Figures in a Heartscape I to VIII

(For Criselda)


Between tea & biscuit, she tells you
about the boy with sad eyes & quick smile:
“Yes, they have so much, we have none.
There’s nothing wrong with robbing those guys.”
& you know how charmingly it all starts:
your barya to spare, your half-drunk coke,
then your old rubber shoes. Soon, soon,
they’ll hold, at knife point, your throat.
& since time, time, time quickly flies
they’ll be tracers for some shy general,
cocking their guns with their quick smile…
& eventually, you know, mothers will scream
fathers will gnash their teeth:
O have you seen our kids lately?
O herself a child who does not have the time
to be a child.


(For the Bellers)


In New York,
they know where
Ground Zero is.
But when they stood
where red flags waved
in wind & rain
like painted shouts
on Commonwealth Avenue
never had they felt so many
& so much at home.


(For Sara)


The young lecturer
he found busy at the table –
& he couldn’t stay & brood.
FC1058 is everybody else’s.
He has never had a room of his own:
he isn’t paid that much.
He takes stock of things:
suppose he had played the game –
he would have been given some plaque,
some grant, even a sabbatical –
plus the luxury of opening a door
to see himself exclusively alone
in a room he would call his own.
But some kind heart
will always offer one.
Such is how one lives
in the labyrinth of the academe


(For Carol)


Everywhere is she
Kyoto, Bali, Singapore…
wherever her mind goes
in search of Manila
she loves to tear apart
because History
should never lie:
The world’s asymmetry
is perfectly mathematical.


(For Camille & Jenny)


When hearts start to break
you realize how tough you can be –
advice, alas! of fools
who failed to heed
the cautionary tale of angels.


(For Bheng)


There was she at the door,
her child & husband in tow,
whispering, “I just dropped by” –
but loud enough for all to hear.
& he knew,
despite the transiency
of his job status,
some things had become
blessedly permanent.


(For the Patient)


A silent stroke, they said:
Did he observe some dietary discipline?
Did he stress himself too much?
Didn’t he consult his doctors regularly?
He only knew that things inhuman
had conspired to break him down.
This country loves
to kill


(For Nina)


Softly she moves
underfoot like a cat
& you know
whatever makes her crouch –
strange encounters
with brutal men –
she’ll leap over it.
She has more than
nine lives.
Like all women.

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