“Encircle the city
from the countryside.”
The forest still screams loudly in our ears.
We advance wary through old thickets of decay.
Wild birds abound, flock into fallen sentinels,
The wicked city looms; the high command blares.
Our feet are sapped, dragging to roll of drums;
Our women dry up, their brats bloat & die…
Forcibly we trek anew the road sloping in blood
While ruined garrisons shatter the calm of countryside.
We, in communal design, are fast on the heels of death.
The peasants rear to buck (The hinterland is secure)
the final surging tide from the spitted eye of vice:
“We are coming to storm! O Brothers, take heed!”
Tarlac, Pampanga…The Sierra Madre’s a python huge
coiling to devour the white animals of the plain,
as centuries after, it brushed the chains off & moved:
“We’re on the road fatefully, leaving memory behind.”
& our eyes huddle, the men close to their rifles.
Old women gather round, stoking the camp & fire.
Night prays. The sleep is long & hard; we dream.
The sky breaks, ringing voices of dawn. We crack the whip.
The vanguard bellows, the leader waves: “He with us,
low savages, was once your kind, doomed ministers;
but quickly abandoned he your groping art & pyres
& sensibly spewed old tragedies and Greeks.
“The horizon of our lives widened for wakefully he came
to invoke the craft of reason, justice & repair…
In the hard years, you, rats feebled by circular ways,
saw us no longer men but turned beasts to hunt your days!”
From Voices of Violence, 1971