Viva La Vida

by Angelie Daus Maningas

The sound of my name felt

like a splash of cold water.

My face went numb,

a thousand needles pierced my cheeks,

and my lips are stitched into an ugly curve.


As I force the words out of my mouth,

I feel the thread run down my throat,

and the pit of my stomach turn into knots.


When the words finally come out,

they are all the wrong shapes and sizes.

However hard I try, I cannot seem to make

the answers fit nicely into the question marks.


I always had to chop the edges;

I always had to squeeze the phrases.


When I say chop the edges,

I mean, take back whatever I said and

place an incomprehensible ramble in its stead.


And when I say squeeze the phrases,

I mean, just stand there in utter silence,

the weight of the question dangling above my head,

waiting for time to drop dead.


It never did.


In the four corners of this hell,

time is never my friend.

Time is always too slow or too fast,

but it is never, never enough.


Time is always three steps ahead,

and my feet are planted on a quicksand.

Sometimes, I count to twelve and wait

for the floor to crack open and bite off my limbs.


It never did.



Time is always three steps behind,

and when it creeps out,

my caffeinated brain just jumps out of my skull.

Sometimes, I count to ten and wait

for my bones to melt.

Once, I thought it was working

because my knees started to tremble

and my voice started to shake.


But I just stood there,

as lost as the fingers leafing through

the imaginary hard-bound chapters.


I am a wanderer, my map is

drawn in salt and water.

I run a marathon, and the course

shifts at every turn.


Wherever I find myself, I am always lost,

but I keep on running anyway.

Some days I do not know

if I’m headed somewhere or

if I’m just trying to escape.


My fuel is the fear of not being good enough,

of being left behind on a race that

exists only in my head.


Time never waited.

The hours turn faster than the pages;

the sun rises before my eyes

had the chance to rest.


In the four corners of this hell,

time is my mother, nagging me to sleep.


Even if I know I can give more,

time will tell me to stop

when giving more will leave me empty.

It tells me to stop when I’ve made my point,

and I can add nothing but confusion.


Even if the words are still

bleeding out of my fingertips,

time will pull the brakes on my wrists

before the blue book turns red.



And on the nights when to survive

means to hold my breath

until my veins are about to pop,

time will ring the bells, just before

the relentless gods randomly decide

that it is a good day for me to die.


The sound of my name

felt like a splash of cold water.

But somehow, the splash sounded

like a lullaby, and I dream

instead of waking up.


The funny thing with dreams is that

even if it’s ours, we cannot control it.

It can make us feel powerless, paralyzed.

Most of the times, dreams do not make sense.


The footsteps on the empty hallways

are the monsters under my bed

grinding their teeth, scratching

until their nails are peeled;

the monotonous murmur of the

air-conditioning cripples my toes;

my skin is the cream-colored ceiling;

my eyes are the stained-glass windows

that are only allowed to see in black and white;

the inscription in the grand wall is a puzzle

and every time I try to solve it,

the pieces skip, stretch and switch.


In the early mornings,

I hear the silent scream

of stomachs churning;

the gray lockers beside the

staircase tell the story of

the hungry,

the anxious,

the ambitious.



I remember it so well,

my own story –

sitting at the last row,

wooden tables and chairs

lined neatly in front of me;

the smell of ink and sweat on paper,

the eerie hallways;

the sound of cards shuffling;

the silence that follows;

the horror;

the haste;

the hunger;

the bitter aftertaste

that lingers at the back

of my throat

when I’m finally told

to take my seat.


I guess it is an acquired taste.


This is a new world

where distance is a trend;

where static means safe;

where there is always a way

to talk to people,

but there isn’t always a way

to make them understand;

where bare spaces suffocate;

where the far future is

both exciting and terrifying,

yet we can do nothing

but wait.


The unbearable calmness

feels like being thrown

into an open ocean,

watching myself drown.

The motionless water


and my senses crave

the unpredictable waves,

the dread of stumbling down,

the pride of rising above

the forces beyond my grasp,

the terror of things known and not,

the rush to get to the surface,

the race against death

that remind me,

more than anything else:

I am alive.