Poems of Dead-end Affection


She is subject to terms
of cheap emotion:
she goes weepy on deaths
of familiar, long-ago friends—
& even minor enemies—
because there’s so much in life
to despair over
& also, at all costs,
much to celebrate.
Yes, this wave of cheap emotion
that makes her shudder
over a dog scampering in the rain,
kittens meowing at canal’s edge,
even rats burrowing in a hole…
Why children perish
& old people die
when tyrants & buffoons
shriek & laugh at Palace balls
as militias ravage peasants
digging in for the long haul…
Yes, she confesses
to being a crybaby of sorts,
(a woman as such, they hoot)
but if she has the luxury
of cheap emotion,
Baby, she’s
on perpetual kind of high:
An engage of humankind.

James Dean

He’s still an angry old man
but kids don’t find that amusing:
How they wish he were
gentler than summer rain
keeping to himself
the wild storm of his hissing.
But he’s old & allegedly cantankerous
barely allowing time, like chamomile,
to settle in his veins:
he was like those young bums at
the corner store
flashing their fan knife sneer
at those who dare
to trespass their windblown turf.
He shrugs: “The world
still turns on its uneven axis;
  children die like flies
& lovers nurse in motel rooms
their secret pain…
Why would he make peace
with the absurd & unreal?
Let anger roar
& love perilously prevail.
We must keep on raging
until heavens stagger & fall.”


This skinny, short guy
once sold his mother
a piece of farmland
long on arrears
& she had to fork out some more
of her hard-earned money…
But she never complained
how a kinsman suckered her in.
This guy died sometime ago,
his small frame expiring
on a dinner table
that barely saw meat & vegetable.
He never made a killing after all.
She never talked about this food
as if resigned that one’s blood relatives
always push you into the hole.
The poor everywhere are prey
to the malicious misery of their own.

Ezra Pound

Language had become soft,
& wouldn’t represent
the fanknife brutality of daily life:
There was an infection
of talks that allowed all
to prattle on equal footing,
& the hordes simply obeyed
ghosts of strong men
inside the sanctum sanctorum.
There was a need for the master
who’d consolidate
the muscles & bones
of this industrial region…
A return to clear-cut tradition
of women & men in classic division…
Why should things remain
ambiguous, strange—
beyond certainty & reason?
Thus Ezra Pound, poet manqué,
mistaking Mussolini
for the Overman,
had to suffer the fate
of his Italian dictator,
losing his mind in a cage
outside a military camp.
The infant terrible of the arts,
according to his Formalist patrons,
found the language of his unconscious mind,
the keeper of Latin & the Classics
grumbling he’s above all human cant.
O Poets & writers
cannot escape the judgment
of the dialectics of the political.

The Chow Time

“It has come to this?”
But how many times
has he asked himself
about the repeating sigh
at the mess hall
while seeking out in the crowd
a face at the table…
The kids he’s communal with
are up & about
trying their luck somewhere
& he keeps hearing their clavichord voices
in his ears…
She says: “Just txt, sir,
if you need company at
your coffee hour…”
Maybe he can still
sleep the night off
& greet the morn
like some able worker
off to pre-dawn work…
The campus,
praise the Lord!
is no dead zone yet.

Prison Yard

His faculty door
has fewer nameplates…
Some guys have left
for air-conditioned rooms
& he clearly sees
time flowing on—
quickly, turbulently
but silently
like dust that collects on the floor
then spirals in the windlashed air
at the constant crumpling
of papers
thrown here & there
like basketballs.
He remembers the old crones
& the young troubadours of sorts…
Nah, most are not coming back.
That’s the diasporic rule.
A note tacked on the door,
then invisible thumbprints forevermore.
No one really writes
the colonel anymore.
Who says life on campus
is damn slow,
like a cart rolling on cobblestones?
It’s swifter than this sigh
that holds him spellbound
like an animal
trapped in a lightning storm.


Her b-day month,
& she’s ceremoniously on leave
to affirm the passing of her years…
O she still counts cents & dimes
but no one should even laugh
how times have been colder
than steel
in an arctic night.
It has always been that way
in the eternal season of
bayonets & scowl:
Regimes are always rough
on people who steer clear
of the crude & the rough:
The easy money & unethical life
she could have had for taking,
but never did ask…
Yes, her B-day month
& only those who toil & understand
will concelebrate
with a sense
of religious defiance.

Taho Man

The pedlar has a soft voice:
his puffy cheeks
& hang-dog eyes
make the client soft touch
for the soybean cup.
He has been doing the rounds
of the neighborhood
with the patient singularity of Job—
So there he is,
still at it
serving the lily-white curd
to aging passersby.
The guy’s mincing steps,
like some Chinese coolie,
as he pushes the cart
stab at his heart:
When will he ever stop
to smell the flowers?
But he just smiles
at the intransigent remark,
as if warding off
some mosquito on his arm.
He’ll die for sure—
ever the ambulant merchant
in his dreams—
such weird punishment
for the Christianly downtrodden
who couldn’t even pause for a moment
to reflect on the possibility
of rebelling.
He must have thought
his fate a divine will
like Abraham’s
who followed the Lord
in the journey through hell.

Eyes Half-Shut

Close to sleeping,
an image erupted in his mind—
& he secretly buried it
under the deepest layer of his voice,
hoping an hour later
to retrieve it
& give it sound & force.
But it refused to come out,
this golden snail,
as though it were insulted
by the slow resolution.
It preferred itself
to be interred
with all the silver sibilants
that forever stayed unmined.
Was it her?
It was another
arcane gesture
of his heart’s
attempt at survival.

The Mentors

It would seem
that the funereal orations
were not enough:
So they gathered again
at the Recto Hall
to resurrect—
again & again—
the old mentors
young apostles had not had
the fortune to cherish, score.
How to keep the embers
of memory burning,
for some whose legacy was real;
How to make immortal
those living that left pedagogic
imprint on strong minds.
The archeologic act is never enough:
They’re gone forever
& could never cross the survivor’s path,
except their soundless voices
that effloresce
in the synagogue of a hall.
After the finality of the final farewell,
their names would be interred
with their silenced words.
At the end of the cycle’s pivot,
would generation
lit again the mourner’s torch?

National Artist

Somehow it has slipped
through the cracks:
his fetish for national honors
& the goldplated encomiums
on his self-styled discourse.
His mien camouflages all,
a gentle, impish smile
& a soft, fatherly voice
that lead most astray
as to the course of his desires:
a sense of national immortality
& his texts
no matter how the rising tide
could easily engulf
everything he deems to be memorialized,
Why this secret vanity?
Why the poetic lamentations
that need to be gifted with applause
by the unwary, sophisticated gallery?
It’s the fear & madness
of being alone,
& confrontation with the mirror’s truth
he had all along been sadly small
& mute.
As most of all
the fly on the eagle’s back
that thinks
it roams the sly
all on its winged own?

The Anthologist

He combs his hair
close to the scalp:
not a strand should stray
on forehead’s either side:
Barely he wears rubber shoes:
they should be leather
but of the most expensive sole.
For appearances are mirrors
of a well-ordered life:
Not a letter out of joint,
everything on its own proper site—
& sort out what’s cool &right.
He insists he’s the man
to lead the readers of the nation,
how narratives should
be crafted
in stories & poems
according to the elements of truth’s
proper articulation
like his SUV that runs smoothly
on urban roads.
The jungle trail is of mud & stones
& peasants are too simple
to comprehend the complex world,
much unlike his cubicle
from where archeology of heavens
& human relations
are structured & foretold.
No Marxist dialectics here:
it’s forcing the issue of dogma
that vilifies all
for life is beyond the rule of classes
but universal brotherhood.
The general bondage for Eliot
is what drives poets bereave
the human condition.
So he turns anthologist
funded by state satraps
to prescribe the texts
& valorize his kind of poets.

(For Notch)


She left the country
30 years ago
when Marcos ruled
with terrorist constitutionality
& the state’s ambition
was divine law.
Sure, she couldn’t stand the heat
& flew to New York
to pursue her narratives,
fueled by a mode to continue
the ever expanding route
to an egalitarian version
of nationhood.
It might as well be
for she was always on the watchlist
by those who should be surveilled
for caging dissenters
& salvaging patriots
who openly disavow
the iron fists & velvet gloves.
They wanted to virtually cuff her
like a criminal at the airport
but the scandal stank
to high heavens
the regime stepped back
& warned it could get her
the next time around.

(Also for Jon & Nef)

She’s a permanent resident
but not an American citizen—
otherwise, the US embassy
would have raised a howl.
She’s dangerously on her own—
marked for jailing
by a native regime,
fingerprinted by Homeland Security
at base of exile…
It has been a long & perilous
from Caloocan to New York—
Jesus! When will she ever find
the road to a nowhere home
in a nowhere land
 where her Fil-Am comrades
hounded by the FBI,
must also come to roost?
They must keep on moving
like some guerilla host.


At the crack of dawn,
when the world was slowly
waking from yesterday’s stupor,
the heavens unloaded
a cherub on high—
& Oona must have cried robustly
to break the silence of the ward.
Her great grandpa had left
two years earlier,
but he must have seen her
through the glass windows of the cosmos
where the Future comes in past tense.
Would she be quick & intelligent?
Surely, it would warm the cackles
of her parents’ hearts—
But it may also portend some disaster
for the regime punishes
children who dare laugh
at the exposed bodies of imperial Czars.
So the rule of her coming
is God’s heraldic warning
against savagers of heathens
who wouldn’t toe the ignoble line
but interrogate cruel denizens.




1. In chess,
the white pieces
function exactly like the blacks.
It’s a game of extrapolation.

2. The objective is to win
by checkmating the King.

3. The combatants are defined
by the Manichean color of their skin.


1. In life,
the black pieces may turn white
& vice-versa.

2. The objective may even be
not to win after all.
A loss can be tactical victory
in another realm.

3. There is the fatal spilling of blood.
The outcome is final
& cannot be repeated
with the same pieces.

The Unlearned Lesson

The never-ending war
will only end
if there’s no money
to be made by officials
from both sides.
When war brokers
go bankrupt,
the dove of peace can flutter in
& beautifully interrupt.


As predictable
as rain in August:
after cutting to size
texts & media hype
that wire him to the world outside
from his cubicle inside
the editing room,
he’ll hie off to the bar,
& sip, time allegedly on his side,
his ice-cold beers,
now & then rising from his seat
to piss
or grin meekly at tipplers
who drop by for the night.
His liver hasn’t complained
but his eyes, with traces of glaucoma,
threaten to expire.
He exists like a doorknob
the alley pubs
can’t do without…
He must be nursing some secret sorrow
he guzzles to drown—
a woman he could only dream about
a life that’s almost drained out
as if it were his fate
to upload on all the crap
the world dishes for roustabouts.
As predictably
as rain in August,
he’ll be at the shop tonight
because it’s always real time
to hide himself from himself
in the dark.

(August 16, 1977)

Everybody thinks
he’s got it all:
the money, the women,
the carnal pleasure
only Hefner can toot around…
But nothing’s enough,
always that perpetual trough
to fill up,
the limit of transgress
via karmic yoga or drugs.
He’s the white man
whose fingers got caught
in Afro-American cookie jar?
But he took one over the gravy train
& all the future James Brown
slipped in
& enjoyed the ride.
More popular than Jesus Christ?
Lennon had laid claim to that…
Presley is the Pied Piper
that flutes them into Graceland
& has never left the building
after the Act.

The Desiring Man

The stone becomes an insect,
the insect a human
in a manner of a spectral storm
that leaves sadness in its wake.
To return to what it was,
organic human to dust,
is desire to its roots forced back.
O How he wished he were Boddhisatva
sitting sensately unmoved
by life’s petty vicissitudes—
But he’s desire incarnate
ruing true love comes too late.

Kinder Teach

He drums his fingers on the table
& waits.
There’s something in the air
that makes him linger
for that turnaround
that would spell
some second chance
at whatever is bound
to define him
as a bum not really on the run
but only made to wait
at the anteroom of whatever season
so he could learn his lesson
& semaphore goals & direction
for the googoo-eyed troubleland.
He was wont to be a kinder prof
that knows he must share the Socratic loot
& life is worth living in whichever route.

Sensitive Man

So he thinks
he’s a sensitive guy
who feels the quiver of leaves
at the slight tremor
of the breeze—
& he’s attuned
to the capillaric pain
of those
wounded or hurt
by a word or a look
that is deemed barbaric
according to the tymphanic
lightness of his fine skin…
But he’s oblivious
that he violates the rule of physics—
in any action
there must be a reaction—
the sound of clapping
must sound off
two hands clashing
even if only one
hits the wall of air.
Yes, he must confess
to redness in the eyes
on people close
& distant, too—
droplets of tear that
dribbled down,
a choke on the throat
that changed the rhythm
of the blood…
Countless counterpoints
& the evidence of intimates
who drew away
are arguments indeed
he’s not a Poet really,
much less of the sensitive breed.


Whenever the door opens
& the wind blasts in
they feel an invisible hand
grab them by their throats—
it’s their hearts
that turn & toss
as they face the day uncertain:
what’s the bad news?
No new one is forthcoming
except events that have been
attending their daily routine:
Somebody’s left for good,
a new neighborhood has moved in,
the merrymaking leaves
something bitter in the month,
but now & then
a whiff of fresh air:
some minor luck at the lottery,
gift certificate,
e-mail from one
last heard for decades.
Smile mixes with frown & the pleasure of it all
they come in avalanche.
Disenchantment greets them
& returns at supper
to ambush them again
the following morn.
O When you get into this kind of scene,
tough luck to be at the mercy
of divine whim.


A shadow of exultation
passes over her face
as she gazes at the portraits
of her two sons
who perished in Iraq:
It’s Allah’s will
& she doesn’t regret
the spiritual command
to join in the Holy Crusade
& defend the faith.
Who says mothers weep
over their children’s death?
Never the believers
divinely embraced by
God’s imperative
of Holy sacrifice—
& war is the defining moment
to sift the chaff from the grain.


In Basilan,
the widows of slain marines
wave the olive branch,
saying war
leaves only orphans behind
the battlelines,
& congressional medals
won’t bring their husbands back.
The war planners
speechify on dignity, valor
& justice
as they load their soldier’s guns.
When the smoke clears
the infantry men lick their wounds
& catch their breath
under rocks, trees & stars
as office guys
in air-conditioned rooms
redraw the map
& sip hot coffee
from their special mugs.

Computer Programmer

She’s a casual cashier
at Grill Queen,
working for 10 hours
to make her P200 a day.
O She’s entitled
to a bowl of lunch rice
& no viand for her enterprise.
A computer science grad
she’s waiting to score
the big bucks
while waiting
at the corner take-home counter.
She has subbed
for the other faceless girl
who found a job
at a girlie bar…
like a sergeant at complaints desk,
he feels tired
hearing her life story
& all the run of confessions
of poor little girls
who come in droves
like workers at a sugar mill.
When will this kind of narrative
spin itself out?
Life is brutish & dismal—
but tomorrow Sunday
she’ll be at Sacred Heart,
praying for deliverance.
O He keeps wondering
what the Lord must be thinking…


He’s haunted by the idea
of winning—
not losing that makes for poeticizing.
Times have changed
& bitter coffee mixes with chocolate.
At Starbucks
he bides his time encoding things global—
Hemingway’s a clean, well-lighted place,
where tired, old hearts
that hang their hearts to dry,
has turned cliché…
Wifi laptops
connect him to Nasdaq
where millions lose
& millions gain
when US banks
get Federal discount.
A watering hole no more
of s¬¬¬¬¬chizoids
& conscripted young men
but a coffee shop
where frappuccino
& pastry
keep him off
the edge of Ezra Pound’s…
Here, he hits the fast lane
of big bucks
& career floozies;
No Lonely Hearts’ Club Band,
but corporate jive
that pushes well-heeled loners
up a starward drive.
(Bill Gates, not James Dean,
hugs the center lights.)

Boom Box

The radio must be on
perfect decibel
as the dawn breaks
the nightmares in his head:
nothing seems to jell,
everything’s marked for murder
on decay
& the hours open
like the jack in the box
when people meet
like fucked-out lovers…
The boom box
must keep on jabbering
to drown all the signals
that pretend to explain
the real meaning
of the day.

Spontaneous Guy

“There’s something he’s not
telling me.” I sense
like in American movies
where the villain
calmly stares a man down.
But he can’t tell me
because he shrugs
he acts this way or that
in response to the glare
I rub into his face.
He’s a guy
acting allegedly on his own
free will
to be himself & nobody else.
“Yourself.” I almost laugh—
no one knows how a fool
appears to himself:
he does really
according to what
people deem or not—
who says he’s an inner-directed man?
We all act according to
subliminal public demand,
held hostage by others’
whims & cries
& we don’t dare disappoint
the tribe.
Ideology, for Zizek, lies outside.
No such crap as spontaneous guy.
He’s a puppet dangling on a string
& he doesn’t know why.
No one, to the original act,
verily subscribes.


He’s superstitious:
a shift in weather
& some street encounter
& he thinks
it’s sign of fortune
or evil spell:
The heavens are sending
texts if he would persevere
or stop at
the invisible bell.
Such that
he claims he’s God’s
little Christ
as when she flashes on his mind
like a gesture sent across the air
& he smiles
she dreams him too.
O Much too a Hegelian a fallacy
when the world moves
according to his vision of reality.
This is all unacademic.
She’s hooked on another guy
& to this lover
she’ll open her thighs.
He’s zero-sum to her
who plays with his number.
Nobody is destiny’s child.


He’s a foolish writer
who addresses posterity—
& talks immortality
as if Borges hasn’t warned
it’s a hellish rule
to suffer the centuries.
One is trapped
in a particular well
& views the world
like the frog mythical.
All theses of infinity
are hogwash
  when poets
acting like drunken gods,
they see Time from above.
Language perishes
like love,
truth changes clothes
in a fashion’s mode:
generations seek
their own pool of mirror.
Poetry has different masks
forging their own implosions—
& dining in an empty room
with no one in particular
is a dead-end resolution.

The Survivor

It crawled down the ceiling
& onto the side walls,
hiding under Modesto’s
frame of masked figures,
then crept the distance
of the foggy room:
Yes, it’s the survivor
after the hygienic fumigation,
& the guardian of the house
had nothing but awe & trepidation
for its surviving what amounted
to a nuclear explosion—
Vick’s quarantined pitbulls,
who failed to win their matches,
had to die by electrocution,
drowning or torture
because they didn’t uphold
the Texan tradition
of the Atlanta Falcons quarterback
who wouldn’t brook
a losing score.
The lizard was better off;
it may yet conquer the world
after the holocaust
when millionaire cannibals
fall short of human compassion.
O This planet is a ship
& everyone on board
is God’s prized minion.



It was something
of a post-script:
he was told
her dear father
passed away,
a doctor who knew
his sickness
but all the knowledge in the world
couldn’t spare him
the siren call of mortality.
Words wouldn’t approximate
the grief, the loss,
& all the memory
recorded on the tapes of her
His father had journeyed
much earlier
& he presumed
he was no stranger to the feeling:
But his hands could only mask
the word beyond word—
absolute, real, non-representational—
of that word of unfinished pain.
He could only utter it helplessly,
like some blind prayer.


It was more than fifteen years ago
since she left on a Fullbright
for New York:
the tree of memory
was heavy with foliage
but as in autumn
the leaves fell one by one
until it completely bared itself
naked to the icy wind.
Suddenly, this feint cry
like some dark cloud
whipping the ground
& he knew
the rain of remembering
would come rushing down
like an avalanche.

Crystal Ball

She’s a poet
prodigious & true
to her calling—
but he wagers
she’ll fall short
of filming the images
of this lacuna—
speechless are we all
before so much absence.

Loose Cannon

You didn’t mince words
& shouted the forbidden
when you exposed
the Queen was naked
& by courtesans surrounded.
That was signal enough
for her ministers
to create mayhem
in your name.
The murder wasn’t yours
but they registered it
“in your honor”
because they had wanted
to make real
what they had invented,
then foretold—
Suffer the consequences
of your imagined deed:
They would simply
supply the fatal evidence.

Mother Teresa

All the sufferings
would make one waver,
& so true
to the human self,
you doubted
He existed:
After all,
how explain
the living deaths
from dusk to daybreak,
the arcana
of all texts professing
“It’s all in the God’s
You have to attend
to thousands of funeral wakes
that lead to the circuitous
why tears well up
in fervent prayers
& there’s only the answer
of silence
that freezes all to stones.
& they dared consecrate you,
you signified the Lord’s intention?
No one really
divines the heart of compassion.

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