14 Poems for Time’s Outcasts

I
(Cage)

He sees far & wide
through imaginary bars
of panopticon—
the women laughing,
the children roughing it up
in the waves,
the fishersfolk hauling in
the day’s catch
& the evening where bonfires
keep shadows out of the huts,
except in his
where old men in rocking chairs
bead the rosary hours
& stare solidly
at the virgins
frolicking on the edge of the sea…
When once they would seek counsel
& music would flow from his hands.
O how he wished a Sodom conflagration
would visit the town
that had imagined him
turning into stone
it could walk on:
Love & time do not classically mix
in the hearts of humankind.

II
(Retiree)

He wakes at five
in the morning—
his usual workshift,
makes his breakfast,
showers,
then dressed in dark pants
& white shirt,
goes down the wooden stairs.
His wife, an insomniac,
still hums in slumberland
& when he opens the door
& starts the car
he suddenly freezes—
there’s nowhere to go
& nothing to do.
It’s his first day in eternity,
& the season opens like a dragon’s maw,
gaping at him menacingly.
He’s retired
& suddenly
he feels invisible again
like a wind that would haunt
cheap cafes
for their idle talks,
or bum around town
until his heart breaks down.
Does he feel like a patrolman
doing the rounds
without a gun in his hand?
A professor lecturing
before a yawn of empty chairs
in a musty room?
He is at home
but homeless,
& never has he felt so
terribly alone.
Those who know him
must be chuckling—
But this is one day of those days
when tears freely flow down.

III
(Appendix)

& sitting at the café,
endlessly sipping his warmed-over tea,
he eyes the people
around him
but no one will note his presence:
Indeed he is the invisible man,
the solitary ghost who roams the complex.
There are dozens like him,
& the workplace
doesn’t give a hoot,
when once they broke its silence
with their endless chatter
& occasional wit
of grim & determined philosophers.
Everything is wasted energy,
& now wasted himself like a dry branch,
he dreams
of grabbing a machine gun
& blasting away
at those who claim the world matters
so they can finally take note,
like some doctoral appendix,
how long he has dawdled.

IV
(Fatalist)

The campus was
on hookey holiday—
& bumming around
like a lost child
on carnival ground,
he was assailed
by some ghosts of remembered faces
screaming silently
in the dark corridor.
He usually couldn’t hack
  being forlorn,
most ironic
in a shithole where millions
mass like excremental dross.
He groped for his celfone
but hastily drew back
as if scorched
at his infantile response:
Nah, from now on,
he must get accustomed
to hearing the rain fall on rooftops
alone..
They’re living their own paltry lives,
his must struggle with his wretched own:
Kismet & all that crap
must be dutifully borne.

V

(Shutdown)

It finally dawned
young boys & virile men
wouldn’t give her the second look
that used to stir her blood.
O She was beautiful once,
Aphrodite incarnate,
& feasted on the slavish gaze
even of dirty old men
many of whom she had sent away
scampering to her secret giggles.
She no longer felt it in her bones
that she carried the X factor
some guys would die for…
O Her refusal was mantra
& didn’t hurt
stupid suitors
who took their waterloo in stride
because she was all witch
& beyond mortal reach.
They had limited their fantasies
& resigned to castrating heresies,
having drawn the boundaries
of their testosterone luminousity.
Now, her body had sent alarms:
She had become invisible.
A tear slowly trickled down
her fat loose cheeks.
But she couldn’t cry anymore
like a woman in distress.

VI

(The Unperturbed)

She remains a beauty
for her age,
unlike her kindred
who’ll be scared of facial lines
& hanging breasts.
She doesn’t care about
being a bijou
unlike a child scooting out
of a dark, empty room
in fear of ghosts
her elders had adduced.
She goes about her task
unmindful of a strand of hair
that curls & strays
redefining aesthetics
or a scowl
that may ruin
her demeanor.
O none of that tantrum of vanity
that grips a femme fatale
placed on a pedestal…
She’s at peace with time’s
merciless rhythm,
even the widening space
of aging…
She doesn’t give a damn,
the rest is sheer flimflam.

VII
(Bitch Goddess)

Her dry sagging breasts
cannot suckle young lovers anymore.
Her shriveled thighs no longer salivate
& she must adapt her ways
to time’s crippling coordinates:
She can no longer choose her boylets
from what was once a platoon of fuckers
prostrate at her feet.
She no longer is the One Desired.
& can only pick some rheumy bum
from the ragtag band of scumbags—
raunchy old men who snort & fart,
mounting her like stray dogs
squabbling to lick her genital bog.
How could she turn into
the monstrous crone she once feared?
She could have played the field too much
& now must drown in booze & clap.

VIII
(The Thinktank)

The plan’s how to beat
the odds & eliminate the x’es—
so the impediments are marked out:
when the order is made,
the guys can declare themselves clean.
It’s a game
& the objective is to win…
Thus the next day,
having set the tone of the campaign
 methodical
nary the heavy hand of barbarity
or unethical concern,
as the draft
impeccably claims
because the goal
is to effect convulsive change,
in a technocratic way—
the morning after
some guys will be killed,
some advisers will be gifted…
With such a percentage,
the guys in flannel suits
will snore into the night
& wake up fresh & dandy in the morning
patriotically alive.

IX
(Fundamentalist)

Evil doesn’t wear
a gargoyle mask.
It’s a woman garbed in sacral light
kissing him for the flight.
The young men know this in their soul,
as they huddle in circles
to be blessed & conscripted
for a journey through mobile checkpoints
to the Holy City, Jerusalem,
where infidels sinfully carouse
at the roadside café:
they would part ways
in their spectacular embrace:
the jihad warriors
exploding toward heaven of 57 virgins,
the Jews to their Masada martyrdom.
O How many crimes have been committed
in thy names:
Jehovah & Allah!
O Salvation so profane…

X
(Faith)

She wishes that
after maybe four years
“some Iraqui person
  would thank her
for her son”
who died in the battlefields
of Iraq
for family,
security, & country.
No, she hasn’t heard
of Bill Maher
who obliquely twitted
that her dearly departed,
who left behind a girlfriend
he wanted to come home to
& marry
at 22
would die for Bush, Cheney,
Wolfowitz & Rumsfield,
all architects of war
in the name of the oil cartel.
O Her faith smells
of fruit trees & cattle ranches
& gives flesh
to the lie
of an American truth,
proverbial like the American pie.

XI
(Freshman)

With anxious voices
& moistened eyes,
they see him off
to enter the university gates
& become the adult
that they think they are:
engineers, businessmen,
doctors, politicians…
If he obeyed the rules
He’d be alright, they sigh:
Plugged into agencies
of Malacaňang,
perfect corporate gadfly
that promises a cosmo lifestyle—
a trophy family & wife,
top dog of the Republic
that augurs an empire…
But what if suddenly the kid
in a quirk of fortune
find the notes off-key
& opts to change the music overnight?
How will they see him
as their own
or recognize this child
as the apple of their eyes?
Surely the door that closes
after him—
& leaves them twisting outside—
also rattles the cages of their hearts.
O this once favored heir
is always never the one
they had left
like a newborn babe
at the other side of the track.

XII
(Gamble)

It was with deep trepidation
that he saw his kid push the door
into the kindergarten room.
He didn’t plan it that way—
distrusting the mode of pedagogy
infected
by the Althusserian virus of orthodoxy.
Mentors proceeded by rote
in unloading behavioral codes
that would force his child
to conform to the ethos of the time
when Marcos ruled
& Metrocom sent shivers down the spine.
But his kid wanted a bigger toyland
with tots her age,
& he couldn’t hack
the sight of her waiting at the gates
with her bag of crayons
& coloring books
for a bus that wouldn’t arrive.
The die was cast.
But she would scurry home at midday
bubbling about skills & comrades.
O He had timidly feared
her growing up & finding
the word isn’t a nursery rhyme
& she must seek her own lonely path…
That’s the way the cookie crumbled…
But she turned out not a chip
off the old bloke:
in the babel voices
she figured out
something’s rotten in the state of Denmark
& why the old system must be retired.

XIII

A.
(Choice)

“When the time comes
they won’t keep him
mechanically alive”—
they all agreed
like well-meaning surgeons,
as the most rational,
medical way out
in the last days at intensive care.
All questions were set aside
if only to spare him
the unbearable stupor of suffering—
like the coming of the tide
when breathing turns into gasps
of a drowning man
thrashing about in a sea of hands
that couldn’t mercifully grasp.
Yes, do they feel now
the final say
was the ethical play?
Would the old man
in his complete senses
have allowed their sacrifice?
He was the pivot of their dismal lives…
Now, all have gone to
their separate peace,
barely reliving the memory
when they deduced helplessly
his life could be waived,
checked off the waiting list.

B.
(Legacy)
How to keep his memory
in the mind burning?
The ashes in the metal urn
be interred in a cathedral crypt
or auction off his property
that was barely bluechip?
The zealot in the family
sulks at their bury-out perfidy…
Yet siblings bid for a fair sharing
to ward off their gnawing poverty.
Would the patriarch mind the flap?
He was an austere Christian,
wouldn’t brook the re-investment plan:
Memory never lingers in the concrete
& decay-bound reliquary—
it persists in the hearts
that moved the eyes from sullen grief.
But for his future heirs, what legacy?
The old man exists only as portrait on the wall,
gazing down on tykes at the banquet table.
O that he should live only
in the brief procession
of those about to row across the Acheron…
Verily, the first line of memory’s keepers
is the last circle of his mourners.

XIV

(Cycle)

To get away from it all—
the pain, the joy, the tears, the laughter—
he wished he were Rip Van Winkle
who slept through the years
& woke up unknowing all the bad tidings
except the past’s which he carried into the present
that was the future he must live,
with the luggage of his wicked old time
& he wished he were Rip Van Winkle all over again.

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