Chen Zhou Zhang would badger authorities,

where is his corpse so we could bury him?

He is still waiting for news about his father,

“a retired teacher who lived in northwest Beijing.”

On August 27, 1966, Red Guards

descended upon their homes,

they used to own

a hectare of land and therefore a landlord?

But they had long given it up.

His father was strictly working class,

a barely educated boiler operator;

his mother washed clothes for extra cash.

His father was beaten to death

by militant state troopers

for being an ideological enemy:

(a Red Guard once confessed that

she felt guilty about the times).

In Manila, the millennials would line up

behind the son of the dictator

who never owned up to the crime

that they have looted millions

when they scooted out of the palace…

But survivors have a different narrative of facts

[President Xi Jinping would take a leaf;

however from the Cultural Revolution,

this mode creating the powerful legacy

of personality cult:

all would-be fascist

could take heed

from the euphoria of

setting up peace & order! ]

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I am supposed to address young people who are enamoured of poetry, or the craft thereof. This is difficult for me. I have always tried to steer clear of workshops and literary soirees. They have since become a cottage industry for enterprising academics. But when the invite was sent to me, I had to write down my thoughts as representative of the Creative Writing Center of PUP where now I lecture. Should I be gentle? I don’t want to be mistaken as a grumpy old man by young people who secretly wish to be famous or national artist in the future.

Of course, there is in our subconscious the desire to be recognized, to rise above the crowd, to be proclaimed a poet. The honour sounds majestic, but many have fallen by the wayside – they end up as advertising creatives who rake the money: they who claim to have written a poem or two; they who ended up as Ayala hotshots working up campaign slogans for the likes of Duterte, Cayetano, Marcos, Poe, Binay, et al.

Today being a poet is almost a scandalous proposition. There is state funding for the honour, pension & free burial at Libingan ng Bayani

So how could you know if you have written a poem? Your mother would agree to the enterprise in the spirit of faith and maternal instinct.

But would you believe the accolade around you? That your aesthetics exude formal/ideological beauty?

There are books on how to write a poem, anyway.

But poetry is a savage God.

Right now, most of you are probably inclined to churn out something about the Kidapawan massacre where farmers were killed by state minions. You are probably itching to write/blog about it in the stereotypical militancy and compassion. Muster all the inexhaustible partisanship for the victims… (In the tradition of Markham’s Man with the Hoe)


But how would you write it?
From what point of view?
How would you see through the gambit
of spin masters in the Senate?
How can you not be suckered into thinking
that you must act beyond the finite of words?
Who would benefit from your choice?
The candidate who will rule with an iron fist?
The peasants who have been reorganized
to block the highway?
What is the task of the poet
who must plot out the narratives?
Can you rise above the fray
without cheap sentiments?
How will you probe the politics of your text?
Being a poet is not a breeze; words may even crack
the delicate crystal of truth…
In my time, I made so many enemies –
people who could have been friends:
There was this guy who used to be
a down-and-out activist.
He would later hook up with a plunderers
administration, become eventually its spokesman,
& finally an ambassador who wore
expensive suits.
He’s gone now.
We could have been friends if not for my refusal
to grace a poetry reading hosted by a classy
campus sorority.
Poetry reading is not a simple matter.
I was young then but had misgivings about my
poems: what after all would I say to
starry-eyed campus beauties?


In my ancient youth, when I entered UP,
the cultural tradition was real poets
are brooding manic depressives,
quick to slash their wrists and let the blood
drip, drip down…
It was scary, but was real.
The idea of a Ph.D. or master’s in
whatever is somewhat preposterous.
Poetry keeps you on the edge.
But today any young gun has
a Ph.D. from grants in American
university & flourishes in literary fest…
It seems too damned easy today.
There are many publishing houses
to release your secret poems…
Moreover I am told there are scars
on wrists of drug crazed poets,
wasting away in a nihilistic mode.
In an elite university, they even sent a poet
who writes in Filipino
to a university in America
which is somehow funny…
& I ask the young here –
how long would you toil
in the violet hours of
your young lives
to serve the savage God?
After all, poetry is a savage calling.

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Ars Moriendi


How do you read
the memory tab of a loved one?

Is delirium the encrypted signals
of the soul?
That morning the caregiver
was telling him his old man
was mumbling the name
of his mother who had passed
a century ago.
His sleep was shattered
by a phone call
from the hospital…
But he wasn’t surprised at all –

like a zombie

he flowed with the crowd

of kinsmen milling around

his remains…

To engage in chatter was awkward,

hardly reverential.

Did he feel a mix

of grief & relief

that he was finally at peace?

Neuroresearch reports

the dying make real

the persona deeply buried

in his unconscious –

he was again

an abandoned child

pining for his mother

at the moment of his final departure.

Did he see the boatman

fetching his pitiful soul

at the mouth of the Acheron?

The immortal grimly rowing

to the other side,

the water eddying

in a perpetual sigh.


Is Ars Moriedi only

an ancient myth?

Is there a good way to die?

Can someone stare
into death’s eye without blinking?

Freud, it is said, couldn’t give up

smoking even if it would worsen

his cancerous mouth?

Susan Sontag,

was allegedly the “fiercest
of them all”,

but even his literary claques

would lose heart

at the news her treatment

would fail…

Dylan Thomas, the Irish poet,

& drunkard, would
guzzle whisky at White House
Tavern, bloating to his

corpulent death…

What was Socrates

thinking at the violet hour?

Did he imagine turning
the tables on his prosecutors?

Was Ninoy seized by the metaphysics
of virtue when he was
escorted down to the tarmac?
Did Lazarus come back
from the dead?
Is the resurrection
the allure of Christianity?


The underclass of PUP,

a university

of the proletariat,

would vote for the son

of the dictator –

Have they forgotten

the martial law regime

as if the tales

of torture & execution

were all untrue…

They will deny Walter Benjamin’s


(who is he anyway?)

who would fly backward

to the horizon

with eyes fixed

on civilization’s

dark side

where monsters & beasts


The proles of the future

with eyes wide shut

see themselves

gleaming in the sun

in full flight…

O the future is theirs to own

never the night…

Their eyes closed to the grindstone,

as if God would be merciful,

never the history

of their origins

who drum up

their flea market of desire…


Was it serendipitous

when he walked

into a hardware store

& fancied a heavy metal cutter?

It could be handy,

he had thought.

But was it luck?

Was God pointing him

in what direction?

Was it a preparation

for his heroic moment?

Joaquin Ronnebery of

Alesund, Norway

would eventually cut through

the perimeter

(the mission supplied him
with a light one)

of the Nazi compound

producing heavy water

for the nuclear program.

Finally, when American planes

bombed the plant,

he wouldn’t know he had virtually stopped

Hitler in his tracks.

Over biscuit & coffee,

he would shrug off his deed

as inconsequential…

The medals from the state

he didn’t care about.

The world is still unstable,

“peace must always be fought for”,

again & again & again…

What if Al-Qaida

got hold of a dirty bomb?


He was born 500 years ago

in the Netherlands, but

his imagery of hell still haunts

Brugel, Goya & the Survivalists…

after Hieronymous Bosch painted
his version of hell:

“distant gallows or one beast

devouring another; grafts of butterfly

wings onto rat-faced humanoids;

a toothy fish with human legs

floating on a human; sinner impaled

on trees; another chopped into pieces

and fried in a pan…”

Will biblical rendition

by modern artists shock us into

convulsion as if

hell were only an ordinary juvenile ride

in the carnival?

What postmodern film today

would jettison us

off our comfortable seats?

Terror is a macabre ride

into the void…

Would the ruins of Palmyra

soften the hearts
of the henchmen
of the caliphate?
Could the hospital ward
in Brussels & Paris

approximate the horrors

of man-made conflagration.

How chilling is the holocaust?

The burnt children in emergency wards


but we cannot answer why…


Deep in the jungle

of Columbia

guerrillas are still

discussing Che Guevara

around camp fires with

Kalashnikov on the side.

Marx still rings in the air

& free love allows

union of sexes
in orderly mode…

But they are now

tinkering with laptops

& the Internet

in preparation for

the peace talks with

the state…

But how would they steer clear

of the tempest if

someone seeks to have

more than somebody else?

Cocaine has not been

profitable a trade:

The US government
has showered us the government
with 10 billion dollars
to lessen the allure
of the deal…

The rank has thinned out,

only a few hold-outs

have managed to keep

the flame burning..

Will the revolution die

in the jungle?

Times they are a-changing,

sings Bob Dylan…

Bourgeois activists

in air-conditioned suites in Manila

have opted for parliamentary


O what
will the future hold?
O what has happened
to fire-breathing

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“You could be stating
that proverbial untruth…”
he overheard the bartender
telling off a guy
at the end of the counter.
“Recent memory
may have pushed out
an old one,”
& no one could be sure
of the actual narrative
that has long been gone…
You might as well
locate the Malaysian flight
that crashed
in the Indian Ocean
but has eluded
the sonar sweep
of prowlers on the site…
Is Atlantis lost forever?
O How do you separate
fact from fiction?
He gulped down
a mug of beer
& smiled at the repertoire
of arguments in the midnight
Did he realize he could be
capable of telling the same untruth?
No one would know
what he uttered was not fact
but a personal fable
culled from a doppelganger tact…

O Memory speaks softly,
almost inaudibly
but shuts up
when shadows vanish
at daybreak.
Forever is the silence
that echoes
in the mind’s caverns…

are always ceremonial:
if we were truly honest,
how do we say
with a straight face
that you’re lying!
I am not buying it!
Then roll your eyes
that will not antagonize
with the challenge of knives?
Truth cannot be articulated
if it were real.
Only the gospel will
allow a certain freedom
to be laid squarely on the table
& invoke what is
Can we present our true
face before the others
who will be our reflecting mirror?
& do we dare speak
it is all half-lies?
When he told her
he was not at all
kidding like any honest lover,
she could only smugly smile
like someone
who knew the score
Was she after all
an angel in disguise?
O how comfortable
are we with white, white lies!
How could he level
up when the standard
of truth is so damned plain,
verifiable, empirical…
O the true is vised
between teeth like
Baudelaire’s evil flower!
How could he spill the beans
with a clean conscience?
All lovers lie?
What should he do
to invent himself
like an angel
with immaculate spleen?

Summer is upon us:
The heat smoulders
in every dew drop
on the morning petal
that trembles
with the hot breeze
blowing in the garden
as if God were divinely
What have we done
but mumble little prayers
of worldly deeds?
Can we appease nature
with our Adamic innocence?
Change is everywhere
dying has not found
its limit,
& we scurry under the
blazing sun
like insects burrowing
in desert sand.
O summer is here,
but no bells ring?
Desire has dried up
with the incandescent air!
O flesh decays
& naked women on the beach
putrefy like ordained saints.
Do we dare challenge the sun
to come down
& deliver us to its infernal lair?

May 4
& Mao Zedong’s underclass
is deeply stuck
in the vanishing point…
No one, this generation
of neo-capitalists,
remembers that once-upon-a-time
they were the
restive bunch –
who remembers the slow burn
& quick rotting of their kin & kind?
O How did they cope
with dictators of the land.
Stranded at the crossroads
between being & emptiness,
they had to disremember
the legacy of years?
O to affirm their ballyhooed
When shadow is consumed
by light,
do we bother to ask:
Why, why, why?
O capitalism forever
calls the shots?
The wretched of the poor
from the slums of North Africa
are turning the Mediterranean Sea
into a watery grave –
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
of fictional “shipwrecked sailors”
has become fact,
never fantasy
for men, women & children
locked up at the lower deck
of capsized ship
manned by body-traffickers.
& they drowned by the hundreds,
like caged animals floating in
the ocean.
But they have nothing to lose?
They have only their destitute life
to risk
in claiming their share
of the pie from Europe
which has plundered their wealth
since time immemorial.
They are used to dying
in the ghetto…
& the world is used to watching
them like dogs drifting
at mid-sea…

After the bestial heat,
we long for a storm
to wash us out
into the open sea…
But air is all
we can pray for –
a mode of dying
in a season
of mourning.
O Do we accept
the heavenly verdict?
Is God worth our servile
The deluge is all we are given:
that the rain will come
& the sun will hide
behind the clouds –
as we stand on the cliff
for the sea
to hook us down closer
to its murderous depths?
O There must be
respite for mankind…
This poetry is just a tapestry of words
that we launch like
an inflatable raft in the rising flood!

This women of summer
will be gone
with the first rain
of May…
Towed toward
the sea
in the monsoon interlude
that is bound to happen
as the moon edges
the sun
from the blue, blue sky.
Should he find
them again
like wayward stars
in the milky way,
they won’t be recognizable
fully grown and full
of wisdom of the tribe,
repeating the mantra
of healing via the
triangulated psyche…
All will be nameless –
None will remember
how their worlds collided
once upon a summertime!

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“The picture in your
memory box
is far different
from the photo you took
some time ago,”
the bartender says,
quoting a neuro –study
to the fellow barfly
in the violet evening
at the wayside cage.
“It has changed
like the shifting plates
of the planet
in the seismic tremor
of daily existence
that has jagged
the certitude of your senses,
the emerging visual
polluted by the TV scenes
& films
stored in the caverns
of your mind,”
O remember Marcel Proust’s
A blur of the Real
once upon a time?
O ever are we in the prison house
of imaginary delight?
Who recalls truth perfectly?
But a certain sadness
overwhelms remembrances
of what is forever gone…

The leader,
a spoiled brat
in his reclusive youth
who had secretly
counted on his subalterns & gofers,
to project his sainthood
Is now undone
by his hollow words?
Did he think
the mourners will spare him
for his involvement
in a James Bond incursion?
Is he worth being the
Leader of the pack?
O so much expectation,
so little patience
for his truths
O is he virtuous to a fault?
His circle hears
the beat of a different drummer!
Does he read the blazing
signs on the wall?
Trapped in the silence
of his sanctum sactorum
he is oblivious
of the crowd massing
at the gates…
O pretenders to the throne
he bewails
through the fog of his witchcraft.
O Summer
& all that it stands for:
Neon lights blazing
that love is in the air!
Bronzed women naked
in the sun;
hikers trekking up
the mountain peak
to pull down the sky;
scholars poring over books
to pursue the pleasures
of the mind —
colorful flowers studding
the countryside
& leaves falling down
to settle on the forest floor,
hastening the earth’s decay…
O the convex memory
of Time & Space:
but always something
is lost
in the blink of an eye:
a certain sadness
creeps up the heart…
& we are left undone
by empty dreams
& empty desires…

Is the cruelest month
of the year?
O every moment is heir
to ravages of
“water, wind & fire”
The sun in the equinox:
but the horizon
is heavy with rain
in the gray horizon.
Then the oceanic deluge!
The Guy on the hill
laments His fatal fate,
but it is not for
Him to make —
O the Father whose divine
decree He must consummate!
Every month
is Arthur Rimbaud’s
Faustian journey
on horseback across
the Somali desert,
as if fleeing from
the demons of his adolescent

Where is the piece of
earth that has not been
touched by human blood?
O where must we lay
our hearts
to gently rest
from the mordant turmoil
Tunisia is the green, green
leaf of the Arab Spring
now reeling under the
shadow of
marauding Islamists!
O do we hear
the howl of wolves
on the perimeter
while black birds
circle around
in the vulturine air!
O who reads this strange
Every place is rained down
with blood-soaked
Huntsmen are quick
to raise their swords
for the slaughter
of the innocent!
Who cares about the
nameless dying,
like the kitten
rotting in the gutter?
O where is the alcove
to hide against
man-made disaster?

O How can he
minister to the brats
who troop into dusty rooms,
full of wild banter
& juvenile chatter?
O will they only repeat
the errors of their elder?
O who shall they betray
with their pestiferous loves?
O who shall fall prey
to Koranic warriors?
O who of the brats
shall come of age?
O shall the world perish
in the onrushing flood
& freezing winter?

The coconut fronds.
for Palm Sunday
have dried up —
but he is not wont
to burn them
for Ash Wednesday!
His prayers for his
faithful cats & loved ones
are floating in limbo,
as if waylaid
by human vanity & errors.
Is he asking for
a miracle?
Can he will the universe
to suspend its natural
That he should accept
the unforgivable loss
is good for the soul,
devotees counsel.
Acceptance is the cure,
they dutifully chorus.

They are fresh converts
to Islam —
but under duress?
They have to survive
the terrors of the camp?
& be spared
the ritual beating?
Since then,
they have been allowed
free time to fast
& pray to Allah
who watches over them
with their captors
[But they were kind
& reportedly compassionate]
Are they primed
for martyrdom?
No, says Cardinal Amato
of the Vatican,
“no Christian is obliged
to be a martyr of the cross.”

O how barbarous
are the barbarians?
They spout verses
from the Koran
like prophets of old…
& knives to slash
the throats of unbelievers.
O how they affirm
God’s inhuman truth —
& bestially so.
The history of capture
& carnage
Is fresh on the mind:
who mourns
the widows & infants
of unmerciful times?
The old sins surge back
& we dare face
the apocalypse
with eyes half-shut.
O how they seek heaven’s guidance
In the name of the Caliphate
& evangelical faith

His mother at 61
passed onto the light
victim of the scourge
that afflicts womankind.
[Angelina Jolie underwent
mastectomy, had her ovaries
& fallopian tubes removed
to stem the genetic flow
that sent her mother
to the grave]
He never let on
his familial grief,
coming back to the office
as if pain is a natural
rhythm of things.
He doesn’t wear his
heart on a sleeve?
Possibly he’s comforted
that she’s finally at peace,
secure in a place
where the holy mediatrix
O the Lenten season, after all,
is resurrection of conclave’s belief!

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“Memory deceives,”
the bartender says
like some professor
at the bar table.”
“It often plays tricks
on us—
It can fade, shift
& distort over time.
To play safe,
he quotes
a neuro-expert
from UC, Irvine.”
The image of what was once
could be falsified,
new images could have sedimented
under layers
of fresh impressions
making as if
the old remembrances
were fixed, extant
upon recall.
O how old memories
cannot be trusted
by anyone, after all!
O she was not
the phantom of delight?
In the ocean of the mind
She’s lost
as if drowned in the deepest
abyss of the ocean floor
she must have placed him
in the backburner of her heart
even before he had encountered her
& he would pine
for that fantasy
as if it was real!
Didn’t it happen?
There was no witness
to affirm.
O like the light of a dead star
that has long vanished
in the black, black night


It lies buried
in the crevices of his mind
embedded behind
the heavy layer of illusions
he mistook for the real
that image behind
the imagined smile…
Did she really exist?
An old dude could only
gesture with his arthritic fingers
but doctors around him
would stay silent, clinically distant—
an old man’s raving
they have to put up with…
Is this onrushing dementia?
Illusions can be symptomatic
of a truth
but no one would dare
confirm it—
like a child is he
that holds its invisible gun
claiming it to be some material
O, nothing lasts forever,
truth is an onion
in Dostoevsky’s fable
that is peeled over & over again
to reveal its white, white core
of nothingness
that signifies nothing at all.


Who’s telling the truth?
Legal minds will claim
a method for ferreting out
the words that will reveal
the flaw of reason & alibi
that represents a lie…
But who will sit in judgment
to confirm the established
Everyone says it is the truth,
he can prove it
because his heart
says so?
His mind reasons out
he’s sure as hell
because it’s formulaic
& methodical?
That God is his witness
& he couldn’t lie
O are we all trapped
in the prison house of words…
Who can see what
separates the devil from
the angel of this divine squabble?


So we guzzle
barrels of beer,
as if confused
by the shadowy enigma
why he lost her
who was real
but nonetheless bereft
of proof of her being
O, do we act as if in
repeated trance
beholden to memory
that fades & erodes
with time?
What after all,
is there to forget,
asks a stupid lover,
when memory itself
flies out of the heart.
All the pain and sorrow
is not worth remembering
weighed like air,
the ghost of gold?
This love & affection
that never was…


“Let memory speak,”
says Vladimir Nabokov
but does he know
whose voice rises above
the tumult?
Whose voice would tell the truth?
Is there a truer truth?
& who will dare settle
the knife-edge contradiction?
One voice hovers over the noise,
in a domineering fashion,
another will be muted,
as if silenced by its angelic light.
But when he looked back
into his mind
of Space-Time,
the real with the imaginary,
something turns devil’s advocate—
you must be kidding,…..?
She has long vanished,
without a trace,
the rest could only be echoes
of derisive laughter.
She was never there
fixed like a bat
in the cavern of his mind.
Who would claim the spectral presence?
There will never be witnesses
to the sorcery of his heart…


“Beware therefore
of autobiographical writers .
As if the id could
speak the truth,”
the bartender cautions.
“If it does speak,
It would be gibberish.
The unconscious is all chaos
& who could make out
all those dreams
condensed from
neural activities?
It is no-man’s land.
Can you place a timeline
on the pulsations
of the dream
culled from memory
that is always threatened
by the breakwaters of erosion.
Who therefore can verify
the fantasy?
They can only infer
a certain truth
which will never be
admitted by
observer and patient
Remembering is a
perilous voyage,
into the mind,
he friendly warns.
As he swipes back the
tumbler on the bar
for safekeeping.
The violet hour
is done
he must close for
the night…


Memory is heavy with images
Bible-readers mistake
for dreams.
& dreams are deemed
message from the Almighty…
But how can we see
as a sign from the divine
if Freud would claim
It as a wish already fulfilled?
If memory is distorted
how can we trust
writers to draw from the mind
if nothing is itself sure,
something is amiss in the theory
of the subjective truth?
Is recollection
a scoundrel art?
So we go back to our selves
which would doubt itself
like a rat in a spinning cage
that isn’t going anywhere…

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Ernesto Cardenal

was wearing a beret

when he read

his book of poems

“Ninety at ninety”

before the adoring masses

in Nicaragua.

He was, after all,

former Cultural Minister

of President Daniel Ortega

from whom he was estranged

after charging the comrade

with deviating from the goals

of the Revolution.

Alas, he was also a priest

whom Pope John Paul II

forbade to “administer

the sacrament.”

He subscribes to science’s

Big Bang theory

of Cosmic Creation

that formulates the Universe

is in perpetual state

of evolution,

never a complete phenomenon

purveyed by Christian charlatans

as the holy writ.

Is he hooking up

with Leon Trotsky’s theory

of permanent Revolution?

O, heretical view,

no matter how scientific

& empirical,

Vatican wouldn’t share,

claiming him to be

an apostate of lies & hate.


Kamel Daoud, an Algerian

writer has been called for

a fatwa, a death sentence

by an “unschooled imam,”

for his novel,

“Mersault: A Counter Investigation”

that focused on the nameless

victim who

is shot in Algiers.

It riled the Salafist imam,

Abdulfatah, “a radical

Islamist who charged

that the author is “leading

a war against God and the prophet.”

He would show a scene

that touched on an imam “wasting

time in discussion of God.”

But is Allah onion-skinned?

His interpreters

are antsy & quick to slash

throats on the imagined

blasphemy of the Koran

whose purity is slammed

by unbelievers…


He doesn’t know

what to make of the New Year

greeted madly by millions

who revel with fireworks

& secret prayers of of jubilation

& hope…

But isn’t it same old, same old?

Is change possible at all?

The past year

is something you could simply

shrug off, dismiss?

Can one be in control

of the future?

He’s not a necromancer

able to read the crystal ball.

There is only the black hole

to suck in the stars

& blanket the universe

with immaculate dark

Violence erupts like volcanic

voices in the wilderness.

Hostages are killed

to bring in moola

while the helpless bureaucrats quake

in their boots.

The vicious ISIS

wouldn’t have time

for metadiscourse…

Why must the Now

pay for the inequities

of an imperial past?

Is it worth the blood

of the innocent?

Whose generation must

pay for all the sins

of colonial conquerors?

What peace must obtain

in this season

of man-made crimes & disasters?


They are quick to vanish

like the wind in the orange

horizon –

The women of passion

who are bound for Chile,

New York, Barcelona…

Only to return a year after

to a blood-soaked land…

Who touches base?

Who will stay for good

in a country drowning

in tears & nightmare?

O she gifts him with a book

on Afro-American warrior,

Frederick Douglass,

plus a cd on flamenco

to disrupt his bleak reverie.

“You must change the scene,”

she counsels.

O he can only smile at his


But always the black coffee

on the table

is the color of his stirred brew.


They can’t get enough of him—

Those devotees who scramble

into tight spaces, up the trees,

on scaffoldings

to catch a glimpse

of the Vicar of Christ

whose gentle visage

is mistaken for Christ

in Tacloban, the streets around

the Apostolic Nunciature,

Luneta quadrants…

But he could only retreat

into the heart of silence

upon the question of an

abandoned child,

“Why does God allow all

the sufferings in the world?”

O there is too much noise

thereabouts –

only a moment of reflection

would help the pilgrim

in his journey

through the wasteland

of evil & chaos

Didn’t devotees of Nazarene

in Quiapo

trample a youth

whose death is

beautiful & necessary

intoned by befuddled clergy

that praises God for this

holy madness?

What homily should

suffice for it?

Who would report the virtual crime?

Bishops who love

the syncopated beat of their

holy grief?


They all wanted

a piece of him

as he walked up the plane

to bring him back

to Rome.

All would confess

to inward transformation –

the burden seemingly lifted

with his beatitude

for the bereaved…

But did he say anything novel, new?

It is the battered message

of friars when they first landed

in Mactan

eons ago…

Spirit over the material!

Solemn ritual over

orgiastic frenzy?

But the freethinkers

aren’t buying the rock star celebrity!

Vatican has cradled pedophile

Archbishops who were

pulled back to Rome,

never punished for

their savage libidinal abuse!

Is there an exit for the lot?

Who would dare say

that the pope has

invisible clothes?

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In Liberia,
they were refused
twice at the treatment center
for “lack of beds”…
So Erich Gweah, the son,
carried back his father
& eventually “saw his father
thrash his hands violently,
with blood spewing out
of his mouth…”
Did he see himself
on his father’s deathbed?
Surely, in the contagion
loved ones are infected
& must consequently
suffer the same fate…
“The government is killing us,”
he wailed.
His father’s body
was collected in a body bag
& dumped into burial site…
Much like in the plague
the dead were hauled off
in push carts
& moved out of the castle gates.
Only the rich
are spared –
they could flee the country
to be out of reach
of the murderous plague.
The virus has no moral code,
it infests bodies
regardless of age, status & gender.
A great equalizer, it is said.
Only the poor moreover
are generally decimated,
as if God were behind
all this balancing erasure…

Brittany Maynard, 24
terminally-ill woman
finally did the unthinkable
for the majority:
she committed suicide
with lethal drugs
prescribed by Oregon’s mandated
O She had her amazing guts
to face her own death
like the austere Socrates.
O was she the captain of her
A grim Neitszchean wish
& imperative
that will flummox
the conventionally
O death shall have no
O this is the tragedy
of daring to cross the line
among puritans!

When 43 college students
went missing in Mexico,
the trail ended for the detectives at the doorstep
in a “rough and tumble
neighborhood” where mayor
Jose Luis Abrea & his wife
Mana de los Angeles Pineda
holed up – a far cry
from his luxurious residence
that saw them rule
the town like their own
O How the mighty have fallen?
Yet justice is far from
being done.
Families & classmates
had to riot in front
of the Parliament
to demand that victims
[who were delivered by the police
to street thugs]
be brought alive!
But this is all so damned futile.
The dead shall forever
be dead –
no one has returned from
the dark, undiscovered country?
They were burned & chopped
to pieces,
then dumped in the flowing river
where forensic experts
would never be able to
trace their identity!
How can such savagery
ever be imagined?
In the era of capitalism
any ordinary guy can morph into
a monster
in the name
of gangster profit.

alleged “bad boy of Soviet
protest writers”
is the subject of Emmanuel Carrere’s
Limonov is 71,
& now lives in Moscow –
“his past is a life
full of drugs, violence,
sex with women, even
men he met while
prowling the parks of New York.”
But he claims “to hold
no resentment, class hatred,
sadistic fantasies…”
“He adds he has no hypocrisy,
no embarrassment,
no excuse…”
He couldn’t care
where he is on any side
of the barricade…
Only a life committed to himself.
His name means “lemon
& limonov is slang
for a kind of grenade”…
Is he a “despicable guy,
like ourselves?”

Michael Faber
is done finally with writing.
His novel, “the book
of strange new things”
will be his last,
he confesses.
It is final tribute
to his wife, Eva Yourin,
who was “his companion
of 26 years”.
She has terminal cancer.
He shrugs, after all,
that “most writers get
forgotten anyway.”
He comforts himself
that one of his novels
might be contender
for immortality anyway.
“Whatever will happen
will happen.”
Is he consoling himself?
As if he’s a gambler
who’s abandoned
the casino
for a streak of bad luck.

He’s an opinion writer
for a popular paper.
He suffered recently
a massive stroke
that resulted in being in coma
until doctors led him
back to a conscious plenitude.
He had difficulty speaking,
as if his head is
all bottled up
for the word to
express himself with his
usual alacrity.
He might take a year
to recover,
relatives say.
Now he could speak
only in a language
of his youth in Bicol –
but his family in the city
could never understand
why he had reverted
to a language,
they couldn’t fathom, anyway.
He is speaking
in strange tongue,
like one possessed by
a nameless
angel of a nameless song?

A week ago
he was talking to a guy
who condoled with him
for a wife who passed on
to light…
He, too, was a cancer survivor.
But a week later,
he would suddenly also die,
& the mourner was
at a loss for words…
Something strange
he could not
work out
in his mind
why death should creep silently
by the door
& he would not
hear the knocking
at night…
But what would he do
if he saw,
in his third eye,
the skull smile at him
in the twilight zone?

A blast text
registered in her
fone asking for
a blood donation
for a colleague
who was in dire condition.
Her cancer
had metastasized
& her circle of friends
is trying to foot the bill
for a surgery
that would manage
her pain
as she moves in a journey
toward her flight
to heaven,
being a devotee of Mary,
O Such miracle must happen,
they pray secretly.

She’s lesbian,
& by tradition must live
a solitary life.
When her mother died,
she was all by her lonesome,
except for a neighborhood
on whom she was most generous
to a fault.
They took care of her body
when she passed away,
& scrounged around for
her will so they could
equally minister to her welfare.
But she had none –
she had claimed
she couldn’t care less
about material things
when she was, after all,
forever gone
in a place where
earthly things should never matter.
Her relatives finally
took over her
& were probably
thankful for her laconic nature…

His fone directory
overflows with names
but he barely remembers
the faces that must fit
the numbered list.
They’re like unnamed meteors
in space that
whizz by the sullen earth
& into the limbo beyond
the burning sun…
He himself is a spectral
figure in the mirror
that would barely register
the history of old existence.
Is he just a fantasy
in his mind?
He shakes his head
like an insane prisoner
in Marat’s asylum…
O He tries to hold on to
but there is only nada, nada, nada
of Hemingway
who blew up his head
with a shotgun
after a fruitful life…
The abyss stares back
at him
like the cusp of time
in his hand…
& she, who used to haunt
like a ghost in his soul,
has vanished
into thin air,
like the mirthless
smile in
the twilight zone.
O as in the universal garden
nature has its decree
to abide by:
the gardener should prune
the leaves that have turned
brown, dry…
Why all the bloody weeping
Amnesia is the mortal blessing
for those who grieve
over nothing?
Rilke would lament:
To endure is all?

You can’t go back
to that place again.
The bartender says
as he wipes clean the glasses
on the counter.
It has completely changed:
Like you who have
been unrecognizable:
He adds, as if to stress
that the world spins
like a top
& unfolds like a continual nightmare…
The virgins of your time
are all fat & toothless now,
nannies to snot-nosed kids
while crocheting on the beach.
One, to recover her past allure,
even had a tattooed rose
on her thigh!
The boys, drunkards to the bone,
slobber on boats that barely steer,
through the slow moving flow
of the sea…
The coastline has shrunk:
O they had lost their imagined sirens
of their drunken days…
To remember
what is gone forever
is sheer torture,
never a quick-fix formula
for two-penny survivors…
How can you move on?
The town has shrunk
like a memory…
O Hear the waves
that sound more ominous
than before!

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The bartender smiles,
rather enigmatically –
beware of those
who claim the masa
for their own poetic jouissance –
O they can bleed you dry
if you fail to discern
the modes & ways
of their dirt-cheap lives.
Galeano, the Latin writer,
has disowned his old opus,
yet claims solidarity
with left-wing radicals.
Is he mocking the class war?
People & times change?
O the masa will stick
it out
with any dumb guy
who will secretly rob
them blind!
They are ever vised
in old definitions.
O History is a blank slate.
It moves not in straight line.
It zigs & zags
in the shift of paradigms.
Time always leaves one

“Be a wise lover,”
the bartender quips,
as if to mimic an Islamic caliph.
“Women fall for idiots
with a sucker punch.
They long to be whipped
into toeing the line.”
[But isn’t it brutish,
Medieval knights have never
left the castle
of the realm.
They are back to scourge
ISIS militants
who have leaped out
of the mirror
like shadows of dawn.
No wiser woman
to hold you in thrall?
But people are awed by criminals.
Give them the key to the city
& they will share the loot
with exemplars of the community!
Be a wiser lover then –
a bestiary of hawk & dove
that swoops down
on the prey of Machiavellian council.

Of course, to the victor
belongs the spoil.
If one dies
by gutsy suicide,
or by oppressive Others,
who would remember his footprints
in the sand?
Losers never gain the world:
Money talks to pay
the mourners
who would keen your
passing into the void…
Who shall invent
laudatio imagined
for the tribe.
The pauper & executioner
both fill the hole
in equal measure –
Both are bound to the dust
in imaginary roles.
O what profits a soul
who comes clear
but is beyond mortal recall?
History is a blank wall?
“The good that you do
won’t make you any good,”
quips a character
in a TV show
who plays a celebrated prosecutor.

How can he have fallen
for her
when life is a journey
of one disaster after another?
Love, after all, the exultation
& the bliss,
the pain & sorrow
is just a cocaine fix
that pulls you up
to stratospheric height,
& usually pulls you down
to the heart’s turmoil.
Nothing is fair
in love & war:
the common salve
that lifts drunken fools.
O She’ll junk you
for a new guy
who bumbles along:
Nights can not forever
by chilly, cold…
Nothing lasts forever?
He is wont to resist
the common wisdom,
but his ears are cocked
in the direction of the cell phone:
O How he waits
for that musical ring
once more!

As warranted,
the state will sucker you
into joining the bandwagon
of fools
who will make you pay
for their faith
in the rule of law
& cacique order –
O the idiot board
blazes the blessing
of hierarchs
on the always victims!
Leave the sense of justice
to the Supreme Being
who’ll work out
strange equations of meaning?
Power is plain Viagra
for little emperors
who want to be enthroned?
Since Rousseau
nothing earthshaking
has changed at all!

Nobody ducks for cover
where the shit
hits the fan.
It is par for the cause:
They will clean up,
wipe their faces
according to Emily Post &
cinematic rule.
After the tabloid scandal,
will the masa
shape up
& be the apotheosis
of a carpet bagging warlord?
O How they relish
the sight of blood
after the conflagration,
immersing in the soporific
miasma of the void!
Poetry never ruled the world –
words never exposed
two-penny emperors:
the evil that men do
is the sine qua non of the parable.
The Devil reigns
like an eternal paramour.
But art can crack the state?
Brecht confidently says so.

The President,
the Palace mill grinds,
is pure & clean?
But he keeps company
with pot-bellied scoundrels
& counterfeit entrepreneurs –
he covers for their misdeed
in the name of loyalty
& firing range friendship.
He has a blind side?
O which angle
the sun won’t shine on?
The old dictators,
his ministers testify,
has intelligent scruples
no ordinary folk
would dare measure…
But maggots from
his corpse
have crawled out
& infected his privileged spawn!
Back in the saddle,
in the name of egalitarian
O Lord, save us
from sainted orphans
of the world!

The wee small hours
of the morning
& your head is swimming
with images of her
who assault like phantoms
of the void?
& it isn’t August anymore!
The apparition
is something malevolent
or symbolic
of what truth?
What Freudian sign is this?
A possible exorcism?
Like a thief in the night
it steals your dream
& morphs it into pestilence!
& you cannot even scream!
You cannot hear your own muffled
voice in the small wee
hours of the morning!
O this returning angel from hell!
Nada, nada, nada!
You cannot be beholden
to what is forever nothing.

It isn’t cool, dude,
he says,
sounding like an American punk,
to diss
cockroaches of the underclass
who join the ranks of cops & thugs.
A way to survive
the perilous time:
hit the road for a pittance
in their sorry lives.
Why curse those who
would watch you fall down?
It isn’t wise
to stay away from
the noisy crowd,
laugh at idiots
who tune in to noontime
shows for deliverance,
hitching their stars
to a politician who owns vast tracks of land;
O he’s out of the ghetto
where he used to hang out
with sluts & bogeymen.
O this brotherhood of roughnecks
in the slums!
Isn’t that cool, dude,
to pull himself by his
own bootstrap
by robbing & lying.
That’s how everybody does it,
in the state apparatus.
O No one’s innocent.
We are all bound together
by Mephistophelian chain.
Isn’t it cool, dude?

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His well-groomed neighbor
is Mr. Nice Guy
who while on board
his Toyota SUV
warmly waves
as he cruises by.
His home is serviced
by the route paper boy
who delivers his ration
that won’t ruin his day –
cleared of tabloid scandals,
plundering pols,
showbiz sex videos.
O Into a troubled sleep
he wouldn’t dare drift?
The world outside
with chaos
like wine:
Why dump the universal turmoil
on the breakfast table?
Only a winning ticket &
consolation prize
is worth his interest
& puts a beautiful smile
on his face
as if the heavens
where duty bound to reward
bible-reading guys
with mysterious love
& serendipitous fortune!

So she sees her again
as the flower of his youth
when the sun
strikes brightly his arms
that measure the sea…
O She’s like wine
that convulses in his veins
in a heart that beats
so furiously!
But that was eons ago!
Could the best time
ever recur?
Children play
boisterously basketball
on the shore
& he almost could feel
the glisten of sweat
on this body
while time moves on inexorably
in his fistful reverie.
O to get lost in old wisdom!
But for what is philosophy
but a constant visitation
of death & disaster?
Time doesn’t repeat itself –
O how he finds himself
embracing the ghosts
that hover like idiots
over his sullen solitude.
O How he embraces
his phantom intimacy!

The troubadour sighs to himself –
His love songs
only put lovers to sleep.
His guitar that “gently weeps”
will never raise the dead
from the grave!
O Where are they now –
the guzzlers barely rise
from their seats,
virtually drifting in the river
of forgetfulness…
Must he turn off the microphone?
Never sing again?
It’s a job –
he never made it the list
who shared the well-lighted
where stars congregate.
He is on perpetual edge
to play for his supper
& strum away his grief…
Is he the vanishing guy
in the cusp
of memory’s death?
Is he destined
toward a whimpering speech?

O it is not the pitter-patter
of little children on
the tin roof
that he hears
when rain gently falls
but the rush of flood waters
from the mountain slopes
that drowns the innocent
who flout like swollen corpses
in the entangled woods.
The thunderstorm
that booms in the dark sky
is the terrifying noise
of abandoned dogs
& rheumy tykes…
How monstrous is the rain
that traps children
& doddering old fools
who luxuriate in the soft
murmur of the morn!
How terrible is the young beauty
that seduces
but suddenly morphs into
a crone
baring her fangs
to devour flesh & bones?
The silence shuts down
his ears!
O Who hears the corpses
who stink
when the blue sky opens:
Don’t they know
God is on the warpath
of destruction?

How could he have
turned off,
he asks himself,
those guys who strayed
into the café a late, late
& guzzled beer
to fall asleep only
while being cradled
by his sad, sad songs?
Did he ease the pain
of the living?
Was it soporific salve
for their souls?
He is not sure –
if he were to quit altogether
& flee into the back room…
But he’s got a contract
to comfort sentimental souls?
Make same
beautiful noise…
Did he succeed?
Should he therefore quit?
There is fear
in the rupture that unfolds.
What is there to do?
The hour is very late,
is he babbling like an idiot?
He can feel the restless
crowd who wouldn’t boo
or stir –
O If only he were Robin Williams
who in his fashion
finally made his
gutsy exit.

Will she disappear
like the wind forever?
Will the train return?
But who shall step out
of the couch
but the empty air?
O How he feels the creeping cold
which lies in his bed
as silence embraces him
like a ghost swaddling
a frightened child…
O Is he alone?
So does anyone on the
surface of the globe?
& if memory speaks,
what will it tell?
A blank tape
that unreels all over again –
& no one cares anyway…
If in the chaotic world
he bumps into her,
what cosmic play is this?
O God now & then must
play tricks on fools
who pitifully gasp for air.
“You are courting disaster,”
the bartender quips
as he looks into his eyes.
“You can’t live
like a doomed emperor in
a castle.
The crowd is not maddening.”
He wipes the cocktail glasses
& smiles.
“It is so anti-philosophical.
Hermitage is a retreat
from human wisdom.
An adolescent
fantasy is man alone!”
“We are in the autumn of
our lives,”
he adds.
Socrates had to roam
the streets of Athens
to find his truth
among the youth.
“Your text,” he pauses,
“would be anaesthetized.
If you talk to your heart,
what will it say?
It will be a ball
bouncing off the wall?”
He gulps down his margarita
& makes for the door.
He cannot stand his strong
but friendly stare.
“Your poetry is a sailboat
deserted by the wind –
dead in the water,
drifting away from the harbor.”

The celebrated guy
dialogues with bystanders
as if he were in Sunday tiffs.
O He loves to score,
make mincemeat of neophytes.
Is this a way to forge
the truth in the smithy
of collective soul?
O He wants to win,
plain & simple.
He shrugs he won’t waste
time on his inferiors
& entertain naïve contradictions –
He is above all
polemics, money & all!
The way of Habermas & Marx
is full of trapdoors –
He has spoken,
he airily intones
as if God has willed it so.
So saying,
the bearer
of barbershop palaver
retreats to his room,
away from the human congregation
of civilized souls.
Logic is a frail tool
of the mind.
Can the architecture of the cosmos
be diagrammed?
Can we divine how
the world operates
like a mechanical Swiss clock?
Just leap into the dark,
Soren Kierkegaard propounds –
but he who has lost faith
in faith
cannot accept his advice.
Poetry vainly approximates
the image of truth,
words barely
articulate the handiwork
of the blackhole…
Everything has only scratched
the surface of
the universe,
language would only hymn the
visage of ghosts!
Nothing, nothing, nothing
tells him
is never the truth itself –
An impasse for
the mind to persevere,
move on,
but what is it
or whatever it is
is always late to be known.

The crowd terrifies him.
How he wished
he were invisible like air.
But he’s not Houdini
who makes good his escape,
even David Blaine
who could stay underwater for minutes.
No, not even Jesus Christ
who is the “unseen guest
in any conversation.”
O If he could be other than
Is he asking for the moon?
Yet he persists to write down
“poem after poem after poem”
as if he were eavesdropping
in a boudoir for libidinal jokes.
Why should he melt into air
when the world spins alive
& pulsating
with fear, terror, love & inconsolable
Yes, he could only wish
for something less dreadful
to behold.
He could only mourn the passing
of time
& Christian beatitudes.

Do you hear the mantra
from the minarets
praying for
the Islamic caliphate?
Whizz of drones
& thud of boots on the ground?
There is a curtain of blood
blocking the air
& chopped heads rolling
like river in the sand.
O Do not waste your mortal time
contemplating the Hegelian Being,
or rue young hearts
interminable despair.
Voices have morphed
into shrieks & cries
of the lost & the damned
spilling over from
villages & camps.
As if awakened from the silent tumult,
he packs up
& walks into the labyrinth
of a crimson horizon…
It’s been 42 long years
since the people tried
to reclaim the Palace
& drive the dictator away,
like a dog with its looping tail!
O how this generation
of texts & internet
has erased the memory
of a once-heroic deed?
But the executioner’s family
is back in the saddle &
the children
are basking
in the glory
of the legislative government!
O America,
who gave shelter
to both warring families,
what crimes have you committed?
To stop the intramural
among the mafia gadflies?
The traitors are back
in church,
given the sacrament
as if they were repentant, innocent.
Do the people deserve their fate?
Amnesia is the scourge
of history?
Guerillas still linger
at the gates,
hunted by dogs of the state:
O the law proclaims
the rule of fair play,
they have rights & privileges!
O shit!
This is the country
that never learns its lessons!
Alas, behind the curtain
another apostate!

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