers
are a pile of broken bones.



Iris Orpi

Iris Orpi is a Filipina writer currently living in Chicago, IL. She is the author of the novel The Espresso Effect (2010) and the book of compiled poems Cognac for the Soul (2012). Her work has appeared in dozens of print and online publications around Asia, North America, and Europe. She was an Honorable Mention for the Contemporary American Poetry Prize, given by Chicago Poetry Press, in 2014.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 22:59