Doggone & Other Poems

I

Gen-X

A.
When the Gen-X batch
asked him persistently
who the old man was,
& he stammered eventually
he’s Borgy’s grandpop,
their eyes lit up
in mirthful recognition,
as if confirming
what he’d always felt in his bones;
the grim memory
of a trail of safehouses,
mutilated victims,
detained libertarians
& bacchanalia
at the Palace & Presidential yatch,
had been successfully erased
for scholastics
by regime caciques
 who failed to detox
the venom of the ’70s,
& their elders who kept mum
at dinner tables
as if to remember ML
is to open wounds & unheal scars.
“Let bygones be bygones?”
yet they keep coming back
for the shortlist of desaparecidos
gets longer & longer
& mothers still grieve
over missing children & lovers.
History will repeat itself –
these future sailors & bureaucrats
will surely commit
the errors of the past.

B.

So he has decided
to retire
& slam the door shut
behind him
in his room texts & memory…
The young aren’t worth a dime
& the future he has raged against –
the repetition of rhetoric,
the recycling of promise –
will ricochet
& hit them between the eyes,
as if they hadn’t been forwarded
& he fears for the bodies
that’ll litter hidden cogon plots,
or the heads & torsos
chopped to pieces for garbage men
to pick up;
the screams in the night
when doors are battered down
to ferret out the rascals…
But these beatbox kids
won’t give a hoot
to a silly “pantomime.”
“Ours is a different time,
we dance to a different tune.
Dubai, Paris, London, Riyadh
will grab us from behind.
We leave everything to enhance.
Revolution has a Chinaman’s chance
of changing the world
& we’ll simply
cross over continents
to steer clear of partisan brawl.”

C.

Generations are imprisoned
in their own sentiments
& iconic allegiance,
& he, the old painter
of dark angels & apocalypse,
must give way
to the new performance art
that images
the fleetingness of the moment,
the amorphous now.
Just like life
where truth’s infinite masks
keep sliding in & out
of his mind:
O yesteryears’ paradigms
must be kept on file.
They’re out of kilter, aren’t magical.

D.

So there he lazes
at the sidewalk café –
Paris in Manila suburb –
desultorily listening
to the drift of voices
at the bar.
At the strike of six,
he collects his papers
& himself,
stumbling out of the glass door
like one condemned
for having lived too long
& loved too much.
The future, after all,
isn’t worth a tear or a scowl
for him
who keeps out of touch.

II

The Contract Employee

He has a contract to oblige.
He must supply the info
for the anglocentric data base
his agency collects to extrapolate
scenarios of this century’s warfare.
He’s an “enhanced interrogation technician”
out to extract from subject X
the y points of tactical suicides:
But really, really,
all is egghead fun–
to be able to call the shots
& impress Pentagon-higher-ups,
like any grandmaster at the
chessboard of despair.
In this real game with a virtual frame,
they don’t dispose themselves
of mangled limbs.
The stratagem is bloodless in the mind:
corral the enemy combatants.
When they’re through with the contract,
they move on to another job
in Jolo, Romania, Poland
where rendition teams kill time
with truth serum & cuffed hands.
They won’t hear of widows & orphans–
faceless criminals
who plague the transitional crisis
between ugly peace & beautiful war.

III

Showbiz Postmodernism

A post-modernist narrative
where show is business & life,
reality & appearance are harmoniously one;
where surface is depth
& the subject in the mirror
is also a truth beyond shadow’s error.
The first glance is a virtual comeuppance.
The collage of images & intersections
of mongrel lies & loves outline
what’s manifest is latent in the mind.
Neither pressure nor reprieve
because truth is crystal clean enough —
symbolic, imaginary & real
are conflation in a world of happenstance.
Everything happens in the wink of an eye.
No room for doubt or hermeneutic cabal.
So when a fan becomes Jolina Magdangal
that’s all there is to the personal:
Simulacrum & object are co-equal —
She’s Jolina as purely as she’s Mimay.

IV

The Real Deal

“People actually
fear freedom & equality,”
says he, winking.
“So they turn over their right
to move out of the cage
& prance around the filed
for alpha dogs
who dig up boundaries in the air
in the name of the common pack:
Danton & Robespierre,
Trotsky & Lenin,
Mao & Deng,
Nixon & Bush,
the Queen & Blair,
Rizal & Bonifacio,
Marcos & Imelda,
who have scored it big
in history texts…
But he who toils
incognito in the marsh
& languish in the boondocks
won’t even make it
as footnote & appendix.
Pure rigmarole
this June 12 ceremony:
How perilous the journey
off tribe & tradition…
Why can’t anyone live well
enough alone?
& never feed off cheap labor?
The clown snickers
at the gallery of jesters
holding court
in the universal theater.

V

Informers

They masked their faces,
even rolled their sleeves
down to their hands
that gripped the Embassy valise.
They had squealed
on their gangmates —
as per brigandage’s ethics,
in gross misreading of Koranic text,
they had sold their souls to the Devil
for carnal/financial pleasure,
How find the lapidary worth
of this gem of aberration?
Rapture of religious salvation?
Band leaders have been terminated.
Yet the hooded guys are walking dead.
Did they do it for love of country,
or temptation of money?
O Incidental indeed
are the blessings
for the terrified humanity
Every warrior is a clink of the penny,
like any market commodity.

VII

Rizal Redux

Scribbled himself
into the clarity of historical light,
Rizal, in his missive to Blumentritt,
when he proposed Indios
should resort to arms
if conquista push comes to shove.
O How has this been refracted
in natural imagination
marking him out as Cagliostro
to Katipunan imbroglio?
Were his words read
in the sala by autocrats
deaf to the rise of the sansculottes?
Did Rizal make it
to the partisan line
of revolution’s heirs who claim
subaltern force
is truths to the lie
of small-town caudillos
warming the cushioned seats
on corporate boards & Palace rites?
O But he brushed off
the sparks in the cave
that set off a prairie fire
& that “made all the difference.”

VII

Doggone
(In remembrance of
Daisy, Max & Brownie)

A.

His master drowned
trying to save him
from the fishpond swim.
Brownie couldn’t understand
why he would die
after his jump into the water
when he was intoxicatedly sapped
to cross to the other side.
Now, he had no one
to jog around
or play pick-up-the-stick.
He was a loyal buddy
& he could only watch
the procession to his grave.
Wished he could throw
some flowers at his bier.
& hoped his new mentors
would be as gentle.
(His day would open on a slow break.)

B.

They’re all called Brownie
He would sniff around & get
underfoot, waiting
to be kindly patted on,
then he’d hie off to his corner
to comfortably mope.
But some guy whacked him
when he scooted out of the gates
to chase an interloping cat…
He would henceforth howl in pain
all night long
for weeks
until God in his mercy
look him away.
Tho vet couldn’t fathom
the full measure of this gift!
How explain a life
so simple & so brief?
(The house drowned in a river of grief.)

C.

She stayed in the background
too long all by her lonesome.
There was no mongrel to cavort with —
but for the birds that twittered
up the trees
that cast a leafy arabesque
on the house.
(Her younger brother Max
had died of poisoning
when he was a cuddly pup.)
One morning, her master Dad
saw her stone-still & sprawled
on the cement floor —
having, alas, chilled to death
the cold December night before.
O Even dogs won’t survive
being grievously alone!
(As human a sufferance
we cannot condone.)

VIII

In Memoriam

He was offered by the chair
if he’d want to rummage through journals & books
left behind
by a late professor
who rushed to the FC
often at the break of dawn
& guzzled gallons of caffeine
to keep the senses
combat-ready in endless bouts
of lectures & office talk.
The rigor must have done him in
for he died at a hospital
without fanfare.
But his family didn’t
clean out his private library
& transfer his memorabilia
to his ancestral room.
Was the memory
too tortuously bleak & bitter
for survivors
to feel like orphans
deserted at a station
when the loved one & guide
abruptly moved on?
Yes, there were Jun Lansang’s chapbook,
Ricaredo Demetillo’s
George Luckacs’s…
He never felt so sad,
but sadder still for old poets
who are always disposed of
like some old, flea-infested clothes.

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