09 May 2024

An 8-Line Riddle

My one and only niece turns eight today and as part of her gift, I wrote her a riddle:

An 8-Line Riddle for Your 8th

I have no feet,
I have no wings,
But I can take you anywhere
If you stay within my four corners

No wheels, plug, engine
No batteries required
We will travel through time
If you open up your mind

07 April 2024

To hear your voice and not

Today I am grateful for singing beside an experienced choir member. Our mentors always emphasize the value of producing one voice and this morning it clicked. When my choir-mate and I shifted vocal placements in the offertory song, I could hear us fade in unison, and it was so satisying. To do it repeatedly and better each time is why I get out of bed early on a Sunday morning.
One of the first choir practices I attended (November 2023)

17 January 2024

Truth or Dare

My seven-year old niece has just learned to play Truth or Dare, which is a cool way of knowing what goes on in her mind.

She's been taught to be honest and not keep secrets, meaning I can ask her anything and she'll tell me the truth, no game nor any other incentive required. But putting such dialogue in the context of a game makes me less guilty of asking rather un-innocent questions.

Like, What do you say to me in your head whenever I don't allow you to touch my stuff (ie the Dalek figure in my book shelf)?

Nothing and everything is innocent when it comes to children.

Way before learning Truth or Dare, my niece and I talked about having babies, and I nonchalantly told her that I didn't want one. Recently, while strolling at the mall, she nonchalantly, randomly — as is her way — asked me, But why don't you want to have a daughter? My answer was a different version of the same thing: I like my 'me time'.

I love my niece, though I get scared when she knocks on my door and I had to turn her away because I would rather be alone.

There are many articles about people in their dying days regretting not spending enough time with their loved ones. I fear having the same regret, and that every No and Not now that I tell my niece will make her feel less loved. I also fear resenting her for taking up much of my time and energy that it becomes too late and I become too tired to do anything for myself.

31 December 2023

Poem 24


December walks in
its worn shoes, towards church doors
that open before
dawn, welcomed by the district
choir, brightening old hymns.

—Razel Estrella

30 November 2023

Poem 23

Talking to a stranger

She was lightning, quiet
quick, electric. The cunning
smile I practised
for years, she flashed
at me and with laughter cut

the distance
between a child missing
her two front teeth
and a lady who never knew
the harm in talking

to a stranger. Dried under
her nails were dirt
from sandcastles she built
and toyed with, loved
and ruined.

—Razel Estrella

31 October 2023

Poem 22


I walked into the shop
to buy a purse that fits
ten folded bills and coins
for the quick trip to church

and back. After combing
all the shelves to find none
that I liked, you walked in
plucking bottles like flowers

that soon laid on the register.
I watched you go back
to friends; stood frozen
on the aisle, unable to solicit

a name or muster a hi; left
with nothing in my basket,
in my hand: not what I wanted,
not what I found.

—Razel Estrella

30 September 2023

Poem 21

Waiting is what happens

when you tick every box on the list
but the ones outside the page;

when mixing flour and water is chore
and dough takes a while to bake;

the dream car on a wrong turn,
you carry on with the chase;

a table full of feast and cheers
it disappears like a sick child's appetite;

Waiting arrives as soon as you catch light,
and instead of star, hold stone in your hand.

—Razel Estrella

13 August 2023

Poetry prompt: Write in another's rhymes

Jack Tells Jill

Kill your thoughts up the hill,
see the empty skies, saltwater.
Drown in rapture at the crown,
sing new songs of ever-after.

Upbeat air inspires a trot,
tempts you to a flirty caper.
Bedtime? It's out of your head,
now as pure as blank paper.

—RE, 13 August 2023

This week's poetry prompt: Rather obvious? It's fun, though. To take the rhymes off a popular poem and then use them to create a different poem. Give it a go.

Draft 2 (5 October 2023)

Well it's been a while. The main prompt was a quick exercise on replacing rhyming words. For the revision, my goal was to create something a bit more conrete. Add sense to the sound. Also, I got rid of the lines I hated ("drown in rapture" ; "sing new songs of ever-after" ; "as pure as blank paper") but used just to meet the requirements and deadline.

Jack Tells Jill

Kill those doubts up the hill,
see the empty skies, saltwater.
Winds will push you down,
     Push back till you reach the crown,
Crack a world open with laughter.

Should those sunburnt legs fail to trot
And fumble like your brother's,
Lie a while on the green land
     As if it were last night's bed.
Rise up with fellow dreamers.

—RE October 2023

02 August 2023

Poem 20 (Poetry prompt: Thematic unity)

The second poem that I'm writing for my online poetry course will be workshopped. This post will document the evolution of the poem from its first to its final draft.

Disclosure: What you see below, which is what I have also submitted, is not exactly the first draft. What constitutes a first draft anyway?

To give you an idea, this poem had undergone a major revision in prosody pre-submission. It went from having paragraph-like stanzas (lines grouped per image or idea), to this now musically focused line-cutting.

Draft 1


Write your name on top
of your beloved's,
strike the common letters,

count the odd ones out,
and you're left with a number
that tells your future

together or apart.
Matthew and Anna
were meant to be

Enemies. So I tweaked the rules,
wrote full names and nicknames,
till the game declared

Marriage. Twenty years
since high school I lay in bed
alone, playing

with my phone:
Swipe left for the Oh-Nos,
Swipe right for the Why-Nots.

How to outsmart the algorithm
to make it make matches
that catch a flame?

I may not win again or ever,
but I carry on dreaming
new ways of miscalculating fate.

—RE, 2 August 2023

Update (30 September 2023):

I am pretty happy with the draft and so I am labelling this as Poem 20. In fact I kind of knew that I won't budge on this one as soon as I hit submit. Like I said in the intro, this has already undergone several revisions.

I will be editing this poem draft instead for the poetry course. It's a fun verse to write, but lame. Will do my best to un-lame it.

29 July 2023

Poem 19

The Cup

An object that cannot speak
is spoken for
by the collector.

Each night before sleep
he wipes the glass shelf that keeps
the old cup safe.

Each morning he does the same.
Today he takes the treasure out
of cage to fix the paint

now faded since
the year he glued together
its body and handle, pieces

found at a shop owned by another
collector, who shared the story
of how her grandmother

found the broken vessel
at a neighbor's house
where no one lived.

The collector tells his visitor
what he was told and all he learned
about the relic, repainting

history as if heard
for the first time by himself,
from how it must've been made

to how it must outlive
his own hands, which evey gesture
is in service of the cup:

soft cloth under the foot;
white light warmed, air cooled;
a final polish on the lip.

A subject that cannot speak
is spoken for
until it is itself no more.

—Razel Estrella

28 July 2023

Poetry prompt: The concrete of abstract

The Arms of Rage

Swung without warning
Rested on no resolution
Reached for the starry night
When they once cradled a child

—RE, 20 July 2023

Am taking a free poetry course online and this is one of their writing prompts. Basically create a title with the formula: The [Concrete Noun] of [Abrstract Noun], then write a poem based on it. It's a lesson on image, symbol and abstraction.

20 July 2023

If my parents died, I would be stressed out by the inconveniences. Another part of me would feel relief.

But a stronger thought I have is that I might die first and they'd call me stupid for not taking care of myself.

03 July 2023


Someone said (from a rather privileged viewpoint) that if you look back, you'll realize that you've already achieved many of the things you used to dream of.

There was a time when I thought I'd never play a piece as I intended. Beginner piano students know this. Even the shortest, simplest exercise seems difficult to master.

I came here right after posting my 50th practice video. That means I've already played 50 pieces to my satisfaction, since I won't share anything that's not up to my standards.

We become good at what we practice. Recording myself — another advice given by another now-forgotten stranger — works well for me since I've yet to find a music community nearby (hello unfulfilled dream).

The camera serves as a stand-in for an audience and as a second teacher, giving me a sense of accountability, encouraging me to see things through.

30 June 2023

Incubation, revision

Curriculum Vitae

The city is a sickle that cuts
the throat. The dawn a nascent wound,
the dusk a bruise.

Stars are knives, rain washes crime.
The moon a medicine that goldens
pain. This is my living: inventing

the limits of this page.

—Razel Estrella

Went through my old (read a decade++) drafts. There are poems I've written in graduate school that I still hang onto with the promise that I'd take them to the finish line.

The poem above is an example. I submitted it in a small workshop, but I can't remember the panel and the participants' feedback anymore; except that they loved the music in the opening line.

I got stuck subverting the sky cliches. Last night things clicked and now I'm letting this poem go [in Marianne Moore font].

24 June 2023

New old skin

I'm making a Steve Jobs Zuckerberg billionaire tech people move. I'll stop worrying about the facade (the way they don't worry about their physical appearance and clothes) to focus on my work.

Let me explain. I am not ignoring how I look, no, I am not above that. Nor will I dismiss aesthetics, which, if you know me, is top priority.

So what is this contradiction I speak of.

As you can see, my blog theme takes you back to the early 2000s. That's because I don't want to bother anymore with slaving over the tiniest detail. It had been a source of pride and excitement for me, but now I am more excited about actual blogging. This straightforward text-oriented theme fulfills my current need.

Who knows, mayble I'll have the itch to tinker with the design sooner than I expected; but for now I aim to also bring back that new-millennium carefree spirit online by having one less thing to unproductively obsess about.

Previous blog design

31 May 2023

Poem 18

The Great Aunt

All these worn out faces
at my nephew's birthday party.
I can't stop looking at you.

In the mix are toys, magic,
small shoes and big, wrinkles,
sheen on flesh, wrappers
and you: someone familiar
and too fragile to put a finger on.

I feel sorry that you are old
in a room trembling from the blast
of seven-year-olds frisking about.

'Til memory waves a wand:
You took my cousins and me
to our first concert.
We were eleven,
you were invincible.

While it wasn't the last night
I saw you, it was the last time
you were real in my eyes.

Like plump balloons, who knows
if we are floating or losing
air once out of reach. The trick,
how clever, is your hollowness
isn't yours but mine.

—Razel Estrella

29 April 2023

Poem 17


A happy ending
is a story abandoned
at the right time.


In a castle where everyone knows their place,
the mouse is happiest.


Trade fins for feet
for a faster trip
to the funeral.


How long she guarded
her porcelain heart.
How quick it broke
at the lion's touch.


Beauty counsels: Put your mask on
and never take it off.

—Razel Estrella

31 March 2023

To care and not

So ryokans. Trainee explained to me that in this traditional Japanese hotel, guests are taken care of from arrival to departure, and every minute in between.

The bed will be rolled out at the proper time, he said.

Very different from my experiences and expectations at hotels, where I would simply show up and do whatever I want. Starting with throwing myself in the bed.

It's an eyebrow-raising way of caring, and yet it totally makes sense. Some strange days I crave that kind of caging. Let others think for me so I can shut my brain off — at least the part of it that worries too much, even about things like how to really have fun.

Somehow I already do it in the smallest of chunks, when I go to the hairdresser's and the nail salon to tell the beauty technicians, Ikaw na bahala (I trust you). Then I disappear in the moment without forcing myself to.

Maybe I should extend the practice. Submit all control and allow things to happen to me. Trust is a special kind of high.

30 March 2023

Poem 16


Long ago a child of five
walked towards me.
She didn't look hungry.
Rather her eyes
betrayed an appetite
for something that the over-priced
café had failed to offer:

a chance to ask
how vast a world
divides the two of us,
she in her innocence,
me in my negligence to want
what I earned;

or to make a playground
where we assign new roles
to dining objects over-used.

The encounter was real, though
details were subject to change.
She could've been wearing white
while I might've been lying
about being alone.

My habits live on,
like going out mid-morning
to relish a dry town.
Deep into the sky silence,
she visits
as she were — always five,
taking a seat
without permission
at a table inside my mind.

I wish I was the same ghost to her,
alive in a whisper and fits
into crannies none can feel
nor understand, not at all
a filler but a fullness
briefly possessed.

—Razel Estrella

27 February 2023

Poem 15

The Missing Day

How curious must it be
that down the endless
reach of time
one was born on the 29th
of February.

What day in this year
will they call Mine?

Peeling the month off
the calendar reveals
My special day: on the 10th
of March, (dear me!)
I turn 40.

May I please lose my birthday, too?
Not for reasons of youth
nor of desire to reverse
the phenomenon of my being here.

Rather to spend the weekend
in peace, free of countdowns
and counting blessings,
meanwhile filling in the invisible
debit column.

Be rid of history's toy
shackles. How lovely
must it be to measure a life
no more.

—Razel Estrella

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