21 Poems of Everyday Pestilence

I

Class ‘07

Boisterously they march
into the maw of the machine
& out –
to oil its moving gears,
fix the psychical electrodes
so it could efficiently hum
like troopers made to surveil
the hood
& stonewall the Boss:
Four years it took
to glorify God & Scrooge
& observe the 25-hr. workload
to produce the corporate fortune
at all costs –
Yes, they shall,
like their elders before them,
loot & burn
& play the Russian Roulette
on those who won’t move
according to the symphonic rhythm
of capitalist mode.

2.

& if there’s a virtuous man/woman
left in the Palace,
Would God spare the City?
He, alas, doesn’t negotiate
like Habermas would.
His edict is draconian –
Burn it to the ground;
it’s not worth its weight in gold!
If, among the novatos,
one stays & flees to the boondocks?
O Yahweh, just the same,
wouldn’t be moved.

3.

What’s there to do?
Salvation’s pure?
Only strangers spared
from the virus of utilitarian credo
will pass, like a camel,
the eye of a needle?
Enough of Christian axioms, then.
The old wisdom shouldn’t hold!

II

C’est la Vie
(for Criselda & Cora)

“Keep in touch,” they chirped.
“There maybe more stories to tell.”
One’s destined to be an economist;
the other a teacher for the autistic:
birds hopping out of a nest,
flexing their wings.
But they’ll be leaves floating on the river
of his memory,
pushed by the current
to distant banks,
& only a happenstance
could spin narratives under the sun.
“Keep in touch,”
is being touched when,
at the bend of the infinite,
these season’s naifs
smiled at him
& he painfully smiled back.

III

Cruellest Month

Already the flagellants
are up to their old tricks
of assaulting heaven
for their imagined sins –
ceremony nth time repeated
because no suffering suffices
& God doesn’t heed
any mortal need.
The message is falsely writ.
April will wobble on its axis
along with the bloodied penitents
who’ll chant hymns
& quote verses
ritually endorsed for the meek.
Comedy par excellence
but fools won’t concede
& Christ as a revolutionary
driving away the priest
is the classic imperative.

IV

Couch Potato

The days of sun & sudden downpour
well, he couldn’t hack
& cafes emptied of kids
who buzz around like bees…
O whenever summer ends
& another batch
fills the dusty rooms
with monkeys’ screeching
as if the troglodytes
that stalk the countryside
are on hibernation mode
& the story of desaparecidos
is adulterated metajoke.
TV primetimes will ease out
the lazy hours
until the next morn
when news is recycled on tube…
So the couch potato
must feel nothing or see nothing
to pull the stars across the sky
& face the past
that wears the mask
of the Future that is the present
in a harlequinade
of dry flowers,
dry laughter,
dry poems.

V

Tipping Point
(for Lala)

The point of excess
is also the point of lack,
critical moments both
when something turns around,
fortune segues into misfortune,
tears into frown:
Borges’s angle
of dreamtigers
that escape the common eye –
something snarls when we hear
none.
Yes, he went crazy
because he lost the face
that mesmerized him
in a crowd;
Yes, she flew to Europe
because French
is the language
of her karmic life;
Yes, all the seasons of fear
push off all the seasons of fever –
because the tipping point
is any moment
when she leaves in a huff
& he doesn’t even hold
an empty bag.

VI

Nokia Baby

Cocooned she is
in silkoline words,
her fingers doing the electric talk.
Does she really get across?
Her Nokia is her heart
bearing all the secret signals
across the stratosphere
to confirm she’s here, not alone,
in a familiar zone.
Yes, but when she got beaten up
by her choice of lover,
did it matter
that her network of texts
couldn’t shield her,
like some antimissile system,
from his dismal whim?
But she’s still at it,
as if SMS won’t fail her,
& all her possible fuckers
who, like her,
also use words
like plumbers dance
the pas de deux.

VII

Manque

Clyfford Still, abstract expressionist,
wouldn’t sell his paintings,
& left a will that they be
donated to a city which will house them
in a museum
for no other painter but him.
Never to traffic with pragmatists,
he “abandoned friends”
for succumbing to “pure commerce”
& bartering their art
for the filthy lucre.
He was an artist out of sync
with the world of surplus value
& bandwagon
of Pollock, Rothko, de Kooning…
Yup, he’s outside the monetary loop
but his estate
is currently a billion worth.
What he didn’t wish for,
in return he got a millionfold.

VIII

The New Courtiers

Slash their wrists
or swig oceans of gin –
fatal flair of romantic poets.
But they no longer hold in thrall
the young versifiers
who work on their ph.d.
then fly to poetry workshops
in an English city.
Yes, it’s simply out of order
to barricade the world
with rifles & red poems…
There are the national titles
& pension to procure
in the name of trauma
& expressionist bull.
Spaced-out guys on amphetamine
won’t soak up in corporate hygiene:
This modern breed manufactures prose
while lugging a valise
& dressed in designer suits.

IX

The Abandoned

Hardly, she could move:
her arthritic bones locked up
at octogenarian joints,
they had to help her around
so her kids sent her packing
to Naujan
in the care of whoever was around.
It was an “inconvenient truth,”
this caring for elders
gets in the way of everyday affairs.
When she died
“it was all for the best,
she’s in heaven now.”
But the townsfolk
wouldn’t hear of their testimonial grief:
If there’s hell,
her children should burn there first.

X

Allure

The minutes she counts
that the drowsy afternoon
drags across her eyes
as she strings sampaguita buds
that’ll fetch her some reprieve
& be counted among the disinherited
who follow the rules
of the neo-liberal lords.
Sometimes, she wished
she were bad enough
to cross boundaries
& deal with crack
so she could fly
& outspeed the night
that sucks her body dry.
Too slow is life:
death is off-hand alluring
in a time warp
of slomo carnage
punctuated by flashes
of psychedelic highs.

XI

Diaspora

When the patriarch
was cremated
it was a matter of time
for his children
to drift away:
the old bonding no longer holds,
everyone’s trapped in their own
mercantile craft
of making do with petty cash.
& the ritual of coming together
is blank memory
of days when the old man ruled
without the booming voice
of false divinity.
The crack on the wall
is the familial wish –
if only time could rewind
& the Alpha Dog,
strapped to his wheelchair,
would gather them
in symbolic embrace
at the prodigals’ table.

XII

Al Pacino Day

Under the shadow of Uzi,
the day-care kids
waved behind glass windows –
playing with toys
& eating ice cream
like they were riding a ferris wheel
in Star City.
The scheme had racheted up:
the fantasist got his public space,
his voice rising above
the cacophonous din
of goons on the husting:
school for the wards,
no to age-old corruption,
& a curse on the rabble
if they sell their votes.
A recidivist wacko?
But who wouldn’t seize
a crazy plot
when everybody’s talking mad
& nobody hears
the muffled cries in the ghetto?
In a country of criminals,
who violates the law?

XIII

Postmortem

A barbershop pundit interpellates:
“There were lapses in operational procedure,
all right. The authorities usually get their
man dead, & the whole block would deem it
inevitable, like a dog sniffing blood in water.
The ethical imperative is clear: he who breaks
the law must be terminated; the gods must keep
control – ask any anal retentive guy. But
this old gizzard sneaked one over them: he
had his sermon on the bus, & won the
mixed sympathy of kibitzers & charlatans.
He embarrassed the state; he must be made to
pay. They couldn’t keep the lid on his spiel:
he washed our dirty
linen in global public.
“Of course, parents were aghast at his stunt.
But this sounds like cheap melodrama!
Do we adults really care? Our kids
take after us – despondents, indifferent,
greedy. All these tears are theatrics, & make
for cheap tragedy.
“The dude risked imprisonment. Exhibitionist
or not, with a flair for calling attention to
his social conscience – yeah, all these could
stick. But he crossed the line beyond which
the timid & unimaginative wouldn’t venture.
“Sure, he’s some kind of a terrorist – in
their book.”

XIV

The Violated

The ethnic norm
is the child whore
wearing fancy jewelry
& cheap perfume
to dazzle under the neon.
She sees it aint moral
but luxury is the common lingo
of her class
& strays pump the pimp in the studio
when ulcers “knock on the door.”
If one gets stoned,
it’s a matter of personal enterprise:
her lean mean machine of a body
is blue-chip for old men
on viagra
& ritzy clients make sense
when death shares her bed
like a kinky lover.
Negotiated virtue
is the only bargain
& virginal Catholic nuns
shouldn’t score it profane.
The infinite she can’t imagine:
after all, food & sex
fuel life’s faltering engine.

XV

In Memoriam

Fore & aft, fore & aft
her body twisted & turned
to meet her lover’s thrusts:
almost a gymnast with amorous task
before her patented blow job
as if to punctuate a transaction that
at the dizzying hour
to disremember she’d wash:
Had she tired of him?
Was it false to subscribe to single passion?
Was it all sexed-up imagination?
Her eyes said it all:
Emotion, like language,
is his prison house
& she, schizo virgin & whore,
had cleverly moved on.
He was her passing fancy,
easy prey to her spidery whimsy.
He’d finally haha! wise up
that love is silly superstition
to exorcise everyday laceration
in the heart’s equation:
in death as in life
one is most stupidly alone
but ever he’d been a sentimemtal moron.

XVI
The Boxer

The swiftness of feet
& lightning of reflexes
he’d never had
to keep his boxing foe in awe:
it was a mad despair
to have three square meals a day
for a family
that had burdened his mitts
with the heaviness of lead
making him an easy target
for someone quicker
& gifted.
In a box he flew back
& onlookers were too stunned
to utter a word
that somehow they should have done
something else for being so damn poor
& small.
He’d just be another datum
on a list
of brain-damaged pugs
who never thought
their hands could be used
to fire a gun, for instance,
at those who pontify
violence isn’t the way of the Lord
& in the name of peace
the dispossessed should stand down.

XVII
Blessed be the Animals

Playfully wave
flowers & palm fronds
like archangels’ singing
of Hossanah to the Highest
because salvation is come
& hope grips the hearts
of the afflicted.
The church doors burst open
in the blinding light
of quick smiles
& strange covenant
that shadows no longer
should rule the land.
O if only stray packs
of kittens & puppies
abandoned to their wiles
could share in the festive air
& partake
of the manna from the skies:
But the worshipful crowd
wouldn’t even cast a glance
while praying to God
for their earthly deliverance.

XVIII
Consequential Truth

Ancient & dire is the prophecy:
Polar icebergs shall melt,
the blue waters shall rise
to drown all- just & evil alike…
Is it the second coming,
as advertised,
when shall come down Christ
in fire & brimstone
to sift grain from chaff?
No, it’s possibly a reprise
of Noah & his ark
when earth shall be swamped
with a global tide
but none of mankind
to spare this time!

XIX
Reunion
(for my merry old chums)

They walked in
as if straggling
from the cold:
but they’re all smiles-
though looking
like strangers
they didn’t seem to be
when eons ago
they were shouting & giggling
on school grounds.
The years had been gentle
on a few,
merciless on many
as they looked like
their roots
he used to marvel at:
doddering & spent
as any parents would
who set great store by their fruits:
gone now
& their kids had dutifully
taken over.
The empty seats at the table
yawned like dark forebodings,
& he encountered
history recycling itself
like a predictable delirium.
O He was lined up against the wall
& the sound of childish merriment
as though to ward off the onrushing sunset
grew louder in his ears.

XX

Criminal

They roused him from sleep
before the crack of dawn,
hustling him into a waiting van
for flight to Erehwon
where organized mob
would into his ears scream,
even club him
with hysterical placards
requisitioned from barangay halls
& paramilitary barracks.
He was the criminal
they had long wanted to lock up
because they couldn’t put in his stead
the generals
who count their townhouses
in San Francisco
& retrieve skeletons
to plant in mass graves
because Marx isn’t the alternative.

XXI

Final Hour
(for Nic)

The plug on him they will pull.
But all dread the final hour
when his body shall hear
the siren call of eternity…
O if he could only listen to
the banter around him,
would he smilingly nod
at the surreal exchanges of his keepers?
O should they bid him farewell
& let him rest in the bosom
of the cosmos,
like Baudelaire’s giantess’,
from where his elements –
quarks & molecules –
cohered to be him
& become the bearer of collective will;
pray that his journey to the light
be quick & merciful
so he could warn them of the perils
of night flight?
Surely, the criminals are feasting
over this lonely battle
but God wouldn’t answer either.
No explanation would suffice;
He would just stammer.
Yet this vigil can only resolve
to pursue his interrupted mortality
& the terrible truth
he carried that must be brought to bear fruit.

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