Jose Luis Pablo
My therapist says I practice my pain too often,
bulking up the neural network in my quivering hands.
He likens it to instinct, response, lightning reflex
of a pianist whose keys are extensions of his hands.
I’ve nurtured this suffering nature through the years.
Every sissy bakla lampa would curl my prayer hands.
Every string to hang my boy-neck bundled into nerves.
Now they have morphed into a pair of muscled hands.
Pain is a piano I play to accompany childhood ghosts.
Sometimes biology cannot out-evolve time and its hands.
When my confessor told me to put up my fists,
mimic a man through shadow boxing, I heard hand
over the stick to self-effacement. But I’ve earned enough bruises.
I've chosen to play another game. I’ve learned to deal this hand.
A toast to you, queer boy, to stripping in the moonlight,
to drawing your future from the lines of other boys’ hands.
You are the pianist. Your greatest song is your life,
dear nancy boy, you right the score with your hands.
Jose Luis "Nico" Pablo is a Filipino writer and communications manager for a non-profit. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines Diliman. His work has been published in "Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature," "Cordite Poetry Review" (Australia), "Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine" (Hong Kong), and is forthcoming from "The Queer Movement Anthology of Literatures" and "Busilak: New LGBTQ poetry from the Philippines." He has won awards from the Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Literary Contest and the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature and was longlisted for the 2020 Alpine Fellowship.