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Eileen R. Tabios

from Despite Excised Birthmarks

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When I feel conflictedEileen Tabios
00:00 / 00:12

Birthmark: A Back Story


A map forms itself—

an avatar for a past

of black iced winters


It’s futile to erase the past. 


She rubbed her neck where, once, a country blossomed. The country did not treat her well, but it would be foolish to ignore or run away from it. It would be foolish to deny its truth: a certain history implacably occurred. She shot out from a succoring womb into a world where to live is to deteriorate. Unlike other babies, she did not cry out the anguish that foretold the future’s unavoidable cruelties. Those cries had been smothered into the burgundy country unfolding like a wool carpet across the left side of her jawbone before plummeting to cover the Hyoid bone, then the Thyroid and Oricoid cartilages. The country continued falling to cover her throat’s jugular notch before finally ending, its edge a lace profile grazing her right clavicle. Later, a new father would peel that country from her flesh because its terrain was a minefield of hibernating cancer cells. But a certain history occurred, and her hands kept finding their way back to the area where her birthland remained stubbornly alive in memory—the birthmark that became invisible but stayed palpably real. Wet days made her fingers itch unless she rubbed that mark of ex-danger. Dry days made her fingers itch unless she rubbed that mark of ex-danger. Still, the past can be fondled or smacked, but never rubbed away—even when invisible, it lingers with the potential of a different cancer. That cancer might be called Loss, and its possibility must keep pushing back at what was unbearable and, worse, occasionally evaporate compassion from certain days. Pushing back… until a father who’d held on to kindness despite experience gently but insistently advised: Don’t push back. Just push through to the other side of this black iced Winter. 




Father: A Back Story


A womb implodes to

predict roasted venison 

before the doe’s birth

Never shirk from perception, even the radical revulsion.


Krii, her beloved father, was kind to her, but he knew to be lethal in the world they shared. Against his will, he’d mastered a particular type of trauma: as a killer, he learned how each death he inflicted gutted something out of him in exchange. It wasn’t a welcome discovery but he never shirked from perception, even when it alchemized away from illumination into revulsion. He didn’t protect his daughter by keeping her within mortal arms. He protected her by scaffolding her wings before releasing her into a ferocious world. As a boy—as a virgin when it came to assassinations—he’d learned the universe’s major component to be dark energy: a form that opposes the pull of gravity, thus accelerating the universe’s expansion. He didn’t flinch from knowing that his daughter had to remain part of a world whose cruelty reached into a womb to draw blood from a fetus and not, as it would be if justice was consistent, the other way around. Growth required pruning as a condition precedent: tough love. Blood coagulated to appear against the neck of his daughter as she was expelled from the womb. Burgundy covered something darker, but the cerebral father extricated the cruel country before the darkness smothered his daughter. He wanted his daughter to expand.




Daniela’s Language: A Back Story


We cannot know death

by witnessing, not even

when falcons plummet


A thorn, unlike a prickle, is extremely difficult to remove.


Time would collapse if justice existed so that no harm would arrive at a point further down its linear path. But Past, Present, and Future stubbornly persisted with their categories. Fortunately, the killer-father knew of another path for his daughter’s safety. If the beautiful daughter was to be a rose, she had to be protected by thorns with the most dangerous lurking the closest to the sepals that support the blossom. Laziness enhances cruelty and the lazy world misconstrued “prickles” as “thorns.” Prickles are what’s usually removed when a rose stem is cleared of what society lazily considers thorns. But the prickle is simply part of the plant’s epidermis while the real thorn is more deeply embedded in the plant’s stem structure. A thorn, unlike a prickle, is extremely difficult to remove.


After meditating over his beloved rose, the father brought her a new thorn who someday would replace his withered arms. The rose is named “Daniela” and her new thorn “Bambang,” Javanese name for “Knight.” With “Bam,” as the knight came to be known, the father believed the present would be protected, thus preventing the past from harming the future. As he did so with a dangerous birthmark, he planned for Bam to excise those who sought to damage Daniela Rose. The father’s name was “Krii,” short for the Thai name “Chakrii” which means “King.”


“To be more sad? Or to be less sad?” The question lived alongside the observation, “By the time we realize its existence, death is right next to us.” Like the falcon suddenly bleeding by our ankles with no warning from the sky or the proverbially blinding sun. It’s futile to erase the past. Sages like Krii understood how confronting the past will make more likely what he wished for his daughter in a new terrain: Joy. A country where a blossom shall expand into its peak just when time shall collapse for justice. Time would cease before the first petal softened, then dropped like a falcon suddenly impaled by the fastest arrow mustered by dysfunctional human ingenuity.



Quotes in last paragraph from “Beauty Inside,” Season 1, Episode 10.


Eileen R. Tabios

Eileen R. Tabios has released over 60 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in 10 countries and cyberspace. In 2022 she releases the poetry collection Because I Love You, I Become War; a book-length essay Kapwa’s Novels; and her second French book, Double Take (trans. Fanny Garin). Her award-winning body of work includes invention of the hay(na)ku, a 21st century diasporic poetic form, and the MDR Poetry Generator that can create poems totaling theoretical infinity. More information is at

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