When the World offers to paint you naked

Poetry by | November 21, 2022

Open your body. Do not fold anything.
Maybe your legs—just a little bit—
you still deserve to keep secrets
even if you felt like your skin
was never private. Make your legs longer
in an attempt to jump.
The world says they’ll paint you
but you know no man has ever stared at you
without wanting a pursed smile or stiff nod in return.
Bend your knee—you’ll jump farther, walk faster
From them who would say hey, you should learn
how to take a compliment—but never bend
it to anyone. Stretch your torso, show how a stomach
does not have to be flat for somebody to rest
their head on it. Arch your back,
draw your shoulders behind as if they were wings.
You are a pigeon awaiting flight. Puff your chest out.
Let the mounds of your breasts absorb light
from the sky until it shines enough
for stares to bounce off it. Elongate your neck,
make your neck muscles bulge—
your neck is not a cage, free your voice.
And as the world paints you, curve your lips into a smile
that pierces through the canvas.
Make them wonder what your smile means
and what your mouth says. Let it haunt them
until they sleep, until the last drop
of paint dries from their bristles.
They have painted you bare, yet
you are not naked. You cannot be contained
in someone else’s piece.

This poem is originally published under the collection “Sum of Her Parts” published by the Road map Series.

Ria Valdez teaches in the Department of Humanities in UP Mindanao.

A Prayer for My Father

Nonfiction by | July 22, 2018

I was taught how to pray before I knew how to write. But my father made me learn both at the same time.

While my mother wanted me to memorize the Lord’s Prayer at the ripe month of six months, my father, a non-Catholic, had explained that a prayer only consists of four words: Thank, You, God, and Amen.

That, my father explained to her daughter, who would one day tell him she is a lesbian, is all you need in prayer.

So when I had learned from my CLE teacher in Grade 2 that a prayer had four parts instead of four words, I was skeptical in making my own prayer. I remembered thinking that my father knew prayers so well, maybe that was the reason the Lord’s Prayer started with an “Our Father”—to honor fathers. Years later, I would learn that the “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer was a form of adoration.

Being the ambitious kid who wanted to have the best written prayer, I told my teacher I didn’t know where to begin. Years later, I would take up a degree in Creative Writing and would still ask that same question—especially when I write about my father. My then late-30s teacher wrote the acronym A.C.T.S on my paper with her veiny hands and said, “This might help you write.”


A prayer must always start with adoration. Think of it as a letter heading. Put an addressee so that the letter wouldn’t get lost.

I had to make sure my prayer was heard by God and no other deity. It is meant to be sent. My CLE teacher told us to always start the prayer by saying His name or an adjective that connotes praise before His name. It shows respect to His power.

I hated myself for not having an adjective to describe my father. I felt like I had no respect for him since I couldn’t associate him to an adjective. Maybe generous? Because he gave me the toys I wanted and the books I wanted to read. As early as two years old, he knew I preferred books to toys.

Continue reading A Prayer for My Father

Valid Measurements

Poetry by | March 1, 2015

You said it was for PE Class.
Then you handed me a tape measure,

and I smoothened out the numbers
and the lines between them,

trying to get your fingerprints on my thumbs,
before I placed them on you.

Face width:
The mole under your left eye,
was six inches away

from the tip of my eyelash
and one inch above my thumb.

Face length:
The new scab on your chin,
and the unnoticed paint smudge

on your forehead was seven inches away
from the sweat forming on the tip of my nose.

Arm length:
The rainbow loomband around your left wrist
was five inches away from my hip bone

six inches away from my thigh
which was three inches away from your fingertips.

Shoulder width:
I was breathing four inches away
from your neck. You didn’t complain.

And after taking all these measurements,
I realized how far we were.

Ria Valdez performed Valid Measurements at LitOrgy 5, at Saless Bar Tekanplor last year. LitOrgy is an annual literary event organized by the Young Davao Writers.