The half-naked guy, wearing a half-smile
on his face, quips, “God may be punishing us”.
His shack was wrecked by the storm.
His family has nowhere to go.
He longs for a Samaritan to help him out.
There are thousands like him.
They don’t know who the enemy is.
For sure, they’ll reveal their lives.
As if everything, like their fate,
is a natural disaster.
Eventually, nothing would have really happened.
She takes her position
at the corner of Kamias & EDSA,
& tows along a scrawny toddler
to better make an impression
of looking in need, vulnerable.
A sob story she has:
Could she ride home to a southern town
where she doesn’t have to bum around?
A drama repeated every minute
until her bag bulges with collected pennies.
She thrives off working class compassion
holding hostage our Christian charity
in an unequal society.
A child in East avenue
lies stricken in a charity ward –
His jobless parents
blindsided by a regime
beg for the kindness of strangers
we all can’t do without.
Somehow there must be
a balancing equation
between the calculus of exploitation
& that elegant sense of integrity
that makes for begging deathrow desperation:
embracing the luckless must not equate
with being knowingly conned.
Into the deepening night
the old doddering couple
scavenges for leftover & soda cans…
Nope, they haven’t heard
of Mao Zedong’s barrel of the gun,
or they would have wished for a grenade
in a garbage can
to lob at connoisseurs in an exotic restaurant:
O it must be satanic, inhuman!
She doesn’t live in Sanfo
where you left your blue heart
but down here in the colony
of tenpercenters & floozies
She’s a bag lady among many
huddling by a dusty/dark cafe
& strange how she gets
to persist existentially…
Nights she has
fruit boxes for bed
tattered sheet for mosquito net
to drag in a hot/cold day
Does she have bread & coffee?
Penitents at Sacred Heart
toss some cents
for her cigarettes & candy
When it rains, where does she hide?
She stares at a wall of air, like a rat.
V Blank rage
Everytime he hurries out of the lecture room
kids turn off quickly their psychic headphones
He feels like brushing his teeth, rinsing the mental notes
of symbolic & imaginary in Promethean mode
Like professors out of sync, he’s wont to consider
his facts & figures of this & now as real
for generations who think instead it’s lingo of the moon,
neither hip-hop nor profitable: Zizek, Marx, Jameson
are academic goblins straddling a gasp & a yawn.
Fiery words that enter in & out of young ears
are mere stuff of dreams the street-wise appraise
if worth the promise according to the marketplace:
The rest is garbage time, initiation rites & ordeal.
B) Au Revoir
When he announced that
it was the last day of their semester,
the class fell into a hush
as if something was gone forever
& trooping into another room
would make their hearts
Certainly, he’s not a tormented Van Gogh
out to paint, in swift heavy stroke,
the outer layering of his ominous face,
underlining subsequently the inner travail,
as they say, of his wine-colored days.
He just wonders, like a breakdown this days,
why the covering of his chocolate skin
seems to betray what his mind lucidly spins:
Veins keep flaring out in criss-crossing foliage
as though to accentuate a weather of temper,
silver strands of hair stray out of place
asymmetrical, or in consonant with, his stare.
Yes, they think he’s damn too old & menacing
but that ancient fallacy doesn’t really square:
He’s laughing, in no certain degree, at why gazers
divine an idiot’s, asynchronic despair.
Cut his ear, or wrists? & hope to die?
O he’s always bound to be in discordant rhyme
for those who glance from a different time.
VII Redefining Don Juan
It is not so much
he would like, as they charge,
to cavort with pretty young things,
who’ll give him exotic conversation
& a novel way of looking at the norm
as the brutal truth
that he seeks to find out
how badly the world
has left him behind
& the future way, way off
his intimated desire.
Oft-times, he falls for the trap
of having tea & company
& wishing at the same time
for a survivalist illusion,
that of being alone.
VIII Poetry lesson
A certain madness to fill
the void of whiteness, the sheet of paper
that stares back like an ocean of golden sand
under a blue, blue sky –
A caravan of wayfarers emerges from the sun
inching its way into your edge of horizon
like a trail of ants crawling on your eyes
& you feel like some Hispanic voyager
seeing tropic land for the very first time.
On this space of whiteness, you will stamp
a thumbprint, or draw a dot, a line, anything:
A gazelle, a cat, a dog, a face, a knife,
to keep you from that glimmering madness
of white, white, white that blinds your sight.
What is there to say?
Images tell you nothing but the heart’s wish
to link the inner world of knowing
with the outer side that conflagrates your feeling:
You say this, she says that –
Signs don’t meet,
a common bondage you fail to consecrate,
like strangers, you look the other way.
O this conversation never happened.
You never really existed at all.
Needless to say, you must connect the dots
of X equals the present state of mind
Y equals present state of heart
Z equals present state of things
to prove we are all one story
How do you harmonize the song & the flute?
But madness lies down like a cat underfoot
& we retrieve questions of the absolute –
Why the wind rattles
the autumn of your years
Why the sun melts the clouds
that hide your blue, blue hair
Why voices dissolve
in the light of the moon
Why glances hang in mid-air
like dangling conversations
O I can’t connect the light to shadow,
body to soul
All stagecraft of imagination
affirms the truth of human condition:
There is something of a plague between us
that quarantines our savage solitudes.
It strikes you
like any autumn evening
when leaves start to fall
& you walk down
passing by empty rooms;
you put on your blue jacket
as if to brace yourself
for the wintry blast
here in Diliman
where children grow up fast
to live their own lives
& you have only yourself
behind October’s closed door.
They are gone for good.
The kids have flown the coop
& into a limitless sky
of new memory.
Who remembers what?
The samurai warrior, Ronin,
only knows it too well:
He who loves is punished
for his passion.
She won’t come back,
the empty chair
across him says
in no uncertain terms.
Why should she?
Life is too impersonal
to fit the heart’s wishes & commands.
You carry your grief
like a rusty badge.
“No question, no answer.”
That’s Ronin’s third rule.
XI CCP Main Gallery: The thirteen artists
Three wide rolls of Fabriano paper
flowing down the floor
& approximating the sky…
But look closer, closer, closer –
The galaxy of stars
is a canopy of bullet holes
where men & women sprawl
in pools of blood.
Plaster shells litter the corner
& a black carpet leads
to a blank wall:
No letup, no letup –
A young woman’s haiku
of what the lamentation
is all about.
The bay water
is smooth as blue glass.
Small boats anchored
at the wharf
project a Mediterranean summer
at Harbor square.
The Starbucks coffee
tastes as usual
expensive & sweet.
The half-eaten pastry
yawns on the paper plate.
Conversation is brief,
almost silent like the air & the sea.
& I remember a poem
written at eighteen,
after a despairing Anwar.
Except for the screams
of a vagrant woman
being held tight by security guards
because she didn’t pay
for the food she had ordered.
XIII Poetry 101
The apprentice is quick to complain:
But it takes so long a time
to comprehend the word –
The fall of leaves, the burst of sunlight
the glow of the moon,
the sudden rain & the shrieks of animals.
How can I understand everything
in a single glance?
The old man nods gently.
He was young then, & was as impetuous
to make something of all
that is life.
That would require so much exquisite
What is hidden in the young man’s heart
He must find himself.
He could only mumble:
Take your time.
Everything conspires to deliver
a message, no matter how trivial.
But more. Never aspire for Godhood.
Never think you must know everything.
Just wait. Even it takes a lifetime.
If you can write only one poem
in all the days of your solitude on planet earth,
be thankful: You have been blessed.
At the port,
he sees her
the boat swallowed up
by the orange horizon.
On the bridge,
she sees him
the land drowning
in the mouth of dark water.