Red Angel & Other Poems

1.
The Pacifist

Graphic indeed
is the sight of blood
& mangled bodies
at the blast of motorcycle bomb
that blew their consciousness away—
& we weep
at the desolation of the unwary
who never had a prayer of a chance
to gasp a word or two
at their sudden end.
But it all matters where you sit:
the sowers of terror
set up the whole inferno
to burn down the tower
of their own personal fear
& would have licked their chops
like a psychotic arsonist
at the conflagration
they had visited upon the few
who perished
in lieu of the imagined many
who’d have expired
in monumental slomo.
No matter how you slice it
nothing is worth a utopian discourse
if life, evil & pure,
is sacrificed in the cracking
of the whip.
Existence is all—
once & nothing more—
& this should work
for the doer & receiver
of the murderous act.
This damn simplicity
is the complex
of how Hodge
conjectured the universal wager
that the nonsensical
& profound
are long-lost brothers.

2.
The Anarchist

Terror is our
everyday affair,
says he
while crushing
the cigarette butt
under his heel,
as though he has lost appetite
for the pedestrian wisdom
he has to dole out
for all & sundry
mourning the sudden blast.
Animals ravage each other
for victuals
The strong devour the weak
for kingship…
What’s there to savor deliciously
from the visitation of death
that makes for history?
The people who invented refuge
under a sovereign?
But the state
is reserved only
for the few & privileged
to rule according to caprice!
O things should even out
when all face the risk
of living murderously
in this time & age!

3.
The Theorem

The violence
to master everything
& make it follow
according to our will
is a case of numbers
shuffling like cards
in the windtunnel
that cannot in its
quantum gauge
check the rush of air—
if that’s a complete
revolution of forces,
the equation of the cards’
spiral & fall
will be a done deal—
& the cosmos
will flow according
to our mathematical bidding.
How we’ll finally understand
the constant sorrow
of love’s inconstancy & pain.

4.
Numbers Game

If we can draw up
the mathematics of the universe,
we’ll find it so damn easy
to heal the sick
& solve all enigma of the heart.
For the cosmos happens
like an undiscovered calculus
that still befuddles
our millennial minds
trapped in the hollow
of irrational integers,
which, if human enterprise
can finally pin down
to its finite certainty…
Shall it expose the inside & outside
of our joys, desires, fears?
Would the world
know itself
& unlock the mysteries
of our philosophic lack
& unhappiness?
The infinite is a number
& we may yet
grab it by the balls.

5.
Man of the People

They come in droves
claiming to be
men of the people—
& someone shrouded
with enigma to the common eyes,
will air a clearer view
for the masses
to surrender to him
who’ll deliver,
like Moses, the promised land.
Saying, he’s one of the tribe,
showing the scar of a brutal childhood
of knife fights & the quicksand memory
of hills & oceans
& cheap women
in nights that sleep expressively:
He’ll speak justly
on everyone’s behalf:
& they’ll believe him
who’ll not budge nor flinch
at some future disconsonance—
he’ll insist to call the shots
like some slobbering half-drunk,
because no one knows
the Caudillo,
he who rides a pale horse,
is bound to go mad.

6.
The Returnee

In his collegiate years
decades ago,
he was a dancer
who found in terpsichorean flight
of his twinkletoes
the very words
of his personal truths—
never the academic jargon
that was out of his loop.
Fresh from Toronto,
where he harvested some degree
he’s come, he’s here
on a research grant or whatever.
Yes, nothing has changed
but like Heraclitus
reminded of the constancy of flow,
he blurts out,
but everything has too.
Words—in confusing grey & degree—
escape him
& he quickly looks
for a way out
of the corridor dialogue.
Indeed, nothing has changed.
He still gropes for words
which, he, alas,
must make use of
as a respectable professor.

7.
Wreckage

Always
there are rain clouds
forming in his interior horizon,
this heavy stone
pressing on his chest
like a presentiment
that everything is going wrong:
a friend is ill
or clinically depressed;
the clean sheets of paper
have stayed word-free;
his face keeps haunting him
like an old, sad, song;
the chair rocks slowly
in an empty room;
an air of absence
reeks of dust in the
circular silence—
something forebodes
a malevolence
in the edgy feeling,
like he’s a guinea pig
treading on a spinning wheel.
O To live like this
when everybody seems giddy
as if the world
is coming to an end…
O Running the marathon,
drinking or screaming like crazy,
not even poetry
will suffice
our brief
unhappy lives
that sense of catastrophe.

8.
A Bourgeois Heresy for Ka Amado

But that’s most heretical,
he says to himself
upon hearing
how a play on Ka Amado
is in the works
& his nationalist celebrators
are keen to extol him
to the heavens
as literary icon
& defender of freedom.
True, the guy wrote
something for the downtrodden,
but why can’t his text
stay like a fire’s crucible
in his mind?
Could it be the poetics of his cadence?
A difference of origins
between man & reader?
Or his tortured life instead
that awes him most,
as if words & action
are inseparable.
Enough of craft’s argument!
Yet nothing seems
to trigger a psychic flaring
to force his hands to rime
with Ka Amado’s
proletarian design…
O it’s engaged life,
more than his craft,
that dared the prison house
in an age of selective cowardice…
He lived dangerously,
as if following Nietzsche.

9.
Hotshot

He’s the toast of filmdom,
tapped to document
Hollywood’s Penelope
& let her “being shine through,”
this essence of beauty
to propagate
a “L’oreal hair color commercial.”
These days, film aesthetics
must be harnessed
in the service
of capitalists
out to change women’s fashion
& feminine beat:
stuff of news
to signify
in the name of business
what’s artificial is natural.
Like the police investigator
who has a theory to pursue
& come up with pieces of evidence
according to a script.
Hair Color? Bombing?
We no longer are in control
of our lives—
the info market
rules & devises
our hypertruths & straight-faced lies.

10.
Superior Race

Somewhere in the pacific
travelers
are back on a mission
to hunt for humpback whales
that swim majestically
like kingdomless royalty,
now harpooned like commoners
by sashimi-crazy Japs
out to prove human supremacy
& claim a notch of civilization
higher than the helpless
sea creatures!

Somewhere in Batangas
a butanding was beached
on the shore of a coastal village,
injured by the rocks
that it got smashed on.
Too frail to swim out of the sea,
it died eventually.
It could not be buried,
the villagers averred,
because it was too heavy.
So they cut it up
to devour, like cannibals, its body.
It barely escaped nature’s fury
but it was no match to Pinoy savagery.
A hole in the sand
would have served a human notion
of decency
but the ignorant poor
devour their prey so ravenously.

11.
Pasong Tamo, Corner Yague

A horse
suddenly collapsed
on the road,
gasping for breath
like a dying man
vainly sucking in
an ocean of air—
as if to persist
in its mission
to complete a run.
People laughed
at the sight
of the foolish owner
kicking him on its
hind legs
to push it into a jeep
until animal whisperers
took its pulse
& diagnosed it’s dehydrated
& stoically fractured like Barbaro.
So they gently, gently led Conde,
like the champion of Kentucky Derby,
up, up & away from human savagery,
to pasture
with stallion clouds in the sky.

12.
Retraction

So the news
wasn’t that stereotypically
mushy:
she didn’t hang herself
as in old newspaper stories
because of poverty
that makes for poetry
or Christian piety.
She was ravaged
by a father,
who as in Freudian rule,
devours all daughters—
patriarchs are their own
corps of brutes,
interlopers in the chicken coop.
But the narrative
of adamic consistency
is the wretchedness of the spirit
that afflicts families
given to living out the chaos
of a primitive ancestry
where drawn-up rules
are breached by insatiable pleasure.
This is Zizek-Freud
figuring in the cosmos
of collective eros,
the cries of the new-born
delivered by satanic storks
unto the world of blind shamans
& Mephisto.

13.
Time Zones

Slipping through
the pillar & the wall
that was a passageway
to the lobby
she flashed a smile
of recognition.
O How he had wanted
to enfold her in his arms,
but she was trapped
in the invisible zone of sunrise
& he couldn’t break through
the glass partition
of his own meridian.
It was as if
she was waving her hands
on the bank of Acheron
as his boat
slowly drifted off
into the void.

14.
The Moron

How long has it been?
Twenty or more years?
He was asking
for a subject to spare:
CL or Third World
had been dissolved,
today’s generation couldn’t care less
about the origin of canon
& the emperium:
they just want to move on
& be assured of some fancy post
to amass comparative loot
in the future
for heck! there’s no enemy
but in the imaginary
of his Marx & tradition…
The timid hustlers
have been fixed
to be the mouthpieces
of ideational continuum…
Whereupon he looks at his wry hands
& wonders why they have shrunk?
He’s still scrounging for pennies,
a bum in Bojangle’s tap dance.

15.
The Boor

Four o’clock in the morning
& the garage lights
in the neighborhood
had been turned off:
the clerks had woken up
to welcome the sun
that was still attempting
to pierce through
the grey, grey clouds.
The cocks had dutifully crowed.
But what was there to do?
Hardly a prospect
for an exciting day.
The smell of rain
was in the air
& he couldn’t even dare
take back the lines
of old despair.
O How he had turned
into the perfect boor
that would disrupt
any mirthful conversation
at the breakfast table.
Everything seemed to be
rationally imperfect
& social grace would dictate
they must avoid him
like a plague
so they could hurry through
the day
& live their own lives their way.

16.
The Paradigm

“Queen Elizabeth & Philip
mark 60 years of marriage,”
The news seems to applaud
a certain heraldic verity
that warms the cackles
of priestly hearts.
But he hears it
as if in a daze,
perplexed by the particularities
of its truth:
what’s the real score?
They must have managed
to olive & let live,
steering clear of each other’s sked
& never crossing paths
so they won’t get in each other’s hair—
O The secret of love everlasting?
Or they must have learned
to pick off the bedbugs of their fates
& like blind journeyers
walk safely
holding each other’s hand
for there’s no other choice
but their singular condition?
He chuckles to himself:
Love only lasts
if you leave the other alone
O He’s so stupidly sure
it’s the pragmatic rule
for resigned old couples.

17.
The Art of Poetry

“There are no poetic words,”
he says, grinning.
“Otherwise, the computer
could be made to produce
profundities of an epic
by sheer magic of extrapolation
of what the lexical storage
deems as deep, musical, esoteric,”
Everything, instead, is fit
for texting & remarking—
from Shakespeare to Rimbaud,
from NVM to Hufana,
who would visualize
mud & stones of the swamp
or Poro Point & the Third Reich—
that moves the soul
to explaining why things are
& how life is sheer trigger
for shooting or weeping.
Say it as it is,
some crafty, here & there, flourishes,
but never miss the object
of love or hate
because one has been trapped
in the woodwork of words
pretending to be divine gifts?
When all one needs
is a sharpness of wit
& a density of ifs
to pin down the puzzling & chaotic.
Ambiguity & clarity
are mere wars of position
for the common seeker
who has been duped to insist
poetry is always that
which defines the Elect.

18.
Madonna

In front of the half-dark
of a closed store
barely illumined
by a lamp post,
she sat there at the dingy doorstep—
a young mestiza
heavy with child
& eyeing listlessly
the SUV across
Erestain Street.
Quickly, she stood up
when an old man
approached the van
& pulled out his wallet.
She hurried thereafter
to the intersection
then vanished in the late night
like Tiffany’s royal truant.
He’s no damn seer
but he could read her future
like the palm of his hand:
her kid
will pound the neighborhood
for rugby;
she’ll panhandle
with her body.
Should her luck turn around
she’ll bed with some
government functionary
& paint her face
gone fat like a gun moll’s.
It’s a story
everybody has read
a long, long time ago
& no one’s asking
why it always turns out
verifiably true.

19.
Shameless

She’s shameless,
she thought.
But she’d look them
in the eyes,
never lowering them
as she gave
the scavenged morsels
to her children.
Sure, it didn’t use to be
like this before,
& eating trash left-overs
was way beyond
her imagining—
The kids no longer cried
when she beat them up
because their tummies
were all knotted up
in stabbing pain.
They were tired, hungry.
Only their eyes
blankly told her so.
So were hers
that couldn’t do
anymore crying.

20.
MTV

The Arabian jock
was rapping
he could air anything—
minarets,
dry desert wind,
camels,
tin cans—
on the MTV
to bridge the cultural gap
between the modern
& what was.
Rock music
allows all that
& TV images
should not stop
at dates & caravansary
to bring to the feasting eyes
what’s now
what’s Saudi.
He wasn’t saying, of course,
he could let on
about the telltale opulence
of perfumed sheiks
& the kingdom’s rules
that cut off
contumacious heads.

21.
The Rebellion of Veils

The court of old men
wouldn’t allow
the rape victim
the satisfaction
of seeing her seven rapists
pay for their debt.
She too must suffer
imprisonment
& 200 lashes
in front of a supermarket
for giving them
the opportunity
to brutalize her.
O like the prisoner
is more guilty
than the executioner
for showing her neck
to make way
for the axe
to pass through.
Such is Saudi
deep into the 21st century
& cybernetics.
O when will
the women of the veil
wage their “intimate
revolt”
& put a stop
to the law of Patriarchy?
O is it the wind we hear
howling
or the bearded hierarchs
hooting at decent inns?

22.
November 29, 2007

Nic, bedridden
since December of 06,
is attended by a loyal
circle of friends.
His pension couldn’t afford
St. Luke Medical
where doctors
in immaculate robes
fuss over the First Gentleman
implicated in money scandals.
At the forum
two awardees
of state largesse
speechified about art & revolution—
& comrades, too,
who claimed a share
of his incognito living,
He probably wonders
their collective memory
is as strange
as his intimations
of his being.

23.
Cultist

He must have been
Rasputin redux
in a vast land
where socialism
had terribly declined—
& the modern czar
in Putin,
ex-KGB agent
who recuperates Beria
& Siberian camps.
Pyotr Kuznetzov,
reading doomsday
into his internal chaos
in the dead of winter
on the steepe
has gathered his believers
like a snake charmer
to await in underground quarters
the apocalypse of the Lord.
But rescuers fear for a child
held hostage by the zealots
in their lunacy
to save it from
ungodly disaster
& threaten to commit suicide
if they so much
barge in.
O in Russia
of Lenin & Solshenitzen,
where the age of reason
dawned with the revolution,
the old ghosts
of the irrational & terror
have returned
to stalk the innocents again!

23.

Dream

a.
He heard it said –
you’re full of languor
because you cannot enter
your dream
that visited
childhood ago.
Would that explain
his unspeakable ennui?
Everything was less than real,
true.
Somehow, would he be complete
If his fantasy
would be here, now,
enveloping him
like the arms of a beloved
no longer imaginary?
But what was that dream?
It had been a long time since
& many dreams
had buried it
under layers of nightmares.

b.
The old loves
entered his sleep last night –
& kept him tumultuously awake.
They were possessed of silence
but their eyes spoke
a language he couldn’t make out.
Instead he saw
old houses
he had abandoned
though the years…
He no longer exults
when he remembers.

24.

Dec 4, 2007

He, who is quick to laughter
& quicker still to hide his lover’s grief;
he who has turned
into driftwood
that twistingly sinks into-the depths of the void;
lies here in his room,
inconsolable in his solitude,
& I cannot even comfort him,
break the glass that encases his heart,
with words that fall short
of a comradeship
that cannot bear to see him cross
his interior Acheron.
But Boni & friends
have shielded him
from the chill of all Decembers
& embraced him with sweet remembrances
of his warrior years.
He, who has gripped the spaces
of personal memory,
has become collective memory itself
of an incomprehensible existence
on earth
that presses like a heavy stone
of death
that is almost a gift
for one who has so much suffered
Hail, dear Nic!
Feeble as I am
to contain the presence of your absence,
I must
without sadness
celebrate your name.

25.

Red Angel
(for Nic & Friends)

They must have hoped
through the months
for a sign from the sky:
in the arabesque of leaves
under their feet,
in the blast of wind
over their heads…
But the gods were merciless!
Their prayers were like stones
Dropping into the abyss—
& they couldn’t even hear
the sound of their empty falling!
They would be no miracle?
& their feeble sighs
would resonate
from the secret chambers
of their hearts:
Why do revolutionaries die?
Still, the gods would madly laugh,
as if all should never dare question
the law of the nothingness…
The morning after,
the slow rain pattered
on ten rooftops.
The weather had been uncertain
the past few weeks.
But one thing
they were damned sure of—
nature was taking its course.
They had finally read
the writing on the wall
of the nothingness.
So they dutifully gathered
at his bedside
to let the world know
that Ka Monico Atienza,
red angel,
of their subliminal joys & fears,
lived a just, heroic life
& they would now,
orphans of his presence,
take on the grim task
that he
unwillingly abandoned
for that light
beyond his body’s shell,
& they, who would follow
his incandescent destiny,
would salute him
who was truly the miracle itself
for resisting,
for persisting to live
humanly & meaningfully
in this age
of tyrants
& luminous barbarians.

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