writings from in-between

somethings by Zeny

Some Sundry

by May Dy

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It’s been five months since I last wrote here. And, admittedly, my last post was rather… angry and convoluted. I wonder what had prompted me to write that. Well, everyday used to be a Sunday night for me, which means “used to be strange, unstable, with me angry over everything and nothing.” I like to think I’ve gone past that now. Though I haven’t transcended it yet because waves of anger still return to me during moments of carelessness in restraining the memories that slip into my mind. I was depressed and disliked how some people put down depressed individuals and mocked their grief.

In the rare instances that I look back, it comes as a surprise how I accomplished so much despite my inconvenient disposition (my mother often complained about my negativity, she didn’t get that it was my way of keeping myself in check, so I was merely being cynical). It helped to have to do things that I love and to write what I truly cared about. Some say that it’s the discipline and time alone that makes good writing, and I can’t find any situation or statement to say otherwise.

A lot of things have happened in five months. It was revealed to me that I apparently did, by my standards at least, very well in college (which, to me, was unexpected). Then again, I would’ve done those things with as much gusto for almost nothing. It may be hard to believe but I love to work because it makes me forget whatever it is that is hurting or worrying me, it suspends time. There was a lull post-graduation and a week of utter panic and fear that I may never find a job. Acts which proved to be stupid because after that, the projects came in and now I’ll probably have enough to see me through to next year.

People came and went. But I mostly had to say goodbye and burn bridges. New things came and I’m opening my metaphorical door once more.

The picture up there expresses my anticipation for change or for something good to come my way. I think. Not that nothing good has come yet, but, yes, I still dream and hope that I’ll be better. No matter how dark the place you’re in, you have to hope.

The Unimportance of “Shape-Shifting”

by May Dy

I admit that I don’t really understand what it means when people refer to artists (of all sorts and colors) as “shape-shifters”. It’s true that an artist can cross genres, they most certainly take on a variety of issues and subject matters, use all sorts of media, and move back and forth from one art-form to another, but essentially they remain the same, at least corporeally and, to an extent, temperamentally.

I understand the expression that the artist wears many hats, but the expression and idea of shape-shifting, particularly as a term associated with artists and craft or practice, come across as something that an artist does to keep him/herself relevant and to keep his/her works bankable. And the thing is, if you have something to say, whether it be personal or some grand narrative on the spirit of our times, then that something will matter whether the market laps up your opus or not. It will matter across cultures and generations. I think that besides creating an impressive work, what is more important is that people (viewers and readers) of different orientations will find companionship in your works, that they can and will identify with it. A work that reminds you of a certain period without mentioning or showing it blatantly, that does not only show you back but takes you there and makes you feel it. And that time past echoes on the time present (not literally)— companionship.

Shape-shifting is unimportant as an act, a term, even as a concept, because it merely follows changes through time without recognizing its past (which it might identify as dated and irrelevant) in an attempt to relate to its audience. The works it produces are dry and sterile. It cares not for continuity, producing works that more often than not do not last, and content only with temporary relevance (perhaps profit, but who am I to speak of that). Here, I think that the emergence of this concept is also symptomatic of the kind of people we have today, how their minds are not cultivated but contrived, spoon-fed.

What is more important, I think, is to be a constant voice while trying to touch upon certain things, this and that. To try to be less gimmicky, to be more stately. Sometimes, I dream of singular stone monuments instead of glass-and-light towers; to be unwavering in the dark is more of freedom to me than flight and transformations.

2013: the Year of Intoxicated Love Letters

by May Dy

This is my first time to actually look back and reflect on a year about to pass. I haven’t given much thought to something like this before, and it’s harder than it seems to be. 

2013 has been a rough year but a lot of good things happened too. Though I wasn’t able to publish in any of the journals I submitted to, I had the motivation and opportunity to print and sell my own works.

I realized that my cynical outlook and pessimistic attitude was not a characteristic but a problem. Couple that with the youthful folly of exaggerating a moment of pain against many, small moments of happiness.

That said, I’m really happy and thankful to have kind and good friends. This year I really think that our bonds have strengthened. I’m especially thankful to D.S. who assured me that if I wanted to talk he’d always be there. Also, this year my cat and I have reached a deeper level of friendship. Before, he was just a stray who slept in our storage and whom I fed some left overs. This year, we have accepted him as pet and part of the family, complete with his own food bowls, litter box, bell collar, and the same storage space where he still sleeps. Sometimes, we allow him inside the house to cuddle on the couch, but he never learned how to bathe so we keep that minimal. I like to pet him a lot, though, and he seems to like it too.

It goes without saying that my family is a blessing. I don’t get along with them sometimes, but they continue to tolerate my miserable moods and sour episodes. Also, my nephew, secret agent cool boy.

I’m also thankful for the person who tried to help me and who has helped me in countless ways before. I know I refused the help, perhaps a bad decision, as some teachings— Jewish and Confucian— have suggested. But I hope that he understands that I want to be independent and help myself first. I know I have the strength and ability to do it on my own. While it’s true that “to love at all is to be vulnerable”, says C.S. Lewis, I don’t think vulnerability is the only way to love, true or otherwise. If he, for some miraculous reason reads this: I’m sorry for the intoxicated love letters, my lewdness and my pride, my wash-pish attitude, and the confusion I caused (granted, you paid attention and still remember. If not, then well…good!).  

Finally, this year really tested my belief that being kind is the most important thing. I’ve encountered people who really got into my nerves, people who felt a strong sense of entitlement, who were rude and didn’t deserve my being polite to them let alone my respect. I tried very hard and I’m still at awe when I think about those times I was about to snap but didn’t. I suppose I should give myself a pat on the back for great restraint in terms of rage management.  

I think that each passing year and life as a whole is simply one great variation piece, music that plays upon repetition and symmetrical inversions. And I think that this turn, from 2013 to 2014 (what is time but a construct, too), will be significant in my growth as a person. I’m really looking forward on to the coming year, especially because big things will be happening.

Updates from the Work-Shelf

by May Dy

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And I suppose this is my Achilles Heel (or Crotch?): even when I say “work”, I still can’t help but incorporate aspects of my personal life.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, letting those two seemingly separate worlds (work life and personal life) overlap and intertwine. Then again, a lot of aspects in my life aren’t hard-set. Rather, they’re fluid— subject to abrupt change, and constantly moving.

But I just remembered what my good friend Enzo had remarked (we were talking about a different person, though): for some people work is life and work is personal. So, let’s work with that.

1. As I’ve previously mentioned in my post “Haul Out”, I’ve begun a new page which serves as a repository/gallery called May Dy. If the things I’ve posted tickles your fancy or you simply like what I’m doing (well, what are the odds?), a “Like” would be most appreciated. If things go well in the long shot, I might also begin accepting commissions for photographs and writings. (I’m working on some illustrations too. But seeing that I’m a bit rusty, that might take some eight weeks more to work on.) Aside from the Facebook page, my working “portfolio” published at Asian Cha“Government Office Topography”, might interest you too.  As you will notice, I have a proclivity for black&white (it is easier to work with and produces dramatic effects). Thanks in advance for the view/appreciation/Like. :-)

2. I Googled my name, and while my computer didn’t melt (not like in M.G. Martin’s poem, ‘casserole of the sensual parts’), I did find a review of Eastern Heathens where my short story “The Great Disappearing Act” appeared.

3. It’s also pleasant news that besides working for The Manila Review, I also just found out that I had been accepted at the Roberto M. Lopez Conservation Center at the Lopez Museum. At the same time, I do have these jitters especially when I try to calculate the odds of me becoming exhausted by graduation time. I do have a lot on my plate right now: thesis, (trying to look nice just because), two jobs, and an ongoing application to two universities for graduate studies (with scholarship applications to boot). But I suppose that I deserve to suffer an academic surfeit, especially with what I made myself go through months and years before. Not that my work-life wasn’t fantastic before, but it seems that the things I want work-wise are easier to achieve than, say, getting a smile or some affirmative words from someone who matters a lot to me. (Who matters so much, I am fooled into “love”.)

Sigh.

I suppose that’s all for now.

Haul Out

by May Dy

It just might be that I’m restless or I can say that I’m trying to streamline my online output. But I decided to open up a page for my photos and short writings. It’s so easy to say that this is a brand building exercise but I don’t mind if I just have 30 people who like the page (and all of them know me personally already). Also, I’m seeking a minimalistic way to present my thoughts (plus photos, because I like taking them as much as the next guy or gal). In my two blogs, I tend to write very long winded things. I suppose, so far, what’s really working for me is the FB page and twitter. (But I tend to become very silly in twitter.)

Hah, okay, so what I’m trying to say after all that is, if you’re interested and find the page pleasant enough, please “like” it.

I’ll still be posting here on WordPress (and RedRoom) from time to time. So I suppose, nothing will be deleted or abandoned. These blogs are, after all, personal archives and part of a continuing personal history.

(Whether all this will be of significance in the future, I suppose the point of writing so much is to assert the significance of the things I believe in and what I can put out here.)

by May Dy

undas2011 008

The leaves of plants reflected in the glass are imposed upon my nephew’s face looking out the window. (Magnus Amadeo, 2y/o; Undas 2011; Iba, Zambales)

Lovers

by May Dy

Ms. D and Mr. F

Mr. F met Ms. D in the middle of a street party on New Year’s Eve. There were no firecrackers that year but music blared from the outdoor speakers. And when he wanted her to hear him out, they shut their mouths and listened to their eyes instead.

They knew two things: they liked each other very much and they will never be together. The latter they discovered by looking beyond each other’s shoulders.

After their meeting, Mr. F sat down on his desk and began writing stories, putting into print the essence of Ms. D. He constructed her entire (imagined) life out of inky ribbons and tree pulp. He never got up again for the next 40 years, much to his wife’s dismay.

Ms. D sat down too, and began taking in clothes with tears in them from her brothers, uncles, her father, and later on, from her husband and her children. Sewing those tears she wished it was Mr. F’s.

She also knew of Mr. F’s writings and how he became famous with it. But she would never believe it was about her. She never made anyone, not even herself, famous for anything. Even then, she bought all his books and leafed through the newspapers. She followed his life,

Until much, much later she reached the author’s profile, the obituaries. She would never have enough of him (in print form).

But he’d departed very quietly, on his desk, working through her entire imagined life. She missed it the way most of us missed the sunset that came through our windows.

 

Irene and Michael

She entered the cool, musty bookshop to hide from the heat. Upon the threshold, a book very familiar caught her eye. Of course, she said to herself, of course. Upon the threshold, in the coolness, the confidence in her disappeared.

Hello, said a woman from behind the counter covered in books. How may I help you? She had such warm eyes.

How much is this one?

The woman stood up and said, 220. She added: You know I know the author and I think he’ll be back in a few. He can give you a note if you want.

She looked at the first page. There, on the corner, he signed his name in a script she didn’t know he could do. No, thank you, she replied. He signed his name, you see, and that’s enough for me.

The one who stayed smiled at her and nodded. She paid then walked out, took a conscious effort not to look up or look back. She concentrated on her shoes, size five, brown leather. She had such small feet. In the heat, tiny drops of rain (so tiny they could only fall on her) fell on her shoes.

Back at the bookshop, the author came back to his wife with a bag of take-out lunch. Together, they ate.

 

Ray and Kay

As far as the shaky hand of Fate was concerned, the fact that their names rhymed was enough reason for them to be together and never part.

Shaky Fate will tell you that he paired people for the littlest and stupidest reasons. Live with it, child.

But what He won’t tell us (and what we probably wouldn’t be able to live with) is this: even without Chance or Fate’s hand, we can go for rhyming souls.

Ray and Kay went for full rhymes, no less. But

Ray went ahead into the dark. Kay, who was left behind, offered full meals, boiled eggs, and beer to his picture, believing that Ray was only on a ride to the after-life. What kind of vehicle he took, she wasn’t quite sure.

 She used to write him long letters and she did so even after his death. Feeling lonely, she wrote to him while he slept in his grave. And sometimes—though she wished it didn’t happen at all—he would respond and happily write about the neighborhood underground. I can’t wait to have you here, he wrote. And she responded: yes, yes.

 

Joseph and Candy

St. Louis Blues’ Sol Hoopii played inside their room. Joseph knelt before his wife Candy, whose right leg had recently been amputated due to gangrene—it began as a wound infection. They were on vacation when Candy met an accident. They didn’t blame anyone or each other for the neglect done to her body. And tonight, he was dressing her wound.

Candy remarked that their sheets, the curtains, their room smelled like pastries. Joseph replied: It’s your wound. They smiled.

She had her eyes closed as her husband attended to her. She touched his head, rumpled his hair. You remind me so much of daddy, she said. He didn’t say anything; he poured hydrogen peroxide on the wound. They could hear, beneath Sol Hoopii, the sizzling, crackling sounds her wound made. The drone to the melody.

Your father’s left foot got amputated in an accident too, he said. His brow was furrowed. She smoothed the creases on her husband’s face with her thumb. Yes, she said, come to think of it, with my right leg gone we’re more of a family than we’ve ever been.

He nodded, continued to dress her wound. The music stopped and nothing followed.

 

Penny and Turnip

She was Penny and she called him Turnip because he was bone-white as white as a mother’s newly washed blankets drying under summer. How would it be if he could cover and embrace her like those blankets, and fill her with a kind of warmth she hadn’t known before.

He was Turnip and he called her Penny because she worked at her father’s store, behind the cash register and she had eyes like coin slots. Many nights he lay under a water-stained ceiling, thinking of her: a body of coin slots ready to take in pieces of himself.

Turnip and Penny were spent waiting for the right moment. Nights were spent looking into the mirror, telling oneself: It will never happen. A proclamation that weighed heavy on the tongue, heavier than the names they gave each other.

(c) Zeny May Dy Recidoro

Writing Short (but, hopefully, not selling my writings short)

by May Dy

I have an upcoming workshop at my writing club and I’m nervous. Though I may not look it. On this blog, I’ll be tackling on that piece and… other things. Like, what direction I think my writing has taken.  Ways of further improving what I’ve decided to do with my free time on this earth before dying.

Lately, I’ve been writing short pieces. I distinguish this from the poems I write on the basis of having a linear narrative (beginning and end) and some dialogue (but without the quotation marks). The workshop piece began as a series of poems, set-pieces about different lover tropes. Or at least I think they’re tropes. One of my friends think I just write from-cute-to-creepy type of pieces. Which I suppose is my real personality type (Cute-to-Creepy).

But I came to a point where I found that my ideas weren’t fit as poems but as “flash fiction” or extremely short fiction. And that’s what the piece “Lovers” actually is, a set of short short stories.

What’s difficult to pinpoint is the shift from poetry to fiction. I could even say that my supposed fiction pieces in “Lovers” are actually prose-poems…

One thing’s for sure though, the workshop piece is not a clear-cut work. It deals with being in-between. Whether “being in-between” has something to do with love or lovers, I’m not quite sure yet.

 

Also, I still haven’t pinpointed out if my writing of extremely short pieces is a cop out. I can’t sustain the traditional form of fiction. Moreover, I don’t get the point of a formulaic and theory-bound work. Again, I don’t look like a rule-breaker, but all the same, I don’t get why I should limit myself to a set of rules.

I mean, to live a life or write “along the lines” is all so boring and dry. Couldn’t there be works that are formed and governed by some internal or personal philosophy? I think it’s characteristic of my generation to simply regard set-rules and form without idea or content. Or if there’s content, it’s all so highly sanitized and… somewhat generic. Like we’re writing for people who don’t want to think. I can’t understand “digestible material”, the endpoint of literature isn’t supposed be shit.  And, for all the concern with political and grammatical correctness, most of us might encounter more shitty writings than good ones. Even worse, we might take shitty writing as good writing.

I have friends who tell me rules are important, and I think they are. I mean, for someone with OCD, my life is ruled with rules. But having a convenient disorder doesn’t mean I should be ruled solely by that. Other aspects of my personality makes me seek out other things, I like challenges and explorations. I don’t eschew imposing structures, the “scaffolding to which we can cling”, but I’m not a rabid fan of imposing structures either.

I suppose, like in all things, I seek to balance things out. While I don’t want to be a hard-sell, I don’t want to be a show-off either. Whether I succeed in balancing out technique and expression is something worth questioning for the next fifty years or so. Whether I’ll stop writing within ten years is highly debatable.

 

There is only one thing I know of myself: I wouldn’t trade my colorful secret life for a life “along the lines”.

bumbling around

by May Dy

my day started out pretty nice.

i had a nice breakfast.

my brother drove me to school, so i didn’t have to spend fare.

but then things began to go awry.

it turned out that i had an exam for baroque art and i completely forgot about it.

WELP!

“zeny, did you study hard?” my classmate asked me, innocently.

“uh, why?” i asked

“we have an exam today!” another classmate announced.

oooooh nooooo

“um, yeah,” i replied.

it’s a good thing i read notes and readings to pass time.

the exam turned out to be a really fun one, as i’d expect from my professor.

each student had to get a miniature lunchbox (which came in different colors!) and inside these miniatures were little alphabet flashcards. each one had to think of a term connected to baroque art for each letter. and there were two wild cards.

i actually had a ball thinking up of terms for the letters. i challenged my vocabulary and at the same time was able to use background knowledge in history. my terms weren’t limited to medium, technique, and the names of artists. just as well, because my professor instructed to include events and places.

i finished early. but not because the process of thinking up terms was easy but because i really needed to pee. i had been holding my urge for an hour.

for another class, we saw legally blonde the musical.

after that, i lunched with two good friends, ellie and aren.

to top it all off, my day ended early!

tomorrow, i’m expecting to be beat and stressed again. but, oh well, that’s what tuesdays and thursdays are.

Re-learning

by May Dy

Just a few minutes ago, I took a notebook from my stock-pile and began re-learning how to write and pronounce Chinese characters.

I began my first lessons tad too late. I was in grade six and, if I’m correct, my mother planned for me to take high school at either Manila Science or Chiang Kai Shek High school. At that time, I was taking advanced science and math classes, as well as Mandarin lessons. She bought me books, audio tapes, and dictionaries. But for some reason, I just didn’t manage to learn a substantial amount of Mandarin.  I just couldn’t bring myself to learn the language then.

As for my mother’s plans for me to go through high school at Manila Science, it didn’t happen for the simple reason that she was so busy with work that we didn’t make it to the application deadline.  I don’t know if I would’ve made it, anyway. I can only imagine what my life must be like if I did. I’d have probably followed my mom’s dream for me to become a doctor or an economist. Things which I know I wouldn’t be able to do at least until the next life. I’d probably poster-girl for the smart, loveless Asian with a high-paying, stable job and a decidedly boring life in some bland but functional city.

I passed through high school without ever picking up my Mandarin books. I can’t say my interest in my mother’s heritage waned but there were other things. Besides, I wasn’t a part of that community, I was an outsider, why would I be invested? I had Filipino-Chinese friends, sure, but I was tied to them for reasons beyond blood or language.

But thinking about it now, after having written “I”, “you”, and “we” in small but sturdy characters, I think I was pushed to learning the “old language” (among other things) because my mother had a secret wish.

I refuse to think that my mother had always been this stern, pragmatic, emotion-less career woman who never cried (even when her husband insulted her for years, then left her for obscure reasons). She has love and hope and maybe even sadness within her. I suppose that, by almost forcing her children to learn things beyond what is being taught to us in classrooms, she could at least hope that through us, she wouldn’t lose her connection to her ancestors.

When my mother spoke about her childhood in her ancestral home in Bicol, built in the same manner that Chinese houses in Manila were built, I could sense bittersweet pain. As if she tried to make sense of the meaningless losses in her family. I suppose, each family have their own tragedies. But no tragedy is any less than the other.

And, much as I don’t like to think about it, these tragedies are part of my personal history. I think this is what compels me most of all to learn a language that was never a part of me. Never part of me in the sense that it was no longer part of my grandfather ever since he decided to leave the old country and, in effect, leave the past behind.  A past and a story that for some reason, we keep coming back to, even if only as outsiders.

My mother wants, through her children perhaps, to re-connect to the voice, language, and life that she lost during her childhood, when her grandparents, the last connection to the old country, died. I think I keep coming back to these calligraphy exercises, not to be able to show off, but because I’d like to keep that connection alive even though by blood it’s already “watered down”.

And while trying to re-learn and re-connect with this maternal past, I feel like a phony in my own skin. I’m neither that or this. If I tried to belong once more into the Chinese community, though I’m still a lannang, I’m a half-blooded one, more like a huanna. I cannot be though I try to be. But I’m not quite Filipino either, not by habit, even belief, and perhaps not by appearance (though I can’t fully trust what the mirror shows me).

I still hope for that day when I simply declare to myself, “Oh, I’m this,” without feeling insecure or unsure of my decision. Who knew Being was so hard? Some of us just go through life accepting what people label us to be or would rather not think about Being.

But I think of myself as someone who is more aware or sensitive of things within and outside myself. I cannot take steps without being sure where those steps might lead me. Sometimes I do make mistakes, but I don’t regret them. I believe each step is in the right direction. If I failed myself, I just have to re-trace my steps, learn and unlearn, re-learn again.

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