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February Poem Series: Merlie Alunan’s To Teach a Heart


“Your heart,” he says, planting a needle
on a point between her brows,
“beats too fast. Too strong.
Works too hard.” More needles.
Side of her neck, her throat,
her shins, her feet, on her back.
Immobilized by the needles,
she wants to tell him

This heart has always chosen
its own pace, won’t slow for anyone’s sake,
not even its own. Makes its own rules
as hearts have done these ages now,
maybe till all time.Quite beyond reason,
this heart listens to no one,
not even to me, deaf to everyone but itself—

but she says nothing, closes her eyes,
watching behind her lids violet suns
fold in, unfold, swirl, burst upon a world
known only to herself—caves of her fear,
ridges of her sorrow, thickets of rage
where sharp-clawed leopards prowl
in great hunger. Tissue and blood,
bone and flesh—fragile remnants
of her ebbing days—why her heart now
flails wild like fish caught in a drought,
thrashing in the mudflats of her memories.
His fingers count landmarks
among her ribs, down her spine.
More needles. “For heart’s ease,”
he declares. Now she’s a secret
he reads too easily with his salient eyes.
She sighs. Bless the live air streaming
in rivers of her veins, bless trees,
the quarter moon, the purple suns
swirling in the dark behind her eyes.
Bless earth, bless wind and fire, bless rain.
Bless these thin needles in her throbbing pulses.

For when all’s said and done,
who can tame a heart
wild in its cage of mortality?
Still she lies, rehearsing faith
in his deft device.
Who can teach a heart
what the heart desires?


*From Merlie Alunan’s Tales of the Spider Woman 

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona! I’m in my early 30s and is currently based in Ha Noi, Vietnam.I primarily write poetry and short stories in Cebuano and lengthy travel essays in English. Blogging has become an outlet to think out loud. I live the life I set for myself. I try to live an unapologetic life. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at Find me somewhere else!

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1 Comment

  1. Roxanne says:

    Thank you for this. So completely filled with loveliness.

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