When I was living in Oakland a few years ago and regularly attending poetry slams, Jason Bayani was among my favorite poets to watch. His work could be boldly comic, which I loved, but more often, Bayani's poems were intricate, passionate love letters to the places and people important to him. I always found him to be an artist of great feeling.
In the years since, Bayani has worked very hard to develop his craft. He is deft with technique, but one of the things I most admire about him – as an artist and a man – is his unwavering sincerity. Bayani never forgets who he is, and where he comes from, and there's immense power in that. I hope you'll agree.
These shoes were not made to walk in snow. I must have slipped on the ice seven times before eating it in the botanical garden. There are several ways to get “got” in a city. The prime offense is to always be looking up. I couldn’t help it though. I’ve never seen the street break form like this. Munich is so gutteral and heavy on the tongue. The buildings are an impractical math. I am relearning shape. The city where I love is a grid, a digital timepiece: bending and folding: in and out of space. Here the streets are series of gears; the metal and the motor; all of it turning; the great wheel of time; it is breaking me; I am broken; I came here broken. I can say that now. There is enough time to say this.
Today, being around people who speak a different language than me feels like less pressure. Bitte, bitte means please, but sounds so much like bitter. Kein, under my breath I repeat the word kein: I have no, I speak no, I am without.
A poet told me she wouldn’t be able to translate one of the lines from my poem: “I love you in this city”, and make it sound right. She said it wouldn’t sound sincere. I didn’t tell her, the person I wrote it for didn’t think so either. I would have tried to make it sound like a joke. She wasn’t getting my jokes. Instead she wrote one of my other lines on the wall: What else would it mean to be human if not a lost thing. I could have fell for her but I didn’t. Maybe when we say love, we mean a safe place to fall apart.
I feel like Richie did that first night we took acid. Around 5am he said, “When is this shit gonna be over?” I’m listening to Junior tell me the same thing he told him, “Later.”
You know how at some point, some asshole always ends up asking you the question, “If you were a superhero, what power would you have.” I hate that question. There’s a superhero who talks to cities, but you don’t want to have to explain who Jack Hawksmoor (God of the Cities) is. So you say what everyone else would say, I’d fly. I wish that maybe someone would say, I would spit medicine into my palms. Or, I get stronger whenever I experience grief or loss and the more grief or loss I experience, the stronger I get. Don’t make me sad. You wouldn’t like me when I'm sad. Then maybe talking to cities wouldn’t be such an outlying notion. Even today, in a place as cold and unfamiliar as Munich is this morning.
If I were a superhero I would talk to cities. Maybe to hear it say five more minutes, come back to bed. Some feral hound nuzzling its way between us. I think of all the parts of me I am losing. How none of it makes me stronger, just different. I wonder if I’ll ever be myself again. And if not, why would that be such a bad thing.
Munich, I am without. When I slipped on the ice nobody laughed. I’ll get you for this, but you got me. You got me son.
Jason Bayani is a graduate of Saint Mary’s MFA program in Creative Writing. He is a Kundiman fellow and a veteran of the national poetry slam scene whose work has been published in Fourteen Hills, Muzzle Magazine, Mascara Review, the National Poetry Slam anthology, Rattapallax, Write Bloody’s classroom anthology, Learn Then Burn, and other publications. As a member of 7 National Poetry Slam teams, he’s been a National Poetry Slam finalist and represented Oakland at the International World Poetry Slam. He is also one of the founding members of the Filipino American Spoken Word troupe, Proletariat Bronze, and has been an organizer for the Asian and Pacific Islander Poetry and Spoken Word Summit. His first book, “Amulet,” was published in 2013 through Write Bloody Press and has garnered acclaim in literary magazines such as Zyzzyva and Glint,