Those Young Poets & Other Poems

I.
A Certain Smile

The night the old man died,
or rather hours before
he willed his soul
to his guardian angel,
he was lounging in his rocking chair,
& looking down from the veranda
at pedestrians below.
His eyes had caught a lovely girl
& the girl had surprisingly smiled
at him with all the sweetness
of a beginning coquette.
& the world suddenly erupted
into flaming colors
just like when he was a teener
& the girls frolicked in the sun
with the abandon of flowers
trembling in the gentle breeze.
It was as if he had been given
a new lease on life,
or rather,
he had encountered himself
as a young, pomaded man
going to a public dance…
O the night he died
a gentle smile had lingered
on his lips,
& his loved ones,
or those who thought
he had lived well—
unknown but justly—
were comfortably at peace.
The young girl would eventually
flit from one bed to another
of dirty young men,
but her soul would ascend to heaven
because her tenderness
at his darkest hour
was all the old man wished for
to leave the world
without regret.

II
The Morning of the Deseparecidos

This is a heavy morning
redolent with the language
of kinsmen
who silently wail over
their missing kids…
O how do you comfort
the living
with words that fall
like stones
from chilblained lips:
We must leave the mourners
alone to their own rememberings,
but let our eyes
settle on their heads
like tender hands
that vainly
lighten their grief.
Yes, this morning is too dark
a season
even if the sun is at its zenith…
So he hurries out of the hall
that looks like a Roman
catacomb
& runs into the air of light
where the skies
suffocate
all human raging
as the world repeats itself
in every encounter
with fate’s derelicts
down the street.
But how do you flee
from the madness of it all
when this place
is all you can love
& hate?

III
The Orphans of All Generations

In the communion of orphaned
parents,
there is the thick silence
of fatal exhaustion
& puzzlement.
The riddle that keeps turning
in the mind
always leads to the dead end of an answer:
& even if the missing
would suddenly appear
like Lazarus—
rotting & all—
from the grave,
we’d still be stunned by the logic
of events.
Why our daughters?
Why our sons?
Who must be sacrificed
by a faithful Abraham
so the Lord could prove Himself
mysterious & profound?
To accept their passing
is so damn easy,
but it resurrects the silly question
why things on earth
happen with droll regularity
of a throbbing pain,
like some bad tooth.
& pleasure is a fleeting millisecond
of respite,
as if all were condemned
on planet earth
to sorrow & abandonment—
the hissing laughter of the executioner
reverberating in the void:
But, this too would pass.
We lick our wounds &
carry on. Moving, like headless chickens,
in circles.

IV
The Secret Woman

He says he cannot write
a poem about her,
though in his mind’s eyes
he has stocked up thousands.
Must be a most cherished secret
that shouldn’t be held
against the public light
that dries up, in the searing heat,
everything like a carcass
cleaned to the bones.
She keeps him company
in his most funereal hours,
& calms him down,
like a sussurus of mint,
when madness of spirit
broils his internal dawn.
Yes, she’s the wind
that blows gently against the sail
cruising toward the sea
where she, the solitary nymph,
plays.
She’s invisible,
& must remain hidden.
Does she exist at all?
This heart feverishly insists
lest he,
in his dreams,
perish.

V
The Silly Fantasist

The guy loves to write
poems after lonely poems,
& he confesses
they enable him
to pass the cruel days,
detox his spleen,
this poetry that’s cheap therapy.
But he means what he says,
cherishing the limericks
like a basinful of angels
dancing on a pinhead,
rhapsodizing how cool
is the spirit that keeps
his conscience clear.
He, of course, is the last guy,
to realize
everybody’s laughing;
over hot coffee & beer,
this old fossil’s
got the hots on virgins
& that’s all there is to it,
they jeer.
He finally pops
a handful of pills
for nothing, he weeps,
is sacred, especially in hell.

VI
The Body Elemental

1.

The old man was
babbling about
the procedural lapse
that required of him
a medical pass—
but the pathologist
wasn’t listening,
barely noting why he’s pissed.
She’s too damn busy
mechanically
with her tedious work
of inserting the needle
into his vein:
his body, after all,
is purely organic
& reducible
to the table of elements.
His state of mind
didn’t concern her at all.
Compassion on a lower key
slips like sand
through her expert fingers.

2.

He claimed
he’s just retired
& opted to return
from US of A.
In a baritone of privilege
he pried into his
condition—
But was he taken aback
when the patient
begged off
from his inquisitional
solicitude.
He’s a doctor, after all,
& knows the body well.
But the patient had marked off
the territorial line
beyond which he couldn’t advance.
It was his body, after all.
He couldn’t poke it
without his permission.
The doctor, never weaned from the clinical habit,
just couldn’t understand
& bristled, put off by
the layman’s arrogance.

VII
Back to Square One

Almost a year after
the Patriarch’s passing,
the children
decided a potluck party
would rekindle
the old passion
& camaraderie:
a granddaughter’s
crazy over her future kid;
a grandnephew
had gotten hitched,
et cetera, et cetera…
because life must go on,
whichever way,
to affirm survival
& forgetting of tears
are ancient formulae
drummed up to exorcise
the planet’s predictable
play.
So it was planned
to observe the ceremony again
lest memory
of blood & old man’s spirit
be forever dust
whirling in the wind…
In a world of diasporic
exfoliating,
the feast at the common table
must be extolled
beatific;
recuperatively enchanting.

VIII
Those Young Poets

1.

The young Iowa poet,
or he who thinkfeels
he’s one,
is hooked on suicide—
or death—
but speaks instead
the language of its articulation:
the technical elements
that encode a structure of meaning:
trochees, dactyl,
quatrain, tercet
rime & rhythm
constitutive of the genre…
As if it would suffice
to pin down the reality
of the undiscovered country
from where no poets
with slashed wrists
have so far returned.
Is the writing of this zone
the real profundity
the mysterious, the sublime,
this nowhere point
that fascinates
spoiled brats
who feel like superman
& want to live dangerously?
This poetry is a knife
in the hands of a child
who bluffs the cutting of
his throat—
then screams for the Madonna
if blood flows
& stains the flesh
that can’t be washed off
by infantile tears.
O, a visit to the hospital
is very well in order:
The crippled, the sick,
the desperate
still blindly wish
for the heavenly sign
they could cling on for dear life.
After all,
death is a void
the language of poetry
wouldn’t dare probe.

2.

So there she is,
quoting incessantly established poets,
arguing enjambments,
breaking of lines, & so forth—
the elusiveness of meanings
that makes all things
unforeseeable,
uncertain like the shape of water
that flows languidly in creeks
& this shapeless journey
is the poetry she constructs,
not this liquid
for the fields in a time of drought
or the empty jugs
that need to be filled up…
No, but the current itself
meandering in a backward land,
a smudge of tears
on the back of one’s hand,
& no one knows why.
This is the fancy
of forging non-statements
to barter for invisible lines
& so the poet
suspends himself in mid-air,
croaking he’s neither clown
nor fowl
because he’s in-between
earth & sky,
water & fire:
Ah, but the assassins
who killed the young militants
are deathly sure
they’re the bête noire
of generals
& no poet can tell him about
the slipperiness of his perception.
She cannot hide
behind poetic veils:
No subjective slippage here
re beastliness of the state.
This she should be certain.

3.

Of course,
all poetry is political
for power plays
in the social—
the guy had handed him
his 5-poem pamphlet,
all pieces keening about
the disappeared,
lost Karen
resurrecting in a library card…
There was the gnashing of the teeth,
the subtle warning
of the payback
for the dastardly act.
Those was the blazing anger
of a white heat
that blinds the eyes
in that righteous burning—-
But
the victim’s raging
for hitmen’s blood
leaves strangely
a bad taste in the mouth:
the fallen have turned
executioners & the somersault
blurs all distinctions
between A& Z.
Yup, poetry must trespass
simple sentiments & utopian dreams:
Just tell the story & its ironies,
& the buried voices by the roadside
would resonate
with a human tone.

4.

& they came down
from the snow-capped
mountains
with their laptop of wisdom
to show us natives
how the world should be
crafted
& the truth
calculated
according to the rise & fall
of imperial sound
& the measure of the beat
that reveals the
meaning of texts & tricks.
Yes, the young wizards
would exhibit the Dresden cups
& their meticulous architecture
of delicate lines
& provocative bloom of colors
o foretell a civilization
of temper &
cultivated spirit
that would make us, primitives,
who dance to the blood of our truth,
feel uncouth.
Yes, but the wind blast
crushed their cocktail glasses
to shards
& our thick clay pots
held the water firmly
where animals & warriors
would drink their fill,
lustrously.

IX
Photo Exhibit

It’s an open secret:
The ancients have anticipated
Bresson—
truth unfolds slowly
or in a flash
but comes to him
who waits patiently
like an anchorite.
Thus, the photographer
intimates he had to settle down
in Cagayan
where his Nikon
would shoot & distill
the instance of its unveiling.
The camera, like poetry,
traps the fulcrum-image
of a series of moments
& only that specific angle
of a face will sum up
all the faces
he must catch
like a bird, poised for fight
but cupped in the swallowing
air of his hands.
Like the word marked off
quickly
among the ¬¬¬millions
swimming in his mind.
Only that bearable moment’s
strike of light
on the sand at an ungodly hour
must be fixed on the screen
to seize the grandeur
of a beach,
trees, & rocks & water…
Only that word
to inhabit the essence of a truth
that comes like a thief
in the night of restless sleep.
& the lover must be swift
to hold down
the body of her face.

X
Beatles Choreography

Cirque du Soleil
at Las Vegas
is the rule of gymnasts
as dancers
& storytellers—
& he is once again
in Strawberry Fields
after fleeing
the sadness of Eleanor Rigby…
But music is the color
of sound
eluding the language of poets
who vainly try
to duplicate
the quickening of the pulse
when guitars
tinkle like invisible words
in the mind’s heart.
The bounce on the trampoline
by masked harlequins
& trapeze seagulls
tell us all, in the swirl of lights,
why the sun
keeps coming with the soft fulminance
on the snowy terrain
of the iron soul’s night.
Cirque du Soleil,
reimaging the songs of the Beatles,
delivers him back
to that yesterplace
when limbs were strong
& laughter quick
because everything
seemed possible.

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