Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr.
Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr. (he/him) is the author of Tangere (University of the Philippines Press, 2021) and Aria and Trumpet Flourish (Math Paper Press, 2018). He is the also the editor of A/PART: An Anthology of Queer Southeast Asian Poetry in the Pandemic, featured in the Southeast Asia Queer Cultural Festival 2021. His poems have been published in Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, Kritika Kultura, Tomás: The Journal of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies, The Manila Times, and other journals and anthologies. He has received prizes from the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. Born in the Philippines, he has been based in Singapore since 2011.
Self-Portrait as Baroque Church
A pair of stone angels stands
sentry, bearing a giant
clam shell as font of holy
water. Walls built of crushed
corals, mortar made of egg whites
and quicklime. Solomonic
columns abloom with acanthus,
cherub’s wings. Clerestory
of light. Bas-relief of saints
long forgotten. Pew after
pew, line after line, God
painted in the details:
God gleaned in the eye
of the monstrance, God inlaid
with gold leaf, alabaster,
God whose voice echoes
from a crumbling bell tower,
God of colonial blue-
prints, God among the ruins.
Andrew Kirkrose is a transgender Singaporean student of linguistics and literature. Shortlisted for the 2018 National Poetry Competition and the winner of the 2018 NTU Creative Writing Competition, Kirkrose contributed the winning piece of the 2019 Hawker Prize to the journal OF ZOOS. Kirkrose’s work has appeared in journals including Cordite Poetry Review and PERVERSE, and anthologies such as SG Poems 2017-2018, Seven Hundred Lines, Food Republic, and EXHALE: An Anthology of Queer Singapore Voices.
so this is your incarceration this
biblical rib this unborn birthing
rib this cage that floats and flies
and sometimes cracks and then
removes at a remove this cage
this abnormality of mortality is
safest this unknown safest this
aching something this unbroken
something is waiting is growing
is unripe ripening but they cannot
eat the fruits once they’re done but
could they ever eat the fruits could
they ever pluck out the rib bleeding
from the heart of them why did they
do that why did you do that why are
you standing there holding your ribs
I only dream in
garden until it was
too late. in open
space, lung bared on
every side to climb, to
borrow and trail. flowers
are so bored. craving
yield, my hands met
bone instead. there was
never a year before
shame, no stirring
before blush. all our blood
was sweet. was bright.
the egg-layers came
with unsparing teeth, to drink
their fill of quiet waters;
had no notion
of being cast away.
Mother’s Day Dicta
A push-pin smile does not a human make
when the boy standing at the crosswalk
is wearing your face. Begin your study
of the way of salvation only once your
way has already been found clear. The
fruit should under no circumstances be
eaten once that first bite has been made,
its soft skin punctured. Penetrated. That
stranger on the streetcorner is wearing
your soft skin and you don’t know how
to deal with that so you walk faster and
then slower and then faster again. Your
streetcorner self wears his sleeves rolled
to his elbows too. You begin your study
of salvation in the body of a boy bitten
through with pins. With your own body.
The Epoch of Sin
"We are living a moment of annihilation of man as image of God… Today, in schools they
are teaching this to children—to children!—that everyone can choose their gender.”
— Pope Francis
Give me back those glory days in the
garden where the gradient of the slope was
friction all the way down. Give me my fifteen-
year-old baby-butch heart beating in a boy’s body
I hadn’t learned to recognise. Give me back the nights
I spent with three worms in my gut and the weight of a cross
I never asked to carry bearing down on my still-unbroken spine.
If destruction is the only word I can cram in my mouth alongside
the nails and the broken glass, let me speak only education. If
the angle of my shoulders in the shadow cast fear, let my
subjunctive mood spread subjective truth till the only
question left is when. If my existence can only be
bought through the obliteration of an ideal,
then just this once let the children live.
The Study of Salvation
I wake up the day after the Rapture, my body still on earth.
Neither the animal nor the sin.
I sing in empty choir lofts, shoulders bared with no one to see.
I cut my own hair and do not lose my strength, though I find myself hunched over the drain
days later, scooping up scraps of what I used to be.
I hang every flower I find upside down to dry, knowing that weeks will pass and I will find
the petals covered in mould.
I never believed in myself, either.
Some days, I am glad it is too late for conversion. That it is too late to rise from dust to glory.
Every echo faithful still.
The sun has never once known reason.
Still, at night, I dream of Eden.