Your Woman

at any given moment
your woman is by the sea
she finds the change in colours
in the ground-down shells and stones
like you
her spectrum tinted gray and blue
for safety
with the occasional green
a reminder to be here now
and breathe
(cue breath)
your woman
is dead-set
on not dying
having lived too many decades
just surviving
east of the islands flipped upside-down
lost in snow-capped peaks
to never be found

your woman
is a 90s child
from a suggestive era of inaction
whose peacetime could never sedate
the restlessness
the war going on behind
closed doors & drawn venetian blinds
shadows cast on her innocent eyes
forever burned into her mind
your woman
is reckless
sometimes fearless
having looked back never to live through it
it is 1986
and she finds no ignorance
in bliss

your woman
is never behind the wheel
she won’t slow down in playground zones
when her playground
is made of sharp rocks beneath a gorge
hopping the dry parts on wet land
driftwood and sun-faded boughs
she scans responsibly
from left to right
right to left
for potential hazards
a new driver
and a primitive beachcomber
your woman
is a land-locked mermaid
halfway to legally blind
blinking out the blurry spots
in her viewfinder
she looks out at the white for the horizon
while the darkroom in her mind discards slides

your woman is light on her feet
on the gray patches amid the greens
in an endless maze of roots and trees
at her thighs and knees with you
or else, she longs to be
a shoreline
between your sheets
thirsty, running warm and wet
and tamed by deepened breath
she is wilderness, embodied
ready for you to get lost in
hungry for a love that lends itself to possession
surrendering to your every need
she is a canvas and a garden
begging for your seed
your woman
she is yours to keep
if you venerate her

your woman
wolf and lioness
her face is framed in golden threads
smelling of sunshine
stardust and sweat
a younger woman
getting older
six years and an hour behind
but what does it matter
when you lose all sense of time
when you're with her?

on a sunday afternoon
your woman is by the sea
chasing the glow of an overcast sky
embedded in an overhang
high as mountains
and never felt so alive
she grows
when her world feels too small
mighty next to crashing waves
and tiny standing tall
her rosewood limbs heavy
and carefully etched
with hieroglyphics
telling legends long before her time
wide eyes
shining with fire crackle
and slow exhales
with the ocean tide

go ahead
say it darling
“this wild woman
she is mine”

© Mary dela Torre, 2017

first week of university

“what’s on your mind, mary?”

but by everything i mean
the important things
let me break that down a little more
and how there’s never enough of it
and how i have enough
but it doesn’t feel like it
and how I’m giving off the same intensity
as the 4000 other humans here
just trying to figure it out
clenched fists and a painfully open heart
challenged and exhausted
pushed and prodded in ways
my brain and soul didn’t know
they could stretch

seminars that boil my blood the way
only my family did
and they break me down
from the inside out
the way they told me having children did.

this is my reconstruction
delayed a few years
but i took the time
to design
a master plan.
this is what education is supposed to be
and ultimately
40 hours a week of shots
to the heart.
the brain comes second
regardless of your discipline
even if thats the muscle worked
those neurons firing
mean nothing
unless you’ve shed some blood.

not meant to condescend
but to help me ascend
above concepts.
echoing the questions
I’ve been asking over and over
to boxes and talking faces
just waiting for their turn to scream back
i was so tired
of typing into boxes
words on a screen were not enough
to make the difference
my heart
in that order
are living here
and now
to create.

i didn’t survive the kind of fear
that makes it impossible to hear
anything beyond
what i think
they’re saying
just so i could show up here
another island away
to give this another shot
with half my heart
i sped through 18-25
barely alive
trying to kill everyone on the road
as i ran myself over
just to feel
my beating heart.

now my pulse is racing
in any given hour
of every day
Facebook asks me
“whats on your mind, mary?”
and i say everything
not everything meaning nothing
because now i mean what i say
everything meaning
the important things.

blood pressure rising
waistline bursting
acne finds its way
all over my face
far more than the guy I’ve chosen to date
there is not enough time in the day
to live the way I’ve been living
i didn’t need a bump in my stomach
a planted seed to show me
life is precious
i just needed to find
the value of my life

and now as I’m riding
this interconnected web of highways
not from the unlicensed speeding driver’s seat
but as a lifelong passenger
i don’t complain about the traffic anymore
because i realize this road
is an expressway
and someone else’s pain
paid my tolls

the weight
the pressure
the pain for once
is not just mine
intergenerational expectation and my unshaken desire
to disprove the Myths

this is a first world expressway
learning through education
this is what it should be
and if I’m going to figure it out this way
may i never forget
what it took
to walk these hallways
eat this shitty campus food
and engage
in these boundary-pushing conversations
that break me from the inside out
so my indigenous classmates can find
their home
and heal
one layer at a time

so if Facebook is asking
this is how my first week of university is going so far

© Mary dela Torre, 2017


there is a cure
for every ail
in the ocean
my broken skin
and battered heart
floating back to the surface
so i can live

on the days when i
had nothing left to give
the ocean made me new again
buffing and exfoliating
all my dying and dried-out
rough parts
the ones no one wanted to
clean up or hold

on the days
when i couldn’t help but be
too much
when i drowned the ones i love
in melancholic waves
even the strongest swimmers
couldn't ride

and when the day came
when the sunshine
the sativa
and the salty ocean tide
were not enough
i looked into your ocean eyes
and found a cure
for every ail
my broken skin
and battered heart
floated back to the surface
and i lived

© Mary dela Torre, 2017


with the return of the rain comes the return of a part of myself i can’t quite put my finger on.
it goes by many names,
and forms,
it sounds and looks ever-nondescript and
had i not drawn attention to it being gone
i never would’ve known it was missing
at all.
it’s nothing and yet
an essential part of myself.

i’ve never once believed in coincidences.
not as a child when no adult had time for my inexperience and
no child had the experience for my maturity.
not throughout the majority of my life
existing painstakingly
through drab, thirsty days
turned years
doing what i thought i was supposed to do
by everyone else’s schedule
always too late and too busy doing
in a world where connections
to be made.
and not now
after nine months of living on an island
a floating bed of quartz
where people come to heal
and discover
that everyone
is crazy.
certainly not now
after nine months of living in a lush and liberal microcosm where
is connected
to everything.
it is not a coincidence
that the rain returned
on the same day my menses did after nearly
three years without it.
synthetic hormones have made for
at the cost
of an essential part of myself.

i have lost touch
with what womanhood feels like
just like this summer
this re-working of my life
into a predictable grind
boiled down
my creativity
into frustration.
all these ups and downs
left me doubting
i could make anything of myself worth keeping.
it made me forget how magical
those nights in the hemingway cabin were
the rain pounding on the tin roof overhead
the way poetry moved out of me like
if all my systems worked
the way i trained myself out of fear
of the night
of sounds
of quiet
the fear which paralyzed me
that made me afraid of cities and love
of being touched and daring
to leave more than a fingerprint
no matter how many traces of myself
i left in hotel rooms
and next to bunk beds.
always alone.
I’ve only ever felt lost
next to people
isolated in swarms
of crowds
but alone
I’ve always felt whole.

hairline needles
sucking life from dried-out lakes
gently nudging elbow rivers
to stir
then crawl
then walk
then run
from my limb to limb.
in drops.
stained with blood and aching
and fear
and worry
and finally
my time here is ending.
i will migrate from one rented space to another
and my home
will change shape
occupying space in my mind and daytimer
with the things I’m supposed to do
on my own schedule
in tune with my body’s clock.
I’ll leave more than a fingerprint behind where i lay
even if the ocean tide
washes it away
nine months
was just long enough
for my fragile, infantile soul to stay.

with the return of the rain comes the return of
an essential part of myself.
the part of me
who was
brave enough to leave the rat race,
intuitive enough to gravitate
toward a floating bed of quartz,
bold enough to find a place to live here,
and crazy enough
to stay.
it is nothing
and it is wholeness
the life-raft on which
I'll float away.

© Mary dela Torre, 2017

a decade in the next room

you are
cigarette kisses and morning coffee
finding words to fit in spaces
not even in your own language

you are
the way my heart rests in chords
strummed on an acoustic guitar
songs about falling in love
even though i wonder
if you ever did

you are
a voice i cannot forget
speaking and singing
words i repeat in a language
i do understand

you are
the storm
the unpredictable disasters
that make people fear
and make people love

you are
half of me
the first love of my life
and at the core
of my last

you are
always with me
fifteen years in speckled flesh
and a decade in the next room

you are
my father
and i don’t need a hallmark holiday
to love you

happy father’s day

© Mary dela Torre, 2017

a letter to my last glass of wine

I didn't miss you.
I didn't miss this sinking feeling
of the opposite of forever
time and eternity closing in
and swallowing me in between
the caving walls.

I've been fine without you.
The hairline pokes
have lifted my temple pain
in waves of pleasant cold
while the ganja sends warm
gentle waves down my spine
slowing my panicked heart and
warming me better than any
electric blanket on sale.

$1 off Wednesdays were a big mistake
'cause a glass of unoaked chardonnay
was all it took to make
the demons come back again.
Really I've been okay
and I could've had a fine night
without thinking about forgiveness
and how hard it is
scrolling through the 'online' list
only to decide
that no one will care enough to listen.

In the same second I ache for all
my past injustices
I go unblocking to create danger
and swiping right for suspense
this is old-fashioned loneliness
repackaged by fashionable brands
Recognize a Facebook status as
the means to an end
But they never expect it from me

Only the ones who once
sat across from me at the table
or even took the bill
In a past life know how much I didn't miss you
how I never liked you to begin with
they'd probably be pleased to know
that I've been getting on my own
but they're grateful for the mountains
between us to keep themselves
sober or dead
they've had enough long ago

© Mary dela Torre, 2017


all my friends are photographers
at least the ones
I grew up with
who grew some measure of respect
for the arts
in our millennial
they all seem to have a good eye
for the same
I love them
my photographer friends
I just wish they could see things
from a wider perspective
shine a light
on repetition
less for the need to be exposed
and instead for the sake
of shooting more
than meets the eye

© Mary dela Torre, 2017

That One Time...

who rehearses what to say
for the impossible day
they meet their heroes?
(I don't)

irritatingly tied
there's nothing poetic about
being starstruck
just a bunch of screaming-

lately I haven't been complaining
but there was more Magic in the Lake
than I realized
I have words for most
but last night I could only find knots in my throat
who rehearses what to say
for the impossible day
they meet their heroes?
(I sure as hell don't)

© Mary dela Torre, 2017

Oh, What a Woman

this woman is a storm
she's been here
when the house looks like a tornado ran through it
the explosion on the floor says
"I don't wanna go home"
not because she's unhappy
but because
it isn't easy
and she's sick of being lonely
embracing bad weather
with a smiling, sunny demeanour
this woman is always tired
she drinks a river of coffee each morning
and moves from corner to corner
of a city with unpredictable weather
she flutters between the present and the past
speaking of the future
this woman is a still a daughter
with no desire to be a mother
she's been here since her house looked like
a tornado ran through it
so now she moves through temporary spaces
making them clean
en route
to a permanent home
she's headed out tomorrow
even though she's tired
this woman wanders
and she's a fighter
oh, what a woman

© Mary dela Torre, 2017

The View

Tell me about the view
Tell me about the view from the kitchen out to the harbour
Tell me about the view from the kitchen out to the harbour you just stepped outside to get closer to
Tell me about the view

Tell me about
blue-green reflections of the soft ombre in the sky
the cotton-candy clouds tucked in behind
lilac and azure from right to left
papaya and rose on the left, far left
dipping behind the hill across the water
hiding amidst hollow trees
birdsong, sunset at 7:43

Tell me about the view you can’t see
Tell me about the view

Tell me about the view on the other side of the Island
Tell me about the fire in the sky
Tell me about the one small corner of a view on the other side of the island
visible through a kitchen window
as two tired parents
serve dinner behind schedule
the kids are restless and month-end was stressful
nature’s living masterpiece, outside

Tell me what that kitchen window’s good for
if not for noticing
spring Saturday sunsets
out of crackled stain-glass
Tell me what’s the use
of a million-dollar house with a view
if you can’t tell me about the view
you can see
So I’ll tell you about mine

I’ll tell you about my view from a lawn chair on the balcony
I’ll tell you about my view out to the harbour I can see
my view out to the harbour I can see from the kitchen
my view out to the harbour I can see from the kitchen all the way out to the other side of the water
I’ll tell you about reflections of a sunset on the west side of the Island
that people are ogling
or ignoring
I’ll tell you about the last bird songs and the old, breezy cedar gently brushing against the side of the roof
I’ll tell you about the sound of the neighbours playing violin in their garage
and the hum of the occasional car
rolling on
past the no-exit sign
I can tell you all about mine

I can tell you
that even without a “sunset view”
I have something to look at
something to feel
something to appreciate
and something to tell you about

Let me tell you
there’s nowhere else in the world
quite like this

© Mary dela Torre, 2017

Warrior Soul

I have one heart
and it’s survived a few wars already
and what’s my money
besides a pile of plastic chips
my family’s going to hold after I’m gone
to test their hate for each other
long after they forget the sound of my voice
and my body’s in the ground

Let it all burn
my last lash, dollar, and cent
and honour my soul

That’s the warrior in me
the part that fought to never give up
after 518 days
of more failure than not

© Mary dela Torre, 2017


(post-workshop exercise, descriptive poetry)

cerulean to shades of gold
smooth straw
smelling of campfire and
the kisses of a 5 month-old mutt
unadulterated love & unbridled joy
tucked behind my ear
and flaring gently like calm
ocean waves at my shoulders
spring is coming
but I’ve already caught a blazing
sunset and the flicker of fireflies
between strands
wearing the wildness of summer
in my hair

© Mary dela Torre, 2017

After Love

Who was I
before I fell in love?
I ask myself that
after I’ve decided I’ve written enough poems
about my ex the coke-addicted thief
or the abusive narcissist before him
The one before him makes me
hate myself for being so naive
to want to love a man just like my father
Yet he’s the only one who didn’t lie
Who was I
before I fell in love
with men
with their members
or myself?
I’m drawing a blank
because I loved living
the way I love all good things
before I knew my life was just a series
of dangerous things
Who am I
after falling in love?

© Mary dela Torre, 2017


I can’t remember
about the first time
I fell in love
because I loved places & things
long before people
I didn’t know what love was
before I saw it
breaking glasses
screaming profanities
or pushing a woman against a wall
turns out
I did feel love before
that woman was my mother
or I felt it pushing
up against my walls
I knew and felt love
before euphoria could be dangerous
dopamine could be a drug or
could be violent
The first time never matters
not for love
for sex
or for anything else good in this world
that broken people
are always breaking
The best things that matter
are what you can remember
and the worst
are the things
you can’t forget

© Mary dela Torre, 2017


The birds aren’t s’posed to sing at night
but it’s 9:39
and I swear I heard the birds
It wasn’t just because I had been singing a song myself in tune
for the first time since my early 20s and its late at night for me

I looked up at the sky
and it glittered like I was in the middle of a snowglobe
but they painted the outside walls with glue
and rolled the whole world in stars
It’s stopped snowing now
One last fall
to end them all for this season
I was just a child
arranged to marry winter
long before I’d feel the heat of the sun
toasting my skin from
golden honey to chai brown
and I loved it
I never thought I’d curse the sight
of flurries in late February
not until I decided
I would only marry for love

I stopped singing
I’m only thinking
I never stop thinking and I learned to control my thoughts
so that thinking so much isn’t much too much anymore
(but who’s asking anyway?)
On the wall
the fireplace is humming
the tip of my pen
scratching on paper
I pretend I’ll be calm
if scratching on my roof or inside my walls
interrupts the silence tonight
I said these walls are mine but that’s
my second lie
Across my chest it says
“Every space is rented and we live on borrowed time”
and I wrote that on the floor of a bathroom
between four more walls
which, were also
not mine

And with every passing second
I’m running out of time
but I only ever have
for it to be too little
or too much
so I’d rather take 20 minutes
to talk about
the stars
and how they glow like
the universe belongs to me
and it’s shining for only me to see
and it’s foolish
but so is hearing the birds at night
not the owls
the ones who always sing in tune
in the mornings when I’d rather sleep
even though 9:59 has gotten late for me

I dragged my feet
this whole winter
as night got longer and days got emptier
and I did everything I could to make it go faster
but the days were too long and the nights,
don’t even get me started on silence
when all I ever wanted - 

I didn’t learn how to stop time
Or how to stop worrying about it
Only that nothing and nobody
is ever mine

So when I swear the birds are singing
at 10:09
I’ll take the interruption
the reminder that magic
still lives in the sky
even if all of it
is only in my mind

© Mary dela Torre, 2017

Power's Out

Friday night by candlelight
has never felt so right
softly glowing
gentle flickers in the silence

I can’t hide from it anymore
I can’t block out the very stillness
that I came out here for
the distractions
tonight are no more
at some time
electric power is restored

I’m cut off
from infinite time and space
compressed into a tiny glowing screen
the noise
has ceased
it is only my thoughts
& me

I am blessed in this moment
to have everything I need
and more
I listen to the flicker of a tea light wick
and the soft
of wet snow outside my door

The scratch of my pen
& saturation of pages
How Glorious
to transcend digitization
and go back
to simpler times through the ages
to silence and stillness
and the glow of a flame
for warmth, survival
and to illuminate

This will be a grand evening
as long as this lasts
I’ll treasure each minute in the dark
burning wax
to see
nature’s gift to me
takes away for some time
what they on the grid depend on to survive
Leaving me in the silence
warm & well

Friday night by candlelight
romantic and free
it’s never felt so right

© Mary dela Torre, 2017

by Mary

Dreams Are For Free

My nephew dreams about coming to America and becoming a waiter
My cousin, his mother, sighs and exclaims to her not-so-little boy:
"Dream big! Dreams are for free!"
They live in the Philippines
under a dictator who
slanders women and murders innocent young men
who have picked different poisons to inhale
Should my nephew's not-so-little dreams come true in this lifetime
He may see an America ruled
by a dictator who slanders women
and turns away innocent people of all ages
who seek different antidotes for life's ails
I never thought my own nephews
would come of age at such a dangerous time
when the most tolerable risk is to have
your dreams monetized
Free speech is a right
but racism seems to be legalized
Men are dying from smoking weed
shot in the street in front of their kids and wives
Every tragedy
A product of world political demise
No matter whose news I read
I want to shut my eyes
So open yours, Ate
If your son wants to make people happy
serving a basic human right on a silver platter
then let him be
The gift of dreaming
aspiring to achieve
seems to be the most dangerous of all
in 2017
They killed the land of the free
But the youth are still here
so let’s not
murder innocent dreams

© Mary dela Torre, 2017

How to make it in a small town (on an island)

Dig deep
into my own tenderest heart

Retrieve every buried memory
not to find new purpose
but to unearth
old, forgotten magic

Let words and music dance
from the depths

Make art that swirls
with every living colour
before I start again
but never forget
where I came from
even if I never come back

In small towns
minds grow to be small
even those which claim to be open
accept only the realities
they choose to know

On islands
cut off from fast-moving life
and the news

The cowards
the liars
bigots &
racists abound

So grow a thicker skin
if for a time
I wish to fit in

Respect is worth more than kindness
and in all the wrong places
I learn who I am

© Mary dela Torre, 2017


Even for the kindest hearts
Our horror is someone else's comedy
And rather than cry over all the cruel jokes
I decided to tell my story
It might take me ten more years and
I'll bring you to tears when it's done
But survival in all seriousness is
Fucking hilarious
Bar none
If you're blind to the comedy
Of your own insanity
You have bigger things to cry about
This is why
I never want to lose my sense of humour
I already lost my mind
And since this story is mine
I get the last laugh every time

© Mary dela Torre, 2017

L.A.J., Part 3

I can’t reduce you to felt experience
If I believed that I could boil you down
I would have ripped your clothes off in the storage closet
and fucked you until you were empty
of all life-giving promise
I would carry your future between my legs
all the way to the mainland
and I wouldn’t have sought broken-hearted vengeance
the way I did, while I watched the sunset from the upper deck
I don’t hold onto the way we held on
Even your voice slips away from me now
like the unknown lyrics to a song
And day after day
while my heart longs
I can only conjure up less and less
I can’t reduce you
when there’s nothing left of you to keep
You’re disappearing beyond my reach

© Mary dela Torre, 2017


You were bigger than me
But unlike the trees in the forest
The ones I’d wrap my arms around and they would show me where to go
You crumbled in my arms that afternoon
Collapsed into the crook of the couch
Your fingers tracing my spine as if you wondered how I could keep holding myself up
Devoid of the magic
Which I swore was falling from the trees round the cabin each morning
and down from the stars each night
I was smaller than you
but it was like you couldn’t even stand without my help
Let alone shield my eyes from being blinded
or give me what I need to survive
I loved you and I thought you’d give me life
but you hardly had enough in you
to keep yourself alive

© Mary dela Torre, 2017


I say I wish I never met you
but it would have been impossible to evade you
and it became necessary to enlist you
as my partner
in this war I’ve fought alone

© Mary dela Torre, 2016


Your shame
wants to get inside and become mine
but I’ve shut the door and locked it
barred it
even your greatest waves won’t wash me away this time

© Mary dela Torre, 2017


I wanna love you all over again
but my heart won’t let me
It forgave you first but will love me last

© Mary dela Torre, 2016


Chaos, danger, and recklessness
I thought that loving you
meant I would leave it all behind
you are all those things combined
perhaps that was why I loved you so
Your darkness
from the same beginnings as mine

© Mary dela Torre, 2016


I will move like the waves
in and out of acceptance
and one day I’ll be still
having accepted all of this
It’s in knowing that some day
I’ll have had to let you go
and all over again
I won’t accept this

© Mary dela Torre, 2016