Monday, September 3, 2007

Epitaph Written on the Gravestone of an Apostate

Are those really your eyes peering
At me through the shadows?
I don’t recall having seen you.
All faces look the same. All origins the same.

Of course, I remember having heard a voice
In my hours of waking and dreaming;
They punctuate my soul with dictums

Lizards alone have understood
The puzzles of your coming and going.
I see them fall prostrate on the ground at dusk,
I see them die, unburied, joining
The universe of brown moss, dried grass.

But you, you had seen me from afar;
Am the image of a new sailboat,
Proud, ready to prick the winds,
Daring to rush to the cliffs of the unknown.

I too used to join the flutter of wings,
Of bats that enjoyed the frolics of the dark;
I spluttered the hysterics of every new day:
That you knew.
And because you had dictated the ways I should tread,
I would hang on the balance.
Am here: Ready to fall.

A leaf, now dried, now browned by sixty summers:
I lay on the grass. No candles lit. No prayers said—
This is the moment when all rites
Could be wrong.

July 10, 2006, 8:55 p.m.
Rev. August 27, 2007, 08:31 a.m

Saturday, August 25, 2007

To a Foetus Brother Long Dead

The grass above you will never green.
To blame they always have some convenient culprits:
For one, the goats, piteously hungry--
The non-symmetry of spaces
They keep expanding,
Creating stubs and stumps: No stubble for burning.
The other the neighbor’s ancient swine—they keep
Moving the stones, dumping on you its stinking shit,
Its acid urine flooding you,
Creating pools: the quiet habitat
Of unquarantined flies that converge on tables and tombs.
I wonder if the grass that covers you
Will stop browning.
I wonder if it will grow at all.

Foetus-brother, there’s something inside me that’s been
Missing you, like I miss the green grass.
We left you alone, a shadow in our
Primordial memories. We left you
Like we thought you could stick it out alone,
Like you could fight your own battles in the world
Of the dead, and win.

Unnamed brother, the grass
In my world will always be brown;
My desert will keep expanding its boundaries
From time to time;
My stones will move; and soon too
This sighing will have an end--
In the etiolating union of brown and green
In the eternal beyond.

July 10, 1998, 2:23 a.m.
Rev. August 25, 2007, 1:56 p.m.

The Harvester

Sun-burnt arms wrapped in tatters for now you do not see;
Not even the calloused palms: they too are enveloped
By gloves of shabbiness, by tantrums of sweat-fleas.
You make out only the rope, nothing more, nothing less,
Rope as long as the arm that holds it,
Wearing thin—the patience of the one who pulls it.

Taste the manly pungency that drowns the smell
Of backbreaking back-pack that smells of power,
Power that spins the flywheel, shakes the ground,
Flywheel wearying the sun-burnt arms,
Drowning the fields of green and brown,
Drowning them with sharp steel sound,
Flailing like mad, paring down shades, snuffing old lives.

For breakfast he only had sugarless coffee.
For cigarettes to deaden hunger pangs: rolled
Tar apple leaves that leave a taste of tang,
Leaves pampered and powdered to thinness,
Rolled in the image of Maui Taylor unshy,
Image astride a horse that’s drunk:
Darling poster in Mactan dry dumps.
Envision that what used to be the bull of strength
That unblessed morning after steaming coffee
Could diminish too as the morning heat rises
Above the stands of trees.

Two field rats, beaten to the draw, squeak
As the pursuing white blade hits them quick,
The blood of their innards kissing the soil of their birth.
High noon, you smell the fire,
Fire that consumes like an old covenant rite what remains
Of innards, hair, and skins.
Surely with all humility that one could muster,
He could say words of grace over two field rats,
Now roasting bright and sweet over hot red coals.

December 1, 2006, 9:01 a.m.
Rev. December 5, 2006, 11:04 p.m.

Remembering You

I remember you
As the power of my bones diminishes
Like tide receding from the shore:

But when I do remember you, I make a wish,
A wish that defies definition;
When I think of you, it’s as someone other than one inside me,
A thought unimaginable—
The folly of it is in the immediacy of its cravings,
Cravings that look for points of reference
That are not there.

I asked you then how would you know
That life is sliding out of you—
You saw innocence in the eyes not begging for a riposte—
Then you said, “You know it’s time to embark
When you no longer hear the music of the lark.”
Then you hugged me: What I needed most: That.

I remember you
As the shadow of the dark hills no longer hovers in the east,
And the fading ember that was you becomes me,
Though I have wished never to be you, no, not yet—
Some warriors aren’t ready to put their swords down:
Mama, let the world wait.

December 1, 2006, 9:01 a.m.
Rev. December 6, 2006, 6:06 a.m.


Furtively she moves on cat’s miniature feet—
Hurts heavy with meanings of history’s unsaid.
Tiptoeing on and tiptoeing out—a darling of the mind,
Everything obviously working
According to scheme of things.

Remember the nights of whingeing Pom,
And how she reeled, tottered, and foamed,
Hands on stomach, in that sweatshop she undearly calls home;
Recall your hateful impulses, imagining how me she touches,
With that falling and that rising as the sun falls and rises.

Sheets of past indignations—muted witnesses to many unions.
Loveliness now repays loneliness its due;
My pains of the present your relief from pains of the past;
And the fading scent tells me who she loves most: It’s you.

December 1, 2006, 9:00 a.m.
Rev. December 4, 2006, 2:30 p.m.

For Diolinda, When I Come To Grips With Being Old and Alone

The passion of this heart cares so deeply
For another wound—a pattering in the dark
To mystify the myths of rain. This was
The rhetoric, the cause.
By mutual agreement we ascended this hill
Whose edge
Embraced the dark sky of our noonday.
Our muffled breaths mingled with the mists,
Our sweats with last night’s outpourings among the pines.
No questions were asked.
It was enough that our two silences
Precluded judgment.

You too came with this passion, but not
For another wound. You provided the inspiration
For the heart to bleed.
The muchness of what’s in us was not adequate
To paraphrase our need for seeking.
You are a world you alone could reach, handle,
I am what I am.

But so I must come here again with the passion
That cares so much for another wound.
Alone. This clearing, last night’s discovery,
Suffices the seeker.
One silence to preclude judgment.
The coolness of storied pines for a blanket.
The coolness of earth for a bed.

Thoughts After Seeing a Five-Year-Old Mendicant on Jones Avenue

You cannot forget Cebu City’s sun-swept streets
On days when the world stands still:
You see hurts on these young faces,
Sweat-smelling bodies wrapped in shabbiness,
Their moth-eaten eyes having just feasted on the
Dark realism of yesterday’s empty dreams,
Their hurried walk, their brisk run—
That’s not enough energy to face the future’s bewilderments,
Their shoulders stooped against
One strident concern:
That of letting the day pass on to the next
With their legs intact:
For if
Legs are made for walking,
Mouths are made for what?
A good question:
I dropped a peso.