Elizabeth Ruth Deyro

Spelling Out Forgiveness

He kisses me on the mouth and I taste
the years spent yearning for someone else’s
tongue to spell out his long-kept secrets
and I wonder if he thinks I taste awful—

does he recognize the flavor of cheap sex and mouthwash?
The metallic tang from lips that touched a dozen
other bodies? My breath reeks of regret and something
rotting from within, and I wonder

if he notices. I wonder if he could sense the aftertaste
of every night I spent crying in fear that he might
wake up one day and realize that he
does not want a damaged woman

I stand in front of him, vandalized,
and yet he looks at me as if
I were art. He sees the frayed edges,
and maybe even tastes the years spent longing

for something pure—the way
I will never be—and yet
he calls me beloved.

He kisses me on the mouth and I feel
the way he moves his tongue,
gentle and unhesitating, spelling
out forgiveness I could not give to myself.



There is Violence Inside a Woman

There is violence inside a woman
where subtlety should be.
For you to be holy, you must
remain intact, untouched.
They primed a woman to be
a saint, saying her face deserved
a space on the altar, accepting
catcalls in the form of
litanies, but how could she have stopped
rough hands from inserting
themselves in places they do not belong in,
leaving fingerprints and bruises on
unblemished surfaces?
They primed a woman to be
a martyr, open up her mouth and take
in the pain and spit, swallow
the men and blame—why does she feel guilty
for being violated?
Tell her what the word for embracing your tragedy is,
because she asked Father Almighty and he called her puta.
There is violence inside a woman
where purity should be,
but they tell her silence meant
that she asked for it anyway.



To be a Woman of Color

Previously published in Moonchild Magazine

To be a woman of color
is to walk along the edge, tiptoeing your way through,
wanting so badly to make a sound but   trying
not to because you know
too well that                      silence
and noise are no different
when no one ever listens.

To be a woman of color
is to be a warrior
fighting many battles at once—ones you
                                                             did not start       but can never lose
                                                                          even when you’ve always been
                                                                                    at the losing end.
You have bled so many times since your becoming,
but none of that had primed you for the bloodshed
that is your life—in the hands of men who do not know how to hold you right,
                                     of the people who do not know how else to get to know you but to
                                                                          apart                     and examine what is
                                                                                                                    this brown flesh.
                                     Now tell me, after you unravel my body
                                     do I look more like you dismantled?



Elizabeth Ruth Deyro is a writer, poet, and editor from the Philippines. She holds a BA in Communication Arts from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. She is the Founding Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director of The Brown Orient and the Fiction Editor of Rag Queen Periodical. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from L’Éphémère Review, Affinity Magazine, The Tempest, and Jellyfish Review, among other places, and has been profiled in Luna Luna Magazine and TERSE. Journal.