Zizek in love & Other Poems

1.
Artist

It’s the memory of Jewish bones
& burning flesh
that moved him
to snatch back
from the Nazi gas chamber
the ghost of his father
who talked in the language
of his silent face & hands,
choreographing the narratives
of pain & pleasure
before the theatre crowd
who opened to the stories
of its life.
When Marcel Marceau
passed on at 84,
the soundlessness of his gesture,
like one hand clapping,
spoke like it were
an everyday spectacle
for those lost
in the uncertainty of words.

2.
The Petty Dictator

1.

He was Khmer Rouge
but he couldn’t remember
how the charges come about
except for the testimony
of survivors
who saw him buried
in the pile of papers at his office,
oblivious of the cry
of the dying & mutilated
in cities & forests.
The tribunal had been set up:
but what was there to confess
when, like old men,
they couldn’t understand
the infamy of their times?
It was a deluge in his mind—
he was simply
carried along
by the tumultuous current
of powder & blood
that drowned all human voices…
Maybe, even his own because he couldn’t figure out
the names thrust
in his dissolving face…
Still, he couldn’t believe it:
Why own up to an alleged act
when all was party to the fact?
Why single him out of the crowd?
There were crimes, there’s no criminal.

II.

In a world of linguistic indeterminacy,
in the context of modernist mode
that fiction is lie
& because language merely signifies
& the real is outside prescription of signs,
Jean Baudrillard would write:
The Gulf War never happened in Iraq.

III.

The defendant,
Asian & veritably ancient,
could be Filipino
beholden to his bloodline, milieu,
& never to a world at large
that closed ranks to denounce
the gas chambers at Buchenwald.

IV.

Surely, the verdict
would be draconian, brief:
death by firing squad
& dumped into an unmarked grave.
They say the orphans
would finally have a sigh of relief…
But what is this tossing in their sleep
as if his ghost would never rest?

V.

The morning after
the children huddled
at the playground
& whispered about
some werewolf
that stalked the dark edges
of their huts.
They decided to bolt their doors
& inform the elders…
“It’s all nonsense,” they said.
But their voices trailed off
into the abyss of an
unfinished sentence.
Long ago, they had been forewarned
about the monster,
half beast, half-human.
“If you don’t watch out,
it may return.”

3.
Basement

It was half past twelve
when he walked down
the stairs
to the basement café
but he couldn’t make out
the blur of faces
stuffing grease into their mouths—
as if it’s business as usual,
& existing is all there is
to the history of the everyday.
They were chattering—
moviestars, games, authors,
laws of physics—
(all fallacies of the future)
like they were eternal verities
they must swear by
before they fade
into the sunsets of their small deaths.
He thought Acheron
was a river of myth away,
but here at FC
he could feel the dark waters
slowly rising to the level of his fantasy.

4.
The Secretary

Yes, he could almost touch
the vomit that stuck
in his throat
as the questions
interminable & progressing,
pinned him down
to what he had witnessed before:
Did the Queen have clean hands?
Was the Gentleman
complicit to the deed?
Was he up to the moment
when he could sum up
his own history
as truth-teller
or a smug bourgeois
who would live out his days
in pleasurable remembering?
His hands were clammy,
the sound of his voice
babbling out of his lips
like gibberish of a village idiot:
The moment had deserted it.
Now, he must start gazing
at the world
from the eyes of a cockroach.

5.
Appointment

The weather was dismal:
it was raining cats & dogs
& she couldn’t escape
the trap of floodwaters
that washed out
her whole neighborhood.
So did he
who drove through the heavy
downpour
as if the world
would turn empty
like an upturned coffee cup.
The heavens would
mercifully interrupt
all stories of hope
& Icarus’s free fall…
Always, he mused
the stormy weather in the horizon,
but there’s the star
beyond
& the fantasy to unravel
like a ball of string
to wrap themselves in.

6.
Waiting for Nic

There no denying,
as in all confessions,
that going to FC
makes him feel downright silly:
the old professors
have gone to their graves,
there’s a new set of hustlers
marching in…
& where’s Nic?
He can no longer drop by
his deserted office
for old times’ sake
& companionship—
his struggling against
a strange disease,
his voice stilled by a scourge
that defers to no one in particular.
O Tales of past youth
when revolutions held sway
& pretty faces wore their hearts
on their sleeves—-
& regimes infected with that certain
fear,
& you could only,
after vomiting, whisper…
It’s different now
but nonetheless the same:
This generation moves shouting along
like waves crashing
against time’s seawall.
How will the Future be?
It’s no longer certainly
Nic’s & his
& staying up in FC
is a retrograde ceremony.

7.
Blackwater

I.

They kill first,
then ask questions later—
the investigator reports.
But Blackwater
security protectors
are all adamant about their mission:
secure American diplomats
& contractors
against Bin Laden terrorists
who resent their alien presence
in Iraq.
But the logic escapes
the trigger-happy dudes:
They’re not welcomed
& should not play the movie
of seven samurais
out to save the village
from black ninjas.
O if only God
would strike them down
for their imperial interference:
But He doesn’t operate
anymore in the Middle East.
He’s vacationing in Mars
where moral issues
cannot be pursued.

II.

They kept shouting
at civilians:
the blackguards
were peppering our car
with high-powered firearms
as we stepped on the gas
to turn back
& escape the sudden carnage
on the street.
In my front mirror
I saw my son
slump into the back seat
like a kid suddenly
fallen asleep.
When it was over
& an eerie silence
reigned in the air
we couldn’t believe
our eyes.
What the hell
was it all about.
My wife was bleeding profusely.
My son didn’t wake up.
He was limp
& splattered with blood
as I propped him up
with my arms.
How could we have ambushed
them when we had
our family in tow?
The Americans
secure Baghdad
like they own the land.

III.
Eid’l Fitr

We cannot celebrate
the end of Ramadan.
My husband is dead.
My sons are crippled
& jobless.
The militias had driven us
to this place
where there’s no water,
food, even bathroom.
Everyday I walk to the Center
to get whatever I can have.
There’s nothing to share
but nothing.
Every night, I watch
my children
sleeping under the sky,
thinking any moment
at sunrise
they can get killed.
The Americans say
they came to liberate us
from Saddam. Sometimes I wish
he were still alive.
O Forgive me,
I say nonsense…
Yes, I sleep badly
these days…

8.
After Paul Virilio

I.

It’s always the sea,
then the wind
& spindrift…
A cup of steaming coffee
& some women
gamboling by the sea
grip the mental landscape
of his poetry
that means
probably something
& nothing eventually.
The ocean,
the sand,
the whirling air,
the clouds that look
like mushroom explosion
that scuttles his fragile voice—
all these dream-images
of a useless time on earth—
all this & nothing more.

II.

Speed
is 21st century discourse—
the dizzying blur
that stays fixed or moves on
like a foglike tiger
crawling slowly on a cold day.
Where are we heading to?
What’s at the end of the rainbow?
We’re hurtling
into doomsday
violently fast
like smiling fools.

9.
Legacy of a Dynast

There’s time for everything:
the waiting, then the moving out
of the woodwork.
On a biblical mode
the son of the dictator
has commenced
reclaiming the titles
to the family loot
in the intersecting conglomerates
the original root
had invested in
¬sub rosa
during their halcyon youth.
The weather is permissibly fine:
they have slithered out
from under the rocks
because the centurions
of the Palace
have conspiratorially looked
the other way.
They’re ready to recover
Ali Baba’s hoard
for the watchmen
have been blindsided,
bought off.
All is clear.
There’s nothing to fear.
(The pterodactyls
have slipped in
to roost.)

10.
The Daughter

Jenna Bush is on tour
to promote her book
on Ana, HIV positive
for the world to appreciate
her sense of optimism
despite the devastating
affliction
that thralls most
to hopelessness…
But she isn’t saying
anything about Iraq
because it’s a “complex issue”
& she loves her dad.
No, he’s not the monster
they picture him to be…
But how would her amnesiac
innocence fare
once she sees
a child maimed
by American marines’ artillery fire?

11.
Junta

The junta
renamed it Myanmar
to hide the iron box
 of a landscape
from curious eyes…
But the Temple monks
would divine signs
& march down Yangoon
to quicken the night
of scorpions
in their daily nightmare.
With x-ray scope
of their tantric mind,
they watch the generals
draw the curtains
over their pot-bellied rule.
Uneasily sleep the colonels
in their bunks
for the silence of Pagodas
crawls into their ears
like a trail of ants.

12.
Brigade

Inside the fibre optics
streams of messages
travel like electronic locusts
from a text brigade:
Pleading for compassion
for a beleaguered solon
who was deathly cold
to the investigation.
O criminals can always count
on former militants
now kissing cousins
of martial brigands!
How fast time flies.
He who used to brave
water cannons
& hold the bridge
now protects the cholerics
of a public
in the name of legalese…
But against a just, transparent ethic?
The joker is wild
But he doesn’t hold at the trump card.

13.
Family Affair
(For those who patiently wait)

The future is almost
impossible to imagine—
but Pinochet’s family
must now pay dearly
for the crimes their Patriarch
had gifted Chilean humanity.
But how could this twist be?
They didn’t call the shots,
nor did they perhaps
order the killing of militants.
Should they wail to high heavens
there’s so much blasphemy here,
so much cowardice there
when victors
turn executioners
& repeat the tale of buccaneers?
But the people’s magistrate avers:
On days of terror
they closed their villas’ doors,
plugged their ears
to drown the shrieks at nightfall.
Never did they denounce the deed;
instead held their tongues
when they had the ears of the dictator
for lives to be reprieved.
Indifference is a vice.
The survivors of Latin Holocaust
will decide.

14.
Zizek inlove
(for her on radar screen)

So the world
is an accident
& in the cusp of chaos
there must be something
to behold
for us to weigh & consider
we all must infinitesimally
matter.
Although nothing is exigent
somehow, the rose I hold
between my teeth
like Cyrano de Bergerac
& offer to you
sipping coffee elegantly
from across my table,
must refer to a certain meaning
lest nothing overwhelms.
& death, the blackness
deeper than a cosmic night,
must have dominion.
So I pledge
over the corpus of my
useless signs & signifieds,
even if this is entirely
out of order & line
in a paradigm of shifting
truths
& love appears strange
illogical & inconsequential
like the universe that’s
happenstance,
like a fossilized flower
on a mountain top,
I say with all the ardor
& innocence of Charlie Chaplin
who makes faces tragically
comical
& much, much more,
with the knowledge of obscene pleasure
the will is heir to,
I love you in all the spectrum
of the rainbow
more than you & I
will consciously know.

15.
Memory Box

I.

Father was close to dying
& mumbling his mother’s name—
she who lodged in his mind’s heart
almost a century ago
& was flashing back
like a divine apparition
stalking him
at the edge of forgetting…
But what flitted
across his febrile eyes
when he was
a quantum quark
in the cosmos
a puny cry in the stillness
of the room
that hushed the chatter of women
but roused the cackle of men
gathered around the table
& drinking wine.
He was seeing it only
for the first time
& therefore wasn’t remembering.
The memory box
was old & empty—
what had returned
strangely mystical, new
had never settled down
like a friendly lover.
O it’s the womb
recovering itself—
a history outside knowing…
Then the final burst
of light ahead,
the brilliance that blinds
& embraces…

II.

Shall I remember you then,
fever of my soul,
fata morgana rising
from my dreamscape…
But you stay out of sight
& this hand that grips the flower
for your eyes only
withers & falls by my side.
Should I say never
as though I were a romantic seer
given to common sentiments?
It’s not possible:
our carnal pleasure is in forgetting
so the cruel scene
is always that infernal leavetaking
where shallow tears are shed,
& teeth gnash
because I really don’t matter
& you weep
like someone in theatrical despair—
if at all
this should happen.
Truth is—
cross my heart
& pray to live—
doors are held half-open,
& faces at daybreak
are whipped by the wind
that drives away the rain
of daily living.

III.

He wrote down
his life, Eric Clapton said,
as if racing
against the clock
when memory—
heavens forbid!—
shall be a blur…
& everything that the body
remembers
would only be itself
as an organic constituency
assailed by time
& diseases
& going to the drug store
would be the aged’s ritual—
But for what?
To gain more from life?
To stay the coming of the dark?

IV.

The old lady
who clambered down the jeep
on unsteady legs
& weak grip
could only murmur
a gasping thanks
to the driver
who grudgingly stopped
to let her off…
She must have
her daily dose
of maintenance relief
from the pharmacy
although the old fogey
doesn’t seem to matter
to the perfunctory salesgirl
but for her money
to keep liquid the company.
What biography
could she confess to
in more than a century
of scrounging around
for meals & security
since she was young & strong
& capable of 24-hr sex
like there was no tomorrow?
Here at the deadend
of daily rites,
she would gaze vacantly
at the prescription
like all the black & white
frames
of her cinematic life
that unreels
like a useless & repetitive
docu.

16.
How-to Poetry

“Don’t declare.
Any direct statement
is cheap essay.”
Thus, like a mantra,
the Ateneo acolyte
repeated his master’s advice
there’s poetic language
to take care of literary speech
& his task
is to take the cue
from sages of style.
He couldn’t therefore
simply wail, “I’m sad.”
He couldn’t metaphorize—
he refused symbolic connections—
water or stone
to signify his being alone.
Images escape him—
the corollary elements—
& he could see himself
brooding in a corner
& reviewing the firmament
to allegedly represent
the deeper truth of his saying…
“He’s sad,”
that he knew only
but he’s forbidden
according to the school of craft
to declare the fact—
as if it’s a crime
to define
with a declarative pedestrian:
People wouldn’t be moved;
the elliptical, the tangentiall
was heavy with miner’s lode.
Altogether he abandoned poetry
because his sadness
wasn’t nearer a voiceless stone’s.
O how could he presume?
He would never be a poet
according to the charlatan tradition.
He would always see the world’s affliction
from a savage vantage point.

17.
Ernesto “Che” Guevarra

His face,
photographed by Korda
& freely given to the world
for reproduction
& dissemination
like his message of global
revolution
was the 20th century
ikon.
He knew,
voyaging across the continent
of pillage & misery
by norteamericanos
& their fascist cohorts,
what imperialism was
& without hesitation—
disdainful of danger?
two fearless for his own good?—
joined the Gramma
expeditionaries
to topple Batista
& his criminal gang.
He didn’t stop there:
he resigned his Havana post
& rallied the peasants of Bolivia,
despite bouts of severe asthma,
because he didn’t think small:
exploitation is universal,
& he must rally the faithful
to encircle Washington
from around the cities
in Third World countryside.
Two, three Vietnams
to slay the giant down…
But time was green
& campesinos were
trapped in old ideological zone
while academics dillydallied
in campus saloons…
They were afraid of him,
mutilating his body
as he lay dying—-
his eyes wide open
& staring through their hearts.
So terrified were the troops
of his silent presence
they fled with his remains
on otso de Oktubre, 1967…
But if Che’s desire
is rhyzomic ministry
of a laboring church,
the world may yet come alive
& spread like prairie fire.
But he foretold this all along:
he was willing to wait
5, 10, 15, 20 years or so
for revolutions to take
a long, long time.
(Hasta la victoria siempre!)

18.
Writing Center

The center observes keenly,
like a connoisseur of wine
high, cosmopolitan style:
there’s a manner of truth-telling,
like holding a cocktail glass,
to duplicate & decode:
cut the verbose line
to its essential bone;
relish the texture & color of words;
allow the rhythm
to flourish like ascending notes;
come down to the solitude of flutes,
then suddenly brake to a silence
that finally shakes the unsuspecting
reader
he’s pinned down
like a wriggling worm:
Yes, yes, the world appears to spin
this way
like a musical piece
but what is truth if waylaid
by wizardly technique & sheer form?
What if this Pinoy masterpiece
does not dare orchestrate
the dissonance of monsters
devouring children & the impoverished
in dark alleys & main streets?
The young musicians
who swoon to the tune
are zonked out
like their senseis at the workshop
who make sure
they practice the formal craft & protocol
& chorus
only what’s safely cool.

19.
Old ¬¬¬Fart

He was vastly amused,
although disconcerted,
at the antics
of brats
at the back of the bus:
they were exchanging banter,
raucously laughing
at some spiel or two,
their energy bursting at the seams.
& why did he feel
so suddenly spent?
It was himself
looking at a ghost of himself
a century ago
when he was quick
to explode or ravel
at life’s petty details.
How in cosmic clock
everything seemed to be
a matter of seconds.
Surely, this bunch
in a snap of moments
would also be sitting
at the front,
like himself,
softly & darkly reminiscing
what was the meaning
of it all.

II.

In his dim memory
he was able to somewhat remember
the women of his aging years:
they had married,
grown soft & dumpy
when once, like a crazy fool,
his heart would beat uneasily
whenever they drew up
by his side—
they’re all gone now
like the blast of air
that whipped his eyes
to sudden tears.
He would sigh,
but that all
because life’s enigma
was like a Gordian knot
difficult to unravel.

III.

So it’ the long arms of death
that snatch everyone at the end
of the road?
What was all the fuss
about pain of love & pleasure?
What was it worth
all the surging of the heart?
It seemed like he had long been
misled by all texts
of joy & catharsis?
Verily, it would matter
that nothing matters.
Solitude’s fascism
in the final round wins.

IV.

Stephen Hawkings,
snapped to his wheelchair,
pierced by a voice box
 in his throat
to squeak out his thoughts
on the expanding universe
& cosmic hole—
but he wouldn’t register a bleep
about the darkness
of his condition:
his legs of stone
that couldn’t feel the earth;
his spine of a spider web
that wouldn’t lift his body
to the sky;
& his arms’ that couldn’t grasp
the heaviness of his words.
But his eyes squint
heavenward
as though diagramming
the physics of the universe
in the tapestry
of God’s mind.
Death has no dominion.
Zorba, in his soul,
dances on.

20.
La Naval

During the Spanish conquest
the natives & European clergy
celebrated
the Lady of La Naval de Manila
for sparing the Catholic forces
from the Dutch fleet
in 1640.
Ever since, they’ve sanctified the event
even after they had booted out
the Spanish colonialists
that held the country in bondage
for hundreds of years.
O How would the faithful ever
free themselves
from the mystical grip
our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary,
whose prayerful pose
defers to a universal silence?

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