Reading Time: 9 minutes

In the religion of my own we dance under the moonlight,
the hymns and prayers flooding the hallways like our voices
were beckoning the words of god.

I lift you up onto the balcony, because I’ve always
been able to carry you but it’s never happened the other way.
Your legs shiver a bit at the cool night breeze,
the candles are lit to shine down like how the heavens
embrace the earth, the outlines of our faces are
illuminated by the scent of red velvet;
you joke and say how it would be much better
if it smelled like steak, I nod and I realize that
our voices are the hymns and we are a symphony,
in unison we speak of love, its grandeur, its miracles,
we are our own conductors, the world is our show,
god looks down upon us and decides that this is one
for the passages — an epiphany of young love as
courageous as the fables of Goliath. We hear V.K. playing
from the vinyl we picked up last February.
We fall in love again and again,
each time deeper than the last,
our feet are still as lost as they were during
prom night, your head rests on my shoulder.
Our windows are stained with paint, like the church
stains theirs with glass and fabricates stories as easy
as a child dreams up monsters. They hypnotize as easily as the child
believes in the shadows under their own bed.
We look into the windows; staring at each other’s
figure amidst the poorly wiped glass. We laugh as we place
our hands together, your hand just slightly larger than mine,
stained with the color of sunset yellows
it feels like a movie scene, except its about 6:47 in the morning,
we haven’t slept since we woke at nine and you spontaneously
decided to grab the cans of paint and the brushes that
I have ever so religiously accumulated,
our faces are pooling with sweat and linseed,
you laugh at the streaks of red running through my hair
your stick figures surround the brim while I
plant images of roses and chrysanthemums next to them,
you add a sun with shades in the corner, I laugh
and in the middle you slide the window open;
we part. The corners of your lips are left orange.
Our commandments are unspoken; we add and take some away
most of the time, but what stays constant is the
unification of our love, the vow to never stop loving.
We kiss at every corner, the entrance to our home,
the bakery after you buy me that croissant I saw on the window display,
the counter when you’ve been searching for me throughout the store,
only to find that I’ve bought the sweater that you said you wanted;
in front of the church when we pass by it, just as a nod to the
people we once were.
Remember when we hugged in school hallways, the fabric meshing with each other
wishing it was skin, sometimes I’d run up to you after unbearably going
weeks without seeing you; it was long needed, distance is a pain,
my heart wouldn’t be the same without your touch.
“This isn’t the place for that,” like somehow their minds thought that
loving you was immoral, like taking your hand was somehow a shameful public display,
that sitting next to each other and reading was immediately
a cry against Christianity. The parade of stones could come for us anytime now.
We sat outside the marble palisade, staring down at the crumbling facade.
We laughed at how the statues of angels looked more like rows of
grime, its white and spiraling limestone losing its purity
over the decades, like the young man dropping the path
to priesthood after it wasn’t the path he made it out to be.
My head turned and you surprised it with the meeting of yours,
I felt your hands tugging at my chin, lifting it up a bit;
we pulled apart and a row of nuns exited the holy place.
Somehow, that felt like revenge against all those years, didn’t it?
God, kissing you for the first time in public was like
I was awakened after years of solitude, an oath of silence, finale of a life
not truly living, that clasp was the denouement, that all
the times we had to hold back were nothing compared
to the rest of the life we were going to start living.
“We’re still making up for it, aren’t we?”
“We always will be. We have all of eternity, after all.
And when we’re finished, we have to do it over again,
just to make sure.”
The cathedral is our home, my altar is your body,
yours; my own. Its pillars shape us, they hold us up to make us
the people we are, the statues are fading, they’re no longer the
representations of our hearts. They’re crumbling, we’re never truly
ourselves until we’re together, aren’t we?
We don’t have to be afraid, there’s no one to judge us,
this is the house of love, the house of acceptance, the house
in which no one is divided; love is not decided based on
what is out of your control. It is accepting, all-encompassing,
whole and vividly real, there are no boundaries nor restrictions,
our love surpasses all, our hearts are the wickets that keep the lights going,
our hearts are the pavements that lead our endless journeys,
our hearts are the center that light up our world; there’s no fear.
There’s no end. We have a place to call home, and it’s in each other.
See how they baptized you in the basket of tranquility, holy water
adorned and blessed, dipped with the fiber of hundreds of hands,
you are probably sound asleep, the midday sun is rising,
they answer for your voice that can hardly cry out what it needs,
drown in the water, flooded in a sea of a life that is not made out
to be yours, you barely knew the sound of your heartbeat
when those words turned 168 into 167, they tuck a rosary
into your pocket as if it would bring you salvation from the gunshots
they fire every morning. I look at the photo you send me, your
neck is tied with the adornment of a lady you know close to
nothing about; you follow in your family’s words, reciting each syllable,
closing your eyes as they do. You’re not sure why but you learn them by heart.
You forget how to start the daily prayer; you have new ones after all.
Lips are reminiscent of the promises we make and the lullabies
you have sung, your god is now a person, you insist that they’re an
impossibility — how can someone so perfect exist at the same time as I —
how can their heart beat while their memory thinks of me, I
insist that they’re human, I tell you the same.
In the religion of my own, we recite our vows with utter
conviction; we agree to speak each other’s minds,
to echo out our hearts in a recording that will be stowed away for decades,
Your eyes work downwards, just like they did in the school hallway
when I bumped into you with delicacy in hand, egg-free;
my mind begins to wonder if you kept its note.
The dress trails downwards on the floor, following behind, the carpet drags on,
the pianist’s works their fingers, we recognize each song that plays;
melodies fill the air, our hearts tug, your eyes lock into mine, and we both
can’t help but to cry; as if no one else was there but us;
have we ever seen anyone but each other?
I promise to cradle our child, like a mother who has no other,
it makes me wonder why back then; I was young and naive,
she walked inside of my room as I shifted around, pretending
that I was asleep. She ran her fingers through my hair,
a soft shiver reaching down the crevices of my veins,
as if tugging on my heartstrings there was a lullaby that I always asked
her to sing — but I can no longer remember how it went.
“I will protect you against all the world,” then a kiss and a tug of
the cloth, the warmth of her embrace was forevermore stronger than
any comfort brought by the weaved cloth. I’ve never felt that safe
until I began sleeping with your arms wrapped around me.
I wonder why I grew up with her being my own biggest fear,
the sound of her voice the trigger, the gunfire pouring down on my innocence;
what kind of child fears her own mother when she once
cradled her like she was the world?
The first time my mother raised her hand against me,
she told me that I would regret it if she died. I’ve been begging
to understand that sentiment ever since I was eight and first heard
the word suicide. I never questioned it. I realized that it’s
what I’ve wanted to do for so long.
With all my being, with all that I am,
in the religion of our making, our child will never feel
the steel running through their wrists, our child
will never scorn their being and wish themselves dead, our child
will never write their suicide note on a .docx file leaving it
on the corner of their desktop; we will not repeat the same mistakes
as the ones before us have.
You promise to love me unconditionally, beyond every
unfathomable limit; just as you remind me every single night,
but the promise never wanes nor loses its strength;
its immortalized like a prayer that we have learned to recite every morning and night.
You hold my hand, we interlock fingers, I feel your arm tremble,
mimicry leads to me trembling as I did when we first sat down
outside of the music room, the sun had set and it was eternally quiet,
we were alone, left with the faint light of the pavilion below us.
Remember when you were young and you couldn’t fall asleep —
your mother swore that she would leave as the sun rose,
shivering under the covers you felt the room was far too cold,
your heart beat and your mind raced, you didn’t know if her words were real
but they echoed across your head, in child’s moments they felt like years
your breathing stuttered as their tears did, matching their pace you
squinted and saw the shadows dancing on the wall. Tell me why
our parents don’t hold hands anymore; tell me why they’ve fallen
out or if they have ever loved at all. You swear on your saliva-stained lips,
on the piano’s strings, that as the sky is blue and as the world turns your love
is just a fact. Nothing will eradicate or move it, we will not find stops nor
ends — only more reasons in the stars, love is endless, love only grows,
time and time again you stare at me with the same eyes and my
heart bursts like the flicker of a candle, dying out in grandeur, akin to
the last note of the symphony and the last line of an eternal poem,
and again it is reborn, loving more than it ever had.
The room is only illuminated by the chandelier above and the
promises we make — but luminescence envelops us, I notice that
it’s brighter than it has ever been. The gleam in your eyes
tells me that you notice it too.
I promise to count you all of the stars; on a field, or on our
rooftops, on the balcony on our trip to Iceland, I’ll name them
all after you. I’ll be an astronomer looking at every direction,
endlessly fascinated by the stars that remind me of your eyes.
You promise to take my hand and hold me, to help me see the northern
lights. We both know that it’s faded, but it’s coming soon — that’s what they
say. The sky will be painted with colors, we’re going to kiss under the heavens
colliding into a pastel aurora, we’ll chase it if we have to.
We’re going to rewrite the bible, our own stories will find themselves
inked onto every page. Speak of love, and longing, it’s imperfect and we’re
going to cross through the depths of the dark, but we are each other’s spark;
there is no need to worry when we are each other’s light.
I promise that each day will be better than the last, you promise
that at this very second you are just falling more in love,
I promise that the feeling of your hands holding mine makes me never want to let go
you apologize because you begin to stutter — you’ve never seen me in
a dress like this, you’ve never been as happy as you are in this very moment.
In the religion of our making, our cathedral will overlook the mountains
and we will see the essence of all that has made us who we are.
Sunlight will seep through the cracks on the ceiling and the rainwater
will continue to rush through the canals in the eastside gardens,
the lockets of our chests will be unraveled, each day we will write prose
discovering further who we are. We know more about each other than we know
about our own selves, we memorize the tiles and the crisscross patterns
on the doorway, our prayers are songs, your fingers flutter like arias,
they resonate through the air. On the opposite side of the room another
candle illuminates the typewriter, you notice its faint pink color and the
brisk movement of each line to the next, you tell me how you adore the feeling
of letterpress and I whole-heartedly agree.
We bring up a family, we’ve talked about this and
dreamed about them. They discover the world,
their mind forms their own ideals;
we baptize them in love, they rise in kindness,
their hearts perpetuate the
stories of the dreamers that we have told them;
melancholy fills each day.
Our windows are marked with their fingerprints,
we continue to kiss while they laugh
at us, we hang their paintings upon the wooden
pillars of the counterside in our kitchen,
the piano is played upon with disarray and
clumsy fingers but it’s beautiful to us anyway.
Tuck them into bed, as we do to each other.
Come into their bedside, tell them that we will
protect them with every single beat of
our heart — collect the poem from school that they
brought home one day, laugh at their usage
of em dashes and semicolons, you know
exactly where they learned those from. We
never fail to end the day with our prayer,
because in this religion loving you is not a sin;
and if it is to them then by all
means, let’s make this the greatest sin
that they have yet to see.

ps. we still pass by churches sometimes; it’s kind of unavoidable. i like to
reach for your hand and squeeze it a little tighter when we do.


photo credits

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