On Naming

by Saquina Karla C. Guiam

I. Self-Rejection
I had wanted the soft glide of a river
every time I speak of myself:
the letters flowed through rocky,
jagged spaces—strangers often
stuttered, talk of the alien
in their mouths.

II. Microaggression
Upon the back of many tongues,
it wobbled on stilts too long for its shape.
I become a guide, easing the way,
part the waters for a smoother crossing.
No one sees my fists or my teeth,
a maddening rush of blood underneath.

III. Awareness
There is ruthlessness in the form it takes,
knifelike in the way it cuts the insides
of a foreign cavern—like the teeth of a dragon.
Perhaps my father built it by tearing the pages
of the Prophet’s tongue, distilled the papers
into a single sword, and fed it to a newborn.

IV. Acceptance
I go back to the river and watch it run;
there are wishes caught in between the rocks,
ones that I have made before I yearned
to drown in the drone of a single note.
I dive in, the body cutting the current—

and swim.


The Commandments of Virtue
by Saquina Karla C. Guiam

The Holy Book likes to talk about fruition:
girls and boys carrying seedlings inheriting their hair and eyes;

I don’t think they want to spend their lives
tending to a garden they did not consent to.

The Holy Book takes one good look at me,
says you need to cover up, that my legs

have made me prey for beasts
in knife suits and pearl smiles;

the little glimmer of an ankle
can bring a country to its knees.

The Holy Book lifts a jagged hand,
tells me the punishment fits the crime

of gazing into the eyes of a girl like me,
of kissing each of her fingers—a benediction.

The Holy Book speaks of other girls
in heels and cherry bombs on their lips,

whispers the Devil himself put them here
as if they weren’t made by the same grace

that gave birth to the rushing sea, the dancing sky,
the fluttering of songbirds, the drumbeat of me.

(originally appeared on Issue 1 of Geometry in 2017)


how to talk to girls with headphones on
by Saquina Karla C. Guiam

1: perhaps put yourself on the examination table, let the construct with the scalpel and a doctor’s reassurance tell you this won’t hurt a bit as it pulls back your chest, picks apart the bars of a cage we all have been built with from our arrival, slides a finger through the ooze that formed at the bottom and says well, it looks like we found the problem

2: go to confession / tell the pastor, who looks remarkably like you, that you have sinned / they will not ask why or how / they will sit on their side of the wall, listening / as the buzz of poison loosens your tongue / i JUSt wAnT Her 2 NotICE mE

3: cut your head off and put it on your desk. pull the hair and skin off. stare at the reek coagulating in between the folds of brain matter. pull out the thoughts with your hands. the ones that smell vicious, like lEmmE TaLK 2 hER sHe dOESn’t nEED TO fOCus I AM DATEABLE I aM a mAN I fUCkinG dEsERve ANY wOMaN I BrEAthE aT. throw them into the toilet. flush. if they persist, pour gasoline. light a match. a cigarette makes a perfect alternative.

4: You are lost. You have a shoddy sense of direction. A girl passes you by and seems to be aware of her environment, despite the dance party in her ears. You will be late to that important meeting. You call her out, and she pulls off her headphones for a little while. You show her the text message with the location your superior told you to go. She tells you how to get to the meeting place without mentioning directions, aside from left and right. You thank her and bid her farewell. She nods and puts her headphones on once more.

The two of you are heading in opposite directions.

You do not dwell on this encounter.



Sequina Karla GuiamSaquina Karla C. Guiam is a Best of the Net-nominated poet. On occasion, she writes prose. Her work has appeared on Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Maine Review, Outlook Springs, Augur Mag, and others. She lives in southern Philippines.