In the Shadow of Yeats
He pursued her for fifty years, she who once confessed: “At a quarter of 11 last night I put on this body and thought strongly of you and desired to go to you.” But it was only a siren call that travelled millions of miles between their febrile hearts. She, who haunted his passion that never wrestled her down in the grass – she, who started “the troubling of his life” like a serpent in a mystical garden… O Pure Torment! Neither angel nor satan was he but his heart sang only of Maud, only of Maud Gonne, astral fibre of his despair, center of his gravity, its eyes turned toward her & her only. O if only she would steal a glance his way… No, no no! He was just a shadow of passing air. The black & white shot at the exhibit couldn’t, of course, hide the pain behind the silly grin.
“Luciano Benjamin Menendez, commander of the regional Third Army Corps in Cordoba for five years during Argentina’s 1976-83 military dictatorship,” must have, at his ripe old age of 81, dared them to bring it on – too late to change horses at the opposite side of the stream, anyway – by letting loose his militarist spiel: “The regime’s repression had been justified in the face of a leftist militant threat.” The perpetual state of emergency, always this century’s destiny of life in the world of Agamben, had prodded him & his loyalists to secure their reign of order – & the deaths of the 30,000 were simply collateral damage (as in Iraq against Bin Laden) for the sake of global peace. Same here for a Filipino general who would hunt commies on the run, these faceless troublemakers he must drive into the gates of hell. (But the mothers of the disappeared still hear the wailing on the wall of their guts… No longer do they knock madly on heaven’s doors: signs like comforting hands have not appeared. O How secretly they wish they’re God himself who won’t dare play dice this time with the universe.
She will not spout rhetorics, her bodyguards pontificate; She will call a spade a spade & let truth hurt, where it may. Governance is a tricky affair, you can’t please all the populace. So she will in her fuchsia pink step up to the microphone & declare: We’re all in this together, anyway, let the ship of state chug away. She had done the ceremony so many times before – cajoling the crowd via the airwave, surrounded by her trusty generals to keep the apostates in place.
The people outside the Congress gates will dissonantly do their share: as in a dance, they will weave in & out of the choreography of despair, performing the obligation to raise their fists & jeer: Murderers! Thieves! The victims will not oblige the ancient fallacies of the day; they shall tumultuously congregate & tell crimson stories of decay.
After the holiday is gone, each will retire to their own space – the future as dark as the rain clouds threatening to wash off the carnage of words that happens like clockwork every minute of the reign.
& When the dance dangerously stops, music fades into silence, shall we look at the clock as it strikes the 12th of never? Shall we hide under the bed from the strange, ugly ghosts who roam the empty streets? Who shall knock on the iron door & be welcomed as guests? What text shall foretell all this imagined impasse is pause between smile & tears? Shall we fear what we’ve always dreamt of as just & fair? How will the scale register the balance of terror & the deed? Tell us, tell us, O prophets with the Third Eye, lest we rejoice, lest we die! & pulled out of our ordinary lives, shall we turn mad, or expire?
Of course, they know at the back of their minds, the possibility of failure, like a bat that hangs malevolently serene, as they shout themselves hoarse at the troops & politicians that barricade the House. Might as well be the Castle outsiders cannot enter but through a narrow gate that requires special clearance from the ruler-tenant – though the workers in the wings are its rightful owners. Throughout history it’s been drilled into their guts it’s not theirs to acquire. If only cymbals & trumpets can tear it down, but Jericho is long, long gone & the Lord of the Poor is nowhere to be found. O the dejected still pray for His blessing & goodwill but they irreverently feel it in their thinning bones. He had long absconded with their souls. The banners are unfurled, orations hypnotize the mob but the faithful to the Cause – hoping againts hope – still linger at the crossroads: something may yet occur like a Kabbala’s word is accidently pronounced & evil creatures stream out shrieking mad from the Hall. Like pilgrims paying homage to a saint, the abandoned children of the soil continually mumble in ascending monotone that on the day the revolution comes, they will be ready with their radical piety & exuberance like virgins who stood vigil with lamps for Christ’s return.
“They’re bloodsuckers. They salivate at the sight of flesh,” she says, her little fingers stressing, that rich or poor, she won’t give a damn if animals they devour. A wagonload of carabaos she had seen on its way to the butcher’s shops. & she couldn’t take off her mind the gentle eyes of the “beasts” who never knew their time was up. She couldn’t imagine how God could love the hungry poor who sharpen their cleaving knives… She’s above class discourse; she’s not given to pity over the weeping masser & entrepreneurs who observe the heathen sacrifice. “I cannot believe in this revolution if suddenly the underdogs wise up to change the world. They’re cannibals & killing is their age-old tradition. O There will be no end to the senseless slaughter. Never will they ever be the new Soviets so defined by academicians. “O I am a one-dimensional woman,” she adds… “There will be an end to wars, if murderers stop their bestial deeds at the abattoir.”
They have no choice but to flee to the hills – trickle of enlightened ones – where living ain’t easy, outside the comfort zone & bourgeois decency. Yes, their moment’s reprieve when comrades get together to plenum/celebrate a feast… Always, on guard for the red turf is under siege. But what is there to do? How should one live? Here, they exist as humans beyond machinic reach. Between heaven & hell, this neverneverland, where they try to grow wings, turn history’s bums, seraphims. Beware the fury & barbarism – May all understand how living on edge is their salvation & engaged circumstance.
But what if, contravoices leer, holding on to the red spots doesn’t move the world at all – it no longer does as in Castro & Mao times? — & negotiation tables have become props for changing the rule? What has happened before? What is to be done? Veterans of the march saw it that way, but generations after trash the old religion. Stand down & let the lions lie with the lambs? The Revolution is chameleon: the young revise the singular interpretation. “We will stay where we are,” chorus the holdouts in Banahaw, Mindanao. “The state is a snake molting its old skin: its venomous bite is fatally the same. Yes, philosophers have come out of the rubble to reread how the revolution can never repeat Lenin’s & Bolshevik equation… Yes, we’ve been forewarned, & if the executioner’s song had altogether assumed a pacifist tone…”
They smugly tell the stories of engagement with the Castle: the backroom boys who in secret dreams hold the Empress on a leash: her words of power are theirs… They giggle at the details of how quirks, beyond the barbershop discourse of the masses, happened on her way to the rostrum, but that is all water under the imaginary bridge: In the shadow of the sancto sanctorum they shrug at protesters like they were afflicted with slow-burning flu not beyond the care of Tylenol – these privileged serfs who keep their cool because the masses are under control. They have chosen a winner, made the perfect gamble.
They walk in from all sites: rogues, taxmen, fishermen, farmers, soldiers, lawyers, even warlords who profess they’ve all seen the light: things must go, or we exist like stones. Among the conscripts will be apostates/traitors like Judas or Pol Pot, who must play a role in the scheme of things, as if Karma or fate must be played out for the faceless multitude moving on the road, stopping at stations of the cross. A sprinkling of scholars & one-eyed prophets to claim the front seats: but this is all mathematics of the plenum: only the wild card may forge on, bodies will fall – summer or monsoon. The revolution is not a matter of opinion, but a force, like nature’s, that brutally overwhelms all. We all brace for the storm, or wait like lepers in sick rooms. The clock hands turn between perhaps & soon.
– Bayani S. Abadilla
It didn’t happen overnight. Pieces just fell into place: There was something that needed to be done. He saw them lost & hungry, zonked-out like zombies; he broozed with bums & felt the sickening droilery of one-shot balls; he was paid cheap for his artisanal labor by corporate lords; he couldn’t hack a lifestyle that left him on tenterhooks; he couldn’t let spoiled brats & politicians get away with legalized loot; he couldn’t stand down for superiors to make their move. Everything meant nothing: compassion was an albatross. He was schooled to master his anger, peer into a dialectical telescope & sum up the crazy world. O It didn’t happen overnight. Here, in the clearing, in undergrowth, he’s cradling a rifle, a book & villagers report he has never looked so human, so justly barbarous.