Poems of Ordinary Torment

(The Faithful)

Lola Pacing’s dimming eyes
could barely thread the needle
but stubbornly her trembling hands
would assure her mind
age wasn’t the culprit,
until, with a feint smile,
she’d start to sew on the button
as if it was no big deal –
just as, when tumbling through
the pages of the Bible,
she’d squint into the formation of letters,
figuring out the words
for her equanimity & comfort –
or when she’d read to him
the passages that unraveled
the workings of fate
in the ill logic of the universe…
Something was so kosher,
the Lord soweth,
the Lord taketh,
& when she gasped her last,
she could only mumble
peace, peace, peace…
as if bestowing on humankind
that which she had been denied,
her life
full of turmoil & solitude
but for her faith in God
who knoweth why.

(The Artist)

His leather trunk loaded
with an old-fashioned camera & tripod,
Old grandpa Ute
would trundle off to far-flung sitios –
burial, fiesta, whatever –
& take shots of peasant kinfolk
out to make a rustic moment
permanent on their minds,
the photopaper to conclude claims
they could marvel at.
He, in time, couldn’t hack it anymore –
the town had turned digital,
the provincials would snap
themselves in Manila style –
& would drop the tedious chore
of working for daily bread,
lapsing onto an Alzheimer’s mode
to probably forget it all –
his contemporary Amorsolo,
his canvases of maestro class,
his paraphernalia that fed a family
but ravaged his soul…
It was only proper
that he’d expire
with his sister by his side
because he had always lived
like a mouse in the dark corner
of his savaged studio art.
He was an artist
& people never knew why.

(A Fine Madness)

“You’re going mad,” she says,
with the cool habit of a cynic
who divines things impeccably.
No, it’s not a slap in the face:
the words are meant
to stop him in his tracks,
like a car that must switch gear
lest it crash.
“Why do you collect words
when in a day or two
they dry up in the void?”
Yes, he of the old wisdom
that pain is solely one’s own
& remembering his blog
is just a tempest in a beer mug:
O we survive daily annihilations
with our eyes like half-moons.
How we wished he could unsee
nightmare’s apparition!
It’s being “a nigger with a nickel”
to turn out poems after poems
as if the world would take note & mourn.
“You never learn,
not even to the last second,”
she sighs, smiling
like the angel of destruction
come to smite down
those who falsely swear
by kingdom’s raison.

(The Inferno)

The day’s like a boat
pushed by longshoremen
onto the coast –
like the sun itself
that plows
inch by inch
across the sky…
Onlookers soak in the boiling heat
because night refuses to settle down:
until, in the blink of an eye,
darkness comes
& faces melt into shadows
like lollipops.
All that is of time, time, time
is whittled away
in interminable waiting
for all things to happen
day in & day out
again & again
the rest of their lives:
This nothing that’s the stuff of living
& they cannot even cry.

(The Forgotten)


He used to cry a river
over her,
He used to sonnambule
over her.
But in the wink of an eye,
how did it happen
that his heart didn’t miss a beat
upon mention of her name?
Was he drunk or unforgiving?


It is futile to wait
with sleeping virgins
at the temple.
Always a gamble
to pass the time
if she’ll appear
like an apparition.
The day after,
he’ll collect stolidly
the broken
pieces of a wish.


All poems of desire
are repetition
of water devoured by air
& wind consumed by fire.

(April Fool)

The penitent’s at a loss
for his holified years
when blood would drape
his body
& words bereave
his heavenward cry:
What if Jesus indeed
married the harlot Magdalene,
had a secret child,
& didn’t bolt out of the tomb
to reclaim his testamental throne?
The ossuaries seemed to mock
his faith & suffering…
Was it all zero-sum, ill advise?
O he consequently died
a million deaths
inside –
speechless & stunned
unlike mimetic Christ.


A workaholic she was.
But she’s tired of coming home
& preparing dinner
for herself alone,
to eat at the appointed hour
taking her time
to wrap a strand of noodle
around the spoon;
so she fancied
maybe the first guy
who phones
would be kismet,
a last-ditch sign
to ease the day
in her uneasy, everyday way.
But it was not so smooth
as glass
as any saccharine movie goes:
she couldn’t hack the roller-coaster talk,
the peaks & valleys of questions
that end up like uncharted routes…
O who’s the wise guy
who trumpeted his fraudulent
emotion called love
is antidote
fro cyclical solitude.

(Wrong Way)

“There are choices
we can’t make for ourselves,”
sears him into gulping down
the last drop of gin.
“We always settle for the second best.”
Has he drawn the line then
the diamond in his hand
& the rose that should have been?
Between imaginary love
& simulacra his eyes feast on
is the distance of sea & sky:
The spectral other on the east side of the hill,
& she who nibbles at his ears on the west?
Can he choose between an absence
& a presence that signal’s heart fragility?
“There are choices
we can’t make for ourselves.”
O He’s a boy with a wolf
tucked inside his shirt
& gnawing at his belly –
but he can’t let on
lest his act be deemed
bereft of warrior’s discipline.

(The Wake)

It’s a season of funeral wakes
& all the signs are on the wall.
Their patriarch lies in state at Paz
& his kids who surround his body
have grown old so badly:
their once pink cheeks
have turned bronze & stubbly;
their soulful eyes
are in perpetual squint,
as if whipped by a cleaving mind
that cuts young
corn stalks.
He cannot weep at the sight,
only alarmed & stunned
as if this were natural:
they couldn’t have foreseen –
sheltered in childhood,
struggling in adulthood –
what the future holds.
& all the innocence in the world
is just the fickle smile
on an angel’s face:
now she’s all silence
& unforgiving.
Such be the devastation
wrought on children
of early passion
& early marriage.

(The Widow)

She won’t go home.
She doesn’t buy the idea
of ever leaving for a second
her husband’s bier
at the catafalque
They used to spend their retirement days
cozying up to each other,
the inseparable comrades
relishing times
good & bad,
their children & their children’s children
to perk up the music
of their twilight years.
There is absence
& she wouldn’t know
where to find it –
perhaps in old photos,
his favorite chair,
the packs of cigarettes
that did him in?
But it’s too late for her
to go it alone.
If she were younger,
the days would be shorter.
But in her seventies
she couldn’t even knit
without straining her fingers!
O She has never thought
that someone’s passing –
so common a truth
she didn’t even notice –
would stretch the day
tortuously longer.

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