DARK SIDE OF HISTORY

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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LETTER TO YOUNG POETS

(1)

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)

(2)

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?

(3)

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

1.

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.

2.

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?

3.

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

angel

(who is he anyway?)

who would fly backward

to the horizon

with eyes fixed

on civilization’s

dark side

where monsters & beasts

hide…

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…

4.

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?

5.

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

cry

but we cannot answer why…

6.

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

struggle…

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

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SHIPWRECKED SAILORS

1.

A.
“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
conversation.
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…

B.
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…

C.
Conversations
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
non-sensical?
Can we present our true
face before the others
who will be our reflecting mirror?
& do we dare speak
it is all half-lies?
2.
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
beforehand.
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?

3.
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
vindictive…
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?

4.
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
significance!
When shadow is consumed
by light,
do we bother to ask:
Why, why, why?
O capitalism forever
calls the shots?
5.
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…

6.
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
worship?
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!

7.
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
because
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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MEMORY BOX

1.
“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
Madeleine?
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…

2.
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.
3.
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…

4.
April
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
poetry…

5.
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
omen?
Every place is rained down
with blood-soaked
tears!
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?

6.
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?

7.
A.
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
Law?
That he should accept
the unforgivable loss
is good for the soul,
devotees counsel.
Acceptance is the cure,
they dutifully chorus.

B.
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.”

C.
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

8.
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
lives.
O the Lenten season, after all,
is resurrection of conclave’s belief!

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TERMINABLE RECALL

1.
“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

2.

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
glock!
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.

3.

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
lie?
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?

4.

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…

5.

“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…

6.

“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
alike?
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…

7.

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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VISITATION

I.

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.

2.

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…

3.

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?

4.

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

solicitude.

But always the black coffee

on the table

is the color of his stirred brew.

5.

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?

6.

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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