25 Poems for Players of Apocalypse


Thomas Mann’s apocalyptic text
grips him like a vise:
somehow we are trapped
in the mindset of the past
& it keeps speaking to us
through tongues of desire:
So when Sarkozy
won the presidency over the woman
he sneered that the French of haute couture
are as provincial as pan de sal,
& croissant
does not civilize the mission
of General Massu
who dynamited nationalists
in Algerian casbah.
Yes, he still resonates Verlaine,
but the rain that falls on the town
is alas! bombs that fell
on Vietnam.
The repressed returns with a vengeance
& African gangs
will ululate with their homemade arsenal—
migrants who scamper
like cockroaches in ghetto bunks.
In Manila,
this will be the future
that’s in store
for beggars & soldiers
who exchange
in one-way streets
boots & shouts.


(Chalk Circle)

The lives they have lived
are incognito & multiple:
farmers, pedlars,
businessmen, couriers,
lecturers, et cetera.
But this time
they seem to have failed,
as parents,
when in the forest enclave
they have opened their arms
to all the kids
like they were their own…
Only this one,
this real & elusive child
who has become almost an illusion
& not even King Solomon
can solve the chalk circle equation.


The oldtimers,
come down from the boondocks,
smile weakly
as the kid they left
in the care of comrades
struggles like a wild cat
in their tight embrace—
No, no! he screams
as the mother bites her lips
& the father wails inside
for the child
who roams in the frontier
of their minds
now flees into the corner
of the house—
terrified by the strangers
whose faces bear his face
like peas in a pod.

(Man of the Masses)

He came home alone,
without any bodyguard
to embrace him
should a wayward bullet
find its fatal mark.
But he’s a man of the masses,
& to get scared
is to prove the bluff
that barking dogs bite!
He opens the gate
with a conviction half-blind
that despite the chaos
in country & city
where children disappear at nightfall
& judges laugh at Justitia’s blindfold
nothing of cataclysmic consequence
would hopefully happen
here at home
where familiar faces flash
quicksilver smile
& the light
drives away shadows from the lawn.
But of late,
he’s been whistling in the dark
much too often
like a fool
heavy with superstition.


Three layers of hollow blocks
they have added to the top
of the perimeter fence
to stop the mercenaries
from scaling & jumping over
to the other side
where, at the sala,
they banter
& share hot coffee with friends.
Yet, they would be accused
of starting a prairie fire
when mostly she’d putter around
the garden,
watering the yellow bells
that crawl up the mossy side
of the house
or warm the cocoa
to ease into the morning news.
A blind man’s bluff
that the fence should make
entry of police interlopers
like crossing a castle moat?
But what can he do these days
when only criminals
are allowed to carry pistols
& rifle grenades?



She had informed them
she would meet a fellow worker
at the terminal.
She had squeezed a few clothes
into her backpack
& some notepads
for her research job.
The night before
she celebrated a reunion
with kinfolks
& was she vibrant
in photoshoots with the crowd!
How long had it been
since she was declared missing
by classmates who knew
where she was heading?
Now, she’s only a smiling face
on the front page…
They didn’t count on scalawags
zeroing in on her,
orchestrated by a higher order.
They’re ordinary people,
why should big shots give a damn?
Yes, she had told them
about secret cabals & state schemes…
O how they wished
she had never encountered Marx & Mao!

(State schemes & secret cabals…)

She couldn’t hit off
with her working companion.
They had petty problems
re office & personal relations
but they must carry out the memo
then leave for home, sweet home.
Suddenly, they were quickly hogtied
& shoved into a van
by a platoon of ruffians
who coldly grilled them
with white-hot questions
as if they were on some arcane mission…
God! It’s tough to live in a regime
where ends are predictably drawn
like some silly love song!

(The Mothers)

Their hearts are one in grief
but weep to differential beat:
She has forgiven the criminals
& left to Dios Ama his luminous fate;
She has poured out all the anger
& sought the wisdom of avenging whip.
Yes, mothers of Philippine desaparecidos
have same, old stories to unveil
& crush latin sisters with endless tears…
But where’s heaven’s dire message
that would lift their spirits?
Some time, in a biblical wink of an eye,
miracle they pray may yet happen
& the sneering general & his boys
may still grit their teeth
in a somewhere place in Franco’s hell,
where lamentation & sword prophetically meet…
O God, after all, taxes mortal patience.
But what, alas, if He/She
wouldn’t, beyond human sense of justice,
want in a Nietzschean world to exist?


More names to the Bantayog
faster than kibitzers could count…
Endless the flow of numbers
the incremental delta of calculus
that foretells more are meant
to fall by the wayside
& prayers that would forever flounder
unless grief
isn’t turned into plowshares
but armalites to keep pace
with the infinite carnage.
This is the future
laid down like a newborn child
 on bones arranged in pyramidal pile.


He came out of the cramp stockade
a little dazed
over immensity of space
in the external landscape that welcomed him.
But the dramatis personae
in the theatre of his story
would stare like a row of empty chairs –
his wife had flown to the states;
his children wouldn’t look him in the eye.
So retreating to himself
like a monk into his monastic cave,
he dragged his feet
to the other side of the route,
as if to explore a possibility
of living,
this time mercifully,
Friends still hovered about him
like motherly ghosts
& that’s all he’d need
to survive the destined loss.


“My little sisters would cry for days
inside our hut for there wasn’t any food.
The root crops had not been abundant.
So barren was the land.
You just wished you’d perish the next day
& be done with hunger & living.
Here at the camp, we’ve got a steady
supply of meal ration.
At the boodle fight, I always manage
to stuff myself full.
Food, food, food, is deliriously everywhere.
When sarge told me to shove her
into the van,
like a good soldier I obeyed the man.
She’s my ticket to supper.
I don’t want to wake up
on the wrong side of the bed
& like a dog scrounge for scrap.
Tonight, there will be some barbecue
& dancing at the karaoke.
The General always treats us
for a job well done.”


Everything is served gratis by the state –
the house, the driver-bodyguard
who’s even thankful his task
is less distressful than the fated one
in Basilan.
The gas & mileage are limitless
like the blue, blue sky
& the air-con rooms that silently hum
cushions the general, deep in virtuous sleep,
against terrorist gunfire & rhetoric.
O this heroic life that chiefs must have
for they protect the public from harm & grief
& when they safely retire as mandated
they turn ambassadors to mediate
for security & peace.
A personal history compiled & accomplished
because he wielded an iron fist
over the rabblerousing enemy of the state.
His conscience is spotlessly clean & clear.
The blood on his hand, if any,
he shares with the world’s rulers
& accomplices.

(Children’s Crusade)

For Kabataan Partylist
They were pinning their future
on their party list
that resurrects the children’s crusade
against the world
their elders have turned topsy-turvy.
They’re afraid for their lives
& no sonofabitch
should mess it up
because who wants to inherit
the nuclear wind & the barren wasteland
that lies like a corpse at their feet?
But the monsters
have spawned the two-headed hydra
& the fists they raise in the sun
are met by million more
that sprout from the innards
of the beast.
Yes, the infinite exists,
but they swear to cut it to pieces,
the Gordian knot
that ties them up
like ritual sheep.


Andy Warhol
had remarkably wedded
aesthetics & money,
his New York critics blare:
He ranks behind Picasso
in millions earned
from his spraygun output:
Twenty years ago,
“The best art is good business,”
he intoned.
The culturati has made him liquid since,
like a platinum disc.
Always, a canvas
that speaks to the heart
of Wall Street is damn cool:
No doubt
gold is a standard of truth
& Sunday painters
would kill themselves
to walk this market-driven road.


Blair is finally stepping down
after dropping his shit on Iraq & Afghanistan.
No, he won’t relive the fate of Pinochet
who met his senile end
unlike the thousands of desaparecidos
who were butchered at the National Stadium:
Blair will just stroll into the sunset
as if no global harm has been inflicted
by smart bombs on cities
of Baghdad, Fallujàh and Tikrit
because his ministerial word is law
& preciously prized by the Texan rogue.
He’ll just fade away
like a Queen’s royal soldier
& the blood on his hands
will turn white, invisible
for capitalist history rewards tyrants
& apostates of labouring men.


When the most powerful man
of the most powerful nation of the planet
fluffs his line
off a glossy script,
the world is arguably in dangerous hands.
Dumb Dubya, smiling at the gaffe,
was also hinting
the murderous bombing in Iraq, Iran
& axes of evil
was a comic imperial blooper.
The world is coming to an end
“Not with a bang, but with a whimper,”
because mediocre clowns
hold court
& wise troublemakers
are not listed to by clueless voters.
The disease that ravages America
must perforce ravage Manila,
where the mad carnival in May
is the collective seppuku
of fools, breeding like flies,
who ceremoniously do.

(the Innocent)

Garbed in combat fatigue pants
the resident John Wayne of Erestain street
would pull out his toy gun
& press the trigger
 at some imaginary target
across the store where he’d sit for hours
dreaming perhaps of wars
beyond the neighborhood
of workers & petty sellers
who’d stare impassively
as he preformed his soldiery
morning, noon & night –
anytime he felt
troops of advancing shadows
rush in formation.
Is he John Lennon’s assassin?
Is he the wacko
people would snicker at?
But he doesn’t swagger
like the tanods who roam around
like shabby Rambos
with that Gestapo look,
their lumpen & small town ego on a mission.
Let the sleeping dog lie then:
Lest he realized he must take over
the guardians of barangay.
All hell might break loose
for innocents like him
would savor the final cruelty of the real –
Never will his plastic pistol
stop the lunatics in their coat & tie.


“The degree of Christian civilization,”
he says, stroking his beard,
“is indexed by the number of mangled
cats on the asphalt & skinny dogs
loitering around the neighborhood.
& to think we spend
thousands on gem-studded capes
 of ivory saints
& lit imported candles
to involve Mary’s holy presence.
We even bless non-organic limousines
to spare fat owners from accidents
but animals have to dig up trash heaps
for spoiled human scrap.
These creatures don’t steal public funds
nor promise a new electoral dawn.”
“I rest my case,” he spits out tobacco cud,
winking, “all is not fair in divine love.”
(& the dog that served as sentinel
at the camp against peasant miscreants
the soldiers served in mix of pepper & vinegar.)


He was maestro carpintero
who’d study the grain of wood
 like it were his skin he’d soothe
& meticulously pound the nail
as if it were a surgical operation.
At so early an age
he had prepared for his last days
when he made a coffin of expensive dao
that he exhibited
in his shop like a sarcophagus.
As a child, he’d pass by noon & night
this exquisite symbol of lolo’s afterlife
but it was his wife who’d lay claim
to it like a divine imperative.
He’d survive her almost 40 years late
for death seemed to have taunted ‘Lo Enteng –
for He, the Lord’s reaper, only He
could draw the appointed hour & unholy date.
He had second guessed the Guardian of Hades
& therefore must pay the price
of living deeper into the century.
Didn’t he rage against the dying of the light?
He had prepared himself like Socrates
who calmly drank the hemlock
after bequeathing some earthly possessions
to his weeping philosophy minions.
How could he have crafted
the boat to row across the Acheron
when the sun flared
brilliantly on the horizon?
Did he lack the imagination
to witness the mythical beauty
of wind, fire, tree & flower
or did he possess the secret knowledge
that life is mere synonym of grief?
& he wouldn’t tarry a minute less?


They had to break the door down
after so much knocking
because the old man
wouldn’t answer:
Maybe he’s in deep sleep?
Maybe he just wanted to punish
those who wait & wait?
All the questions
why he had shut himself off
from the human din
would stare at them
like the age-old argument:
A bottle of beer in hand,
he in his’ rocking chair
sitting statuelike…
He had left no official will,
just some undecipherable texts
that meant awfully nothing?
Death came softly
in the evening
& the morning after
there would be so much weeping?
There were scant letters
about the revolution in his time,
& some postscripts
why this monumental event
would be forever distant,
beyond all social experiments…
Did he lose hope?
Couldn’t wait?
The horsemen of the apocalypse
weren’t blessed with the virtue
of patience.
They dragged him away,
as if this country was forever ruined.

(The Unforgiving)

When he looked up –neck aching
& head slowly spinning –
he realized his dream
had been broken into
by her, like a thief,
but didn’t semaphore a text!
Rarely does it happen –
only the privileged of memory,
his forebear & occasional ghosts
that congeal from skulls
of his biographical holocausts –
would grip his secret wishes,
but there she was,
inscrutable & beautiful,
& he could only marvel
how bittersweet it was:
This continuing affliction
on those who wait & wait
for La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

(Ad Infinitum)

The rememberer in him
is haunted by the poem
that brings forth all the pain,
all the joy, all the anger.
For her who sums up
all the archeology of texts
he has poured out
of his stupid spleen.
A certain signifier,
a certain signified
but nothing stands still, stays:
The X blurs
all the clarity
that no scrivener could sacralize:
So he tediously inscribes
all the feelings of logic
& all logic of feelings
of love’s witchcraft,
the last grammar of desire,
the last line,
the last word
that will never be the last.

(Paradigm Shift)

His body is sending signals
that mortal decay has set in,
for the arrogance of her beauty
still plays in his mind a fantasy:
She, who surveyed him from a distance
with a strange, dark smile
of a gamin simply passing by –
But swiftly, like Mercury,
thrust a dagger in his heart…
He couldn’t feel the pain
like a dinosaur with a rubber hide.
He would hack the shit before
but it’s foretold: she had taken north;
he, stone silent, had crawled down south
like a corpse.
Didn’t he flounder like a paper boat
on the shoal of her eyes?
Here, now
where crossings flare in pedestrian signs,
he’d shrug off her basking
in European lights –
as an imaginary lover, he had long ago died.
Here, now
in this mountain lair,
he’s plotting directions with his trusty armalite.


He has been addicted to heroin
for eight years now.
A vein has clogged & collapsed.
He has to find a new spot
for his daily shot.
It doesn’t give him the usual rush
only a light tingle
to keep the day rolling
like a T-Ford grinding
along a rocky road
slowly, slowly, slowly
until the next day at the garage
when it must again crank up
to move on schedule
& quicken the leaden day
in a very normal, absurd way.
So it is this May
when election is a dirty syringe
that would change the routine
of all his dog days
but the morning after
would be downward skids
of a clueless lunatic
& tomorrow, & tomorrow, & tomorrow
the sun will continuously burn
& hell is the abandoned shack
where he had scampered
for his daily shot.


After saying mass
& privately to himself muttering a prayer
he grudgingly put on the bulletproof vest
to meet the placard-bearing crowd
who’d wait for his signal
to march down the streets
& place an exclamation to their quest.
O was he lovingly coerced
into the husting by the multitude?
He, of course, was torn between the vow of the cassock
& the sonorous pleadings of their solitude –
Yet he must partake of the cross,
the choice should surpass
all ancestral rogues
who had kept the abandoned
in perpetual servitude.
Yes, does he lack faith in God
in wearing it against a Magnum 44?
That the Almighty might fail
to wrap around him an invisible cloak
as though in divine hold?
Yet, he must concede to those who insist
God does not reward recklessness
in the fierce wrestling
with the beast.

(May 14)

For Mia & Jerome & Erick
Alpha Dog growls for the canine pack
& howls the trajectory of their stock.
Gorillas heavily grunt for their chieftain
to pick who’ll perish or stagger.
It’s the animal kingdom of man
that elects in pomp & ceremony
time’s detritus,
this hierarch among brutes
observing protocol & calls to motherhood.
Yes, the herd (mangy, uneasy)
may prance like mad & snort
but ends up cowering like trained tigers
at the general’s boots.
O never has the rule of Rousseau
been so stark
when myths cook up
democracy & electoral supermart.

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2 Responses to 25 Poems for Players of Apocalypse

  1. erick aguilar says:

    o ha! dedicated sa amin ito!!!

    tinayp namin kahapon sa tsokokis. harhar

  2. Ramona says:

    You write very well.

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