It happened slowly, the gradual
stripping away of her beauty.
Some say she was,
some just shook their head
and refused to look at her eyes-
where it began.


When young seedlings are plucked, uprooted and thrust upon the landfills, they learn to look at themselves from the grey reflections of sky in mud puddles. She reaches down and washes her face with the murky water from poisoned pools that branch out into the Pasig river, where she had found her memories washed up along its plastic ridden shores, coated with the oil and grime from the drainage of childhood. She wipes dry only her eyes, leaving a mask across her mouth to filter the city air before proceeding to walk along Taft Avenue barefoot, hips slowly taking the shape of her surroundings.


The long route of wide winding roads will eventually lead her to the safety of the old city walls, but for now, she tells herself that we wear old habits like halos, circular patterns where we must look back to get ahead of ourselves. Born from the river, perhaps she was not one who believed in straight lines, knowing that at some point the path she treads will branch out again into sooty alleyways and back streets of Ermita where she will learn to dance along the cracks of her broken spirit, the music allowing her to hide them beneath her calloused soles.


He came across her dancing, his eyes tracing the curved lines of her spine. A camote vine, with ends curled upward, seeking the sun, wrapped itself tightly around his hands. She was beautiful, like rose petals scattered along the pavement, thorns snapped off and pressed against skin flushed deep red from the stains he left on her eyesight. He kissed her eyelids shut and untangled the frayed vine that by now, only hung from one wrist, and let it fall on the asphalt, cheek first.


She lies on the ground on her side and thinks about how it happened quickly, the stripping away of her beauty. Some say she had forgotten how beautiful she was, others say she never knew. So they shake their heads and refuse to look at her eyes- where it ended. She smiles under her mask, knowing how it never really ends, knowing how all waters will eventually crawl their way back, even when bent and twisted with only one eye facing the sun it vowed to follow, to the sea.

Rachel Barroso

About the poet: Rachel Barroso resides in the Philippines . She received her law degree in 2007 after an undergraduate degree in Philosophy received in 2003. She is currently working in an NGO that advocates Tobacco Control in the Philippines while waiting for her bar exam results. She writes poetry in her spare time. This is her first journal publication.