4th of July 2017, Chicago

By Iris Orpi


Mimicked thunder,

multicolored lightning

heaving sky and swirling

omens peppered with spent cordite


the noise

is dark, eviscerating


blunt instruments in my flesh

like surgery in smoke

pulling out bloody fistfuls

of the long forgotten,

the secondhand past

from songs and stories told

that turned to solid rock

formations and axioms

for my chapters to dance on


the restless knot of pain

that I was while in the womb

wanted to be born on a night

like this; the contractions

that I pushed against

in a deluge of liquid screaming

were keeping time with

each shattered pause


New Year’s Eve in Binondo

the Chinese knew how to party

they invented gunpowder

and dragons, and dressed

their hopes in red silk


I wanted to remember

beginning, the shift

from nothing to breathing


but this noise,

this chemical explosions of light

over a sea of violence—

embraced— trivialized— systematic—

denied— cultural— condemned—


permeated by irony and

the smells of late-night barbecue


distract me


a brick wall shaped like

the point of no return


the pictures of slaughtered peace

in Marawi

have the same sound, the same



the same corrupted coldness,


exodus of frayed futures and

gutted lives in makeshift bundles,

dawns detonated by unrest,


there is where I am.

Mournful and rattled

tossing wishes of independence

to every passing stranger

like grenades

like it’s a matter

of life and death.




Iris Orpi is an immigrant from the Philippines to the USA, currently living in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and toddler son. Her poems have appeared on dozens of online and print publications around Asia, North America, Europe, and Africa. In 2014 she was an Honorable Mention for the American Poetry Prize, given annually by Chicago Poetry Press. She is the author of the novel The Espresso Effect and the book of compiled poems Cognac for the Soul. She misses her native country and often draws inspiration from her journey towards calling the Midwest home.