Gray November

A Horde of Pilates

Even the so-called Russian elite, those short-listed by Forbes, has fallen on hard times, “having their wealth tied-up in the overlapping bubbles of the Russian stock market, commodity prices and easy credit.”

Why has the financial turmoil escaped the high-tech mindset of the West? Did they fail to see it coming? Or were they simply overrated for their business acumen?

No one, however, is accepting responsibility for the Wall Street slide.

For instance, US Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, Jr., goes as far as to claim that months before, “he had feared for Lehman Brothers, [which] was hurting toward bankruptcy.” He had advised them personally to seek a buyer, but Lehman could not unload its “toxic assets” without a federal guarantee that never came. But detractors say otherwise: Bear Stearns got their government backing, so did AIG. By then, however, “credit markets around the world [had] begun freezing up…” All this, they argue, “was emblematic of the miscalculation by the government in reacting to the crisis.”

Alan Greenspan, “doted as an economic sage,” on the other hand, seems to have finally come to his senses. He “acknowledges that he had put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and had failed to anticipate the self-destructive power of wanton mortgage lending.”

Asked relentlessly by US Congress, “Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?” he concedes, “Yes, I’ve found a flaw.”

Nonetheless, Greenspan “refuses to accept the blame for the crisis, but acknowledged that his belief in deregulation had been shaken.” A German editor, in another program, would suggest that some socialist mechanism should be considered by the free-wheeling US market, but this is unlikely to happen. In Europe, it’s back to the quasi-socialist practices, after having been seduced to subscribe to free market by the hegemonic Wall Street.

Like Greenspan, our local economists, who take their cue from Washington, would not take the fall either. While Greenspan may eat humble pie [“this modern risk-management paradigms held sway for decades… the whole intellectual edifice, however, collapsed in the summer of last year”] Malacañang would insist “our fundamentals are sound.” They wouldn’t even reconsider oil deregulation as detrimental to the common folks.

It was, for the record, Greenspan [dubbed the Maestro by Bob Woodward of Watergate fame] who lowered interest rates “to really all-time lows from 2001 until mid-2004, creating a speculative bubble in home prices and home construction,” which eventually posed the “risk of a housing bust.”

In brief, “Greenspan,” along with other bankers, “resisted calls for tighter regulation of subprime mortgages and other high-risk mortgages that allowed people to borrow far more than they could afford.”

What followed is simply a “credit tsunami” that would see people kicked out of their homes & into rented apartments, or even cars that would serve as temporary lodgings for employees on credit crunch.

Dr. Robert Gilford, an environmental psychologist at the University of Victoria, Canada, says it well: “When you choose to move, of course, you have to pack up and move, but you’ve probably chosen a better job, a better place, there’s an upward trajectory to your life… But when someone tells you you must leave, it undermines a ‘key part of well-being: perceived control of your life’.”

Here in the Philippines, moving out – hopping from one rabbit hutch to another – may be a way of life, but the deep sense of distress & insecurity underlines the everyday violence in the office, home, school, street.

Stress is the very symptom of our collective neurosis.

How did the Event come our way, when respectable gurus who acted like emperors were found naked by the common man? Why does no one dare claim responsibility? Is it because the network of errors implicates all, like capitalism were a spider web casting in its net on all the creatures of the system?

“It seems clear,” says Mark Buchanan, a theoretical physicist, “that no one really knows what is coming next. Why?”

He answers himself: “Well, part of the reason is that economists still try to understand markets by using ideas from traditional economics, especially so-called equilibrium theory… [which] views markets as reflecting a balance of forces, and says that market values change only in response to new information – the sudden revelations of problems about a company, for example, or real change in the housing supply. Markets are otherwise supposed to have no real internal dynamic of their own” [underscoring mine].

The contrary however happens: “Markets have internal dynamics. They’re self-propelling systems driven in large part by what investors believe other investors believe; participants trade on rumors and gossip, on fears and expectation, and traders speak good reason of the market’s optimism or pessimism.”

Obviously enough, the bystander sees the contraction of market as premised on the loss of faith in risk managers: & the cycle, a vicious one, triggers further shrinkage in money supply, not because there aren’t monies in private pockets, but the consumers have withdrawn from the financial scene. How do you stimulate that desire to energize the system when the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow has turned out to be no more than the pie in the sky that worked on the blacks in southern states?

But “going beyond equilibrium thinking” is also “getting some insight into the underlying ecology of beliefs and expectations, perceptions that drive market swings. Surprisingly, very few economists have actually tried to do this, although that’s now changing – if slowly – through efforts by pioneers who are building computer models able to mimic market dynamics by simulating their workings from the bottom up.”

Psychobabble? Socio mapping?

What is implied here is to take into account the inputs from various sectors/players in the market – something that goes against the grain of economists who stay put in air-conditioned rooms & read statistical charts based however on their old mathematical/computer models. It could only be garbage in, garbage out. It is virtually taking cognizant of interdisciplinary assemblage of facts & assumptions for development that enables the bottom to interpellate the top – a political implication that scores authoritarian diktat. Greenspan, after all, had to reconsider his economic philosophy which facts of late had disproved.

Yet, academics – those whose wealth gave them the impression that their IQ is responsible for the well-being of all – are wont to hear only their own pompous voices.

Of course, “better market models alone will not prevent crises, but they may give regulators better ways for assessing market dynamics, and more important, techniques for detecting early signs of trouble.”

As a parting shot, Buchanan says: “Economic tradition, of all things, shouldn’t be allowed to inhibit economic progress.”

If the conduct of war should not be left to generals alone, the economy should not be the exclusive domain of economists/bankers.

GMA, an economics degree holder circa the ’60s, has surely a lot of baggage of old theorems attendant to that period: she surveys the present in the context of dated formulations that prescribed free-market wheeling & dealing as pre-condition for progress itself. How can she possibly radicalize her point of view when her cabinet subscribe as well to hers?

The Predicate

The breaking news [as of November 1] is that Obama’s private contributors have “drowned” McCain’s election budget to the tune of $230 million, which “kind of money is funding a blitz in seven swing states, including Florida and Virginia, when Obama’s ads this week [as of October 31] outnumbered McCain’s by 113 percent,” as per Nielsen rating.

There are “ads in video games, delving into social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter, and making use of mobile phone messaging.” A virtual Obama ad overload in the mainstream mindset, with ironically the viewers getting the message they had sent via fund contributions, anyway.

The endorsement from print media adds to the avalanche, like New York Times editorial “Barack Obama for President.” It argues, among others, “the American financial system is the victim of decades of deregulatory and anti-tax policies. Those ideas have been proved wrong at an unfathomable price, but Mr. McCain is still a believer.”

The blame game points toward the ultra-conservatives, as if the Democrats were squeaky clean – who whooped it up when the bubble was on the rise. After all, did they warn against the impending doom, with some systemic insight? Only lately did they sneer at Wall Street culprits when Lehman folded up. Everyone was caught flatfooted: oh, how they hung on to every word of Greenspan then, who spinned his tale. Yes, they had rallied also behind Bush when, in aviator’s jacket, he proclaimed victory in Iraq, but now loathe him for dumping everyone in the ditch.

The current scenario seems to paint Obama as the white knight in shining armor – but wasn’t he the same discredited imperial stuff with choco frosting? He will do a George Bush, one Middle Eastern panelist in Doha debate says, in Afghanistan, even Darfur is not on his radar. Or he isn’t talking about a coherent foreign policy different from the Republicans’? Yes, Obama is of the belief that “the military is overstretched” because of strategic miscalculation, leaving not “enough troops to defeat Taliban and Al Qaeda [which initially was a CIA handiwork] for battle in Afghanistan.”

The NY Times speculates that Obama is more likely “to repair America’s image in the world.” But will he radically subvert the expansionist unilateral view of the US as the global guardian?

In the Philippines, will it pull out of Mindanao the Marines who constitute the mobile forces without permanent bases – as theorized in rapid deployment – when indicators show they have dug in for a long haul against so-called terrorists? The VFA is a lopsided contract favoring Pentagon… Will Obama allow sovereignty over his minions according to native interpretation of the law?

In brief, Obama is fated to secure the plum post, barring some catastrophe wrought by white supremacists – but all this falls into the orchestrated, through media/image representation, perceptions of truth by tacticians.

In the work of Agamben, Italian philosopher who dwells on the notion of sovereignty over naked life, the ruler’s alleged sacral right over the biological life, a “constructed situation… is a moment of life, concretely and deliberately constructed through the collective organization of a unified milieu and through a play of events.”

The take here is the US electoral feast will have to be seen in the light of unification of disparate, anti-rightist forces by Democrats who shrewdly make use of pragmatic events – recession, war, terrorism – to turn the tables on the incumbent & his potential successor, but to elevate the issue to a systemic level is to play a Mozart concerto before a crowd addicted to country music. That is to say, the real stuff will go over the heads of Michael Moore’s “idiots” who, after the smoke of recession clears, if it should clear at all, would still go for a lifestyle of credit-card consumerism, without delving into the complicated spin of a philosophy that is perverse in the first place.

They fear socialism like it were a plague, but a mechanism like social security doesn’t unnerve them.

The US is stuck in the linear narrative of a Hollywood movie: the Manichean good versus evil, the rise & fall & the avenging angel that will succor the helpless & the disenchanted from the clutches of a rampaging horde in Al Qaeda & Wall Street.

If the choice boils down to the two, then Obama appears to be the lesser evil, of course. But is this how democratic sovereignty should amount to?


He’s damned awkward:
he cannot look her
in the eye
though she blips on his radar
equidistant to desire.
Swift lines shift,
he crosses boundaries
like a drunken rogue
stumbling around
then crashing down
on ellipsis with idiot smile.
O He’s stuck
in this shit
while she flies around
like a nymph
in the pirate air.
He’s not cool,
he cannot jive:
the young couple
at the corner,
seen from the edge of his eyes,
shadows of Romeo & Juliet,
hits it off
while he circumnavigates
the table
like Closseau,
that French snoop.


Her husband
was unduly alarmed:
her blog
was sending clear signals:
misspelled words,
bad syntax,
as if the brain
like a computer
soaked in a pool.
They had to rush her
to the hospital –
a stroke she had had
but aren’t all personal disasters
come to the mind
too late for its knowing?
people had been closely
like hawk-eyed paramedics…
no man is an island –
people come around,
even if it’s a small circle.


He’s leaving
for something his heart
desires –
the masses
as real, concrete
never ghosts
in texts & blogs
but organic, bristling
with dreams & desires
to scuttle the empire.
He’s leaving
for somewhere
to fix his bearings
& feel the thingness
of situated lives –
O something beyond
the understanding
of the common mind
which cautions the future
should not be gambled
on strange propositions…
But he insists,
as in a grandmaster chess,
he’s got the winning line,
pawns can checkmate the Queen,
O the people always, yes!


It’s the fashion of the times
to memorialize
every second that expires:
how things a moment ago
had been,
where he was at –
the particular time & place,
like some target X on the map –
what he had said,
what he had not said,
O how personal events
are invisible banners
that mesmerized
in a wink of an eye,
the Crowd…
O it’s only a little truth,
almost a reverential lie,
for recollection blurs with age
something remains infallibly hidden,
the mirror can only see
what image it reflects ordinately –
never the skull, the blood, the sinews
of himself
that is always beyond revealing,
what is it like to be a needle
in a giant rice bin?
His life isn’t worth a blank page:
But where are the loves
of yesteryears?
O drawn in invisible ink…


The old philosopher
the face doesn’t reveal
the truth
or the state of being
but whatever wound
that opens to an opening –
“& to suffer it,
to endure it.”
She showed him
the digital photo
at a despedida
for a silent warrior
brimming with hope –
& he was lost
as to whose visage
it was –
something he has carried
all this time
that keeps escaping him,
a twin divorced
from his elegiac musing.
It’s language was arcane,
yet intimate,
a crisscross of lines
evoking a meaninglessness
of meaning,
was it himself or another?
How they size him up
eludes him everyday.
Shall he walk or run?
Shall he speak or be taciturn?
Whatever he does
A shadow is claiming it already.
The face that is him
& is not.
The camera lies.



The government flunkey
runs down the list
of prohibitions that regulate,
he intones, migration,
but the workers at the panel
are terribly amused:
Laws don’t shield their kind
from harm
for the state’s major action
is to send them off
as bodily exports.
But the lawyer
with high-end accent & demeanor
won’t be steered from his mission –
like an energizer rabbit
he goes on & on & on
as the migrante reps
stare from across the table:
O There is not even a whit
of salvation
from their own homeland!


He had planned
to stay for two years only
& save some bread,
but it stretched to 17;
there was no stopping
like he were tried to
a wheel…
He had a run of odd jobs
outside his meager contract,
performing according to the wills
of his Oriental satrap –
waking at five,
turning in at midnight.
It would go on & on
until he couldn’t hack it anymore,
& deserted for home
where poverty beats at the door.
& the state intends
to send millions more?
He rattled off
statistics & acquaintances:
women raped,
fell off window ledge,
most turned manic-depressive,
murdered their masters
to ease the psychotic itch…
No cavalry of white knights
to succor them from Embassies
while GMA flourishes
in her uneasy seat.


The no-remittance day
is purely symbolic
if they commit to such dare
the puny protest
may yet start an avalanche.
The game is on,
what must be done to engage
the ship of state
that leads them to a perilous trail…
Yup, no one should die
in silence
like slaughtered rabbits.
Will it be real?
Will it shock the Empress?
Her underlings will surely shrug it off,
cynics will jeer,
but something’s got to give,
a journey of a thousand miles
starts with the first step…
O the sad decision to leave
at the fall of die!


The dark corner
is good cover
for surveying
the company
come in to merry
at the café.
But he has marked
them off like
statistical dots:
The pretty ones
will become lawyers
& turn up at the Palace;
the guys will claim
their stake in Ayala;
the sharp kid
will grace NGO powwows –
They’ll be into the money,
& eventually won’t march
the distant drums of Lenin,
much less Marx…
He’s batting average
as crystalball gypsy
oscillates between
average to high:
In his mind,
everything is a done deal
like he were a black angel.
When he ambles out
into the empty blue night,
rain suddenly pours –
an event he has not
predicated at all.


She’s the High Priest
of the Salon,
& calls on first-name basis
high society matrons,
even proletarian warriors
who seek her company
of poetry & clavichord.
But she’s ever in a time-warp,
& can only fragilely watch
man the ramparts
of soirees & militia outposts:
What’s happening to the world,
mi general?
Tempus fugit,
& on this universal ambiguity,
she casually drapes
her shawl around her shoulders,
then turns off the light
to let the night of caciques pass.
Her texts have remained as air –
aloof, musical,
beyond mortal touch.
But the days are no longer hers:
the young poets
have crowned a new muse.
She smiles it off
like she always does
with time & inquisition.


Everything comes up late,
the language of wisdom
he barters with the crowd
is sheer gloss of Teresias
when young –
but he is now saddened with Time
like a broken horse
pounding cobblestones.
Nothing matters now:
it’s been said before,
it’s been done before.
All the soft light of evening
pales with
high noon’s
when one was a stallion
raring to outrun the sun.
Everything comes up late:
the women by the sea
wake up to his gravel voice,
but they scan the horizon
for the boys gamboling
in a distance,
while he can only roll his tobacco
under the November moon.


He can never go home,
He cannot live on
as he strolls down
the familiar neighborhood
that window opening
in the early morning,
may stick out,
like a tongue,
the muzzle of
a sniper’s gun,
or entering casually a room,
he’ll be again locked
in mortal combat
with a fanatic militant.
He cannot live on edge.
He cannot wish for
an imaginary gun on his side.
He cannot always
have the battlefield
reprise itself in his mind
as he enters a supermarket
for a bottle of wine.
Can he be his usual self?
The young novato
who was called to Iraq
is no longer the same conscript
who saw bodies
piled up in a truck,
the body bags that
helicopter flew out of camp.
The cries of the wounded
& orphans
still ring in his ears
like Indian chants…
He’s no longer the same man.
O For the days of color
when everything was hunky-dory.
He’s still in shock –
how tough he is –
that he has survived
overdose of alcohol & drugs.
But he cannot undo
the past.
He can never again sleep
the sleep of the just.
The war keeps exploding
inside his guts.


His dreams reek
with dead people
vibrantly alive
as they go about
their wakeful sequence
in the wee small hours
of the morning
when he suddenly sets up
from bed
to touch them
if they’re really back.
Is it a wish fulfilled,
a Freudian nightmare
that compensates
what’s finally done with?
But they always return
in his everyday grief…
He stares at his limp hands,
like a fallen warrior
exhausted by immeasurable
Time is most bestial,
love is most ephemeral.
& when a child
tears up the curtain of silence
should he shut up
& repair to his hole
on the wall?
Death is ever eternal.

The Unworthy

She keeps fiddling
with her phone,
alone at the table
in the crowded food court…
Her snack is untouched,
she doesn’t have
the appetite
to take a nibble…
Waiting for Godot
who will never arrive?
But she’s too young
to take seriously
the sorrowful snub
of a dandy
whom she had fancied
like choco candy…
There’ll be
other guys, of course,
but for now
she’s damned focused
on him
who’s occupied
with forgetting:
First heartache
is the saddest cut,
she who dreams
in the fashion
of Juliet & Romeo.


This is madness,
he muses,
like an adolescent
puzzled by his heart –
Is he distracted?
He keeps going roundabout.
For her
who won’t even text back.
He must be drugged,
even tipsy
over such a stupid ardor.
Will he ever learn
the archaic lesson
who lose their prey
are themselves
brutally hunted
by malevolent shadows
of their own despair?
She’s in every direction
of his eyes,
the secret code
of his texts
he vainly sends
into the void
of time & meaninglessness.
O How heart’s lunacy
never ceases:
all lovers
at whatever age or clime
repeat themselves –
like this poem
spawning a thousand more.
Idiocy, Cyrano, is



Manila, this is
where no one would dare
probe generals –
they, as in Hellenic tradition,
are above suspicion.
A cover-up?
All laws of the lay
protect them
who protect in turn
who can never be privy
to the complex
of national security.
They die
in hot pursuits –
it’s only proper & just
they be exempt
from being put on the dock.
They may commit mayhem,
petty theft,
larceny here & there,
even run off
with your golddiger of a mistress…
But don’t they risk
their limbs and lives…
Better bystanders
shut up
even if they
like Cagliostro
through their teeth lie.
This is Manila,
where generals
have the run of streets
& gutter.


Language fails,
he rues,
so he paints him
a surreal scenario:
a woman
being roughed up
by ruffians
while a crowd
with mixed insouciance,
hatred, shock
stands idly by,
as if manacled
by some invisible cuffs
to the ground,
their hands & feet
like popsicles
around the weeping
But what has happened
on canvas
a thousand times
repeats itself elsewhere:
O we’re all moving
onto center stage
where the light blinds
while dreams roll
in the distance.


Clusters there are
of imams & monks
in mosques & altars:
how is it
that war is the sole attrition
for the sins of mankind?
Prayers are meant
for a neither peace,
only victory on the front
to brag
a greater God
favors their partisan creed.
Everyone’s drawn
to the tribal trumpet:
no one moves
without cue from the leader’s
we’re on the road to destruction,
like rats
led to drown
by the flutist of Hamlin.



Splayed were
her bare feet,
as she laid
on the ambulance stretcher
to carry her body
to the morgue:
please take care of her,
one whispers
to a helper…
O She was once
stressed out but feisty,
herself besieged
by endlessly returning
childhood grief
she elected to bequeath
to her kindred…
But memories
are detoxified into blank sheets,
all rough ages
remembrance only of a kindness
for giving shelter
to her brother’s kids.
Now, she too is gone
beyond all mournful telling:
We can only paint her
a history kinder
to make ourselves
one with her sad spirit.


When the old man
passed away,
his daughter rushed in
from the States,
but it was
too late
for all the children today:
the headlights
suddenly blinked
the engine coughed,
lurched forward
like a drunkard
then gurgled back
to humming
as she left the church.
Was it a tease
breaks are tough
if he’s not peskily around?
It’s always been
that commonplace:
survivors & orphans
can only sigh
how brief relations
Too late their heroics
to know he’s also missed,
his jollity & all that.


It was a gamble & he must have lost the game.

All the signs tell him so. Years ago, in a walkabout on campus to find out what he had been missing – the bureaucracy stank like an outhouse, the paper chase was insidiously moronic – he was tempted into lectureship, hoping to connect with what’s going on for his world of an office was getting smaller & smaller, like the hands of clock that don’t get anywhere. But he had expected too much. Times were deceptively cruel, the search for knowledge a blind man’s stuff: the kids he would eventually forget would outgrow their comfort zones, beget their kind, go pot-bellied & fat like their old folks. Everyone kept moving but in circles, & his words wouldn’t matter at all to generations that would stick to their own ways of seeing, even malicious schemes for that sense of order & discipline. Never had he felt like a used tissue, but he couldn’t stop the turning of the wheel: in this age, money is everything, & you could even find so many virgins willing. Surely, poems had become weeds in everybody’s spiritual garden.

He couldn’t keep pace with the rhythm of the times. De trop as he had always been.


Victoria is a loser,
Sudanese & woman,
her kids
would sell their bodies
for food & pittance.
How can one live
according to the golden rule?
Each one is on the prowl,
quick to grab
whatever for their souls.
The fields are barren,
berries are plucked from trees
that will ease the hunger
but make them sick –
perhaps that’s a better deal,
so they can finally sleep,
as in Zimbabwe
where people live off
the gutters.
Why doesn’t the world care?
When they stare them
in the face,
they look the other way,
as if to say
you’ll be OK, anyway
once we turn off the lights.

In Pace

No, he won’t come down
to the old house
to light a candle
by his urn,
nor lay flower
at her grave
at the edge of town
where dark waters
rise over grass & land.
He jives
as if he’s past all
the florid rites of remembering.
But they’re deeply buried
in the catacomb of his mind,
making him toss
all night
as if an angel flaps his wings
to mimic
dry coughs in his heart.
At the garage
a stick of incense
lofts a prayer,
like a wayward incantation,
for all jungle animals
& humans
drawn to his affection.
Then the heavy footsteps
toward the door,
shut tight & immovable,
while imagined, dry tears
mingle with his sighs.

The Missing

They’re all poker-faced
as they lead family & friends
from room to empty room,
He’s not here, you see!
The soldiers are notoriously lying
through their yellow teeth –
their eyes betray their narrative –
but don’t they have
the special expertise
to write off all bodies?
He had informed them
he was being monitored,
even noting
the prowl car’s license:
his journal said it all.
If only they could get hold
even of his bones
to assure them
some uneasy place,
even interminable anguish:
Not this, not this!
for gut-feel that says
he’s alive,
confined elsewhere –
stunned, painfully freezing.
If only God
would intervene in the ways
of men,
but isn’t his silence
complicit with the crime?
O For the patience
to crawl from wall
to black wall
like a centipede’s.



For the nth time,
the eldest of the beloved
celebrates her day
among alien friends
in autocratic Singapore.
How long has it been
since she flew for a job
that was so damned fickle
in her native shore?
Work, work, work,
from the frying pan
to the fire,
is the sad routine
but she’s toughened up…
The rough & tumble
of the corporate maze
may turn a child
into a perfumed barbarian –
but not her!
She’s a cut above the field,
sticks to familial dictum
live & let live
for somehow
in everywhere rabbit cage
without bars
a human heart palpitates.
Yes, for the nth time
so far from home
she gives a toast
to those
who have stood by her
like guardian angels.
She’ll be OK,
as she slices the cake
& unwraps the gifts.
She has damned the torpedoes,
she’s in cruise control.


O To be born
in a time of thieves
& cholera
that suck out
affection in the heart!
To rage
when patriarchs
have fallen sleep
while the city
burns with emptiness!
Where shall generations
the future
when the past
is a closed door
that opens to nowhere?
Only the mean-spirited
pass through
the gates of the Castle:
but who would imagine
wide-eyed kids
whose mothers stood guard
like Roman sentinels
over their crib
would seize their dreams
on an island
heavy with the scent
of Confucian incense?
But she’s there,
most alone,
like her generation,
far from the archipelago
that has only offered them
the cycle of immolation.
A monk she’s not:
she’ll move on within human


Old fools
should slash their wrists:
they, who once
gave a glimpse
of the promised future,
have fallen short of the pledges,
becoming one
with scumbags & dungeon-keepers.
Here in a country
of repetition –
of hopeless despair,
& despairing hope.
But she wisely understands
how the labyrinth traps us all:
Someday, there may yet dawn
an opening,
a chinaman’s chance,
a miracle
to spark a turnaround.
& she can come home
like all unwilling émigrés
of disinheritance.


The Kindergarten Rebels

When the squad
in fake military uniforms
forced open their cells,
“All political detainees
to the front!”
the two activists stayed on,
they wouldn’t join the mass escape
orchestrated by comrades unknown;
they wanted their names cleared
by the court:
they deal, after all,
with clean hands.
Wanted to show the public
distinction between parliamentarians
& revolutionaries
who wouldn’t deign to be tried
by corrupt authorities?
They had to gamble
with their tightrope freedom:
but would the state
take note of their snowwhite heroics?
What if in the eyes of fascists
they all sport the color red?


It’s a corner square
where they are painted into,
like a king checkmated…
who can move
between the hiatus
of bullet & rope,
the abyss & the merciless fall?
Is the struggle down
to a choice
between lose & lose?
They wage war outside
the shadows:
they wear their hearts
up their sleeves.
But comrades in the underground
laugh off
the egg-shell resistance.
In their age of treason
& salvation,
one can only follow
the route to the boondocks.
They’ve made their beds
they’ve got to lie on them,
even if history
finds the act
exhaustively Greek.


She’s beaten black & blue –
as is the usual case
like night follows day,
her long, long hair
shielding the facial welts
from pitiful gaze.
(She’s no sucker
for compassion, anyway.)
She sniffles
as if perplexed by
the tribulations
of womanhood.
Yet as the sun wanes
in the horizon
she finds herself
beating a path to home:
her kids hold her dreams
her husbandman only knows
too well,
like the palm of her hands,
she’s the essential woman
who can’t abandon her spawns…
Does she know
sisterhood is watching
ready to help out
& settle the score?
But she jumps off the ledge,
in fear that hope
is a fairy tale
& she’s altogether lost.


John Francis,
decided sometime ago
not to speak for a day,
a week,
a month,
then pushed his luck
to 17 years
in a vow of silence:
& he learned to listen
real good,
lost his art of cutting into
finally learning more
of what he missed
while speaking.
It’s an impossible task
because people mill around
to get attention.
The earth was his first cause –
animal rights,
the global warming,
all the fatal vicissitudes
that had turned against
mankind –
eventually the community
that had locked
relations out.
The lesson was simple –
to give back to the world
all that was viciously taken
by fear & loathing
to move
on a selfish mode…
One earth day
he began to speak,
but was shocked
by his alien voice.
His audience however
caught the fastball message
how the earth’s elementals –
the sea & skies,
creatures below & up high –
complete the cycle
of nature with people
like it used to be the order


The Looker

But isn’t he
any other old fogey
prone to sizing up
like rag dolls
fit to throw around
& bounce off
spindly arms?
But what for?
His eyes
are terribly tired,
as if the world
had emptied him
of amorous desire.
O When he was young,
they say,
given to chase after
foolish women.
But it ain’t so,
a confidante avers.
He’s aloof & brutal?
Simply a toothless tyger on
the prowl
to connect with time’s
relentless passage
& limbs that fructify:
how distant
things had really been.
Is it Don Juan redux?
Or a fetish for soft flesh
against the crush of bones
that leads to
specters of death?

The Looked-at

But he’s always
gazing at us,
like some marble figure
on a pedestal,
or even cheap glass.
His lapidary eyes
freeze us like ice,
& we can barely move,
be natural.
We turn into chairs
& tables,
even cabinet drawers
he can ransack
like a thief in the night.
He doesn’t smile,
he smirks,
as if our being
is his gross sufferance.
Shit! Throw the oldie out!
He’s fit to burn,
an easy rider,
even for floozies
past their prime.
No way the young
would find him delicate,
excellent like old wine.


They leave
in helter-skelter way:
she’s gone in New Jersey,
childhood cousin
who married early
while earning her medical degree;
an aunt died peacefully
in her room
while children baked
their cakes in fashion routinary;
his mother
never woke up from her coma
& headed straight to the cosmos
with nary a word of comfort
for her brood;
his father
tired of his hospital bed
just flew out of his body
& into the dark periphery;
friends & foes
leave in helter-skelter way,
& he couldn’t even mope
to show a flair
for ceremonial grieving
yet it is best that way:
to be ambushed
by the coming & going
for the world is in perpetual
that breaks out of a pod
in whichever manner:
Every arrival is a departure,
covenant that rules
She will in turn
vanish beyond the blue, blue hills
with her customary lover.

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5 Responses to Gray November

  1. Ronald Basmayor says:

    Sir, do you have a biography and works site? I have a friend and they have a school project and one of them is to make a research work of your biography and works. We’ve been searching online for long but we couldn’t seem to find the right information and articles abut you except this blogsite, your students who admires you so much, and your Carlos Palanca awards. We are now very curious to know more about you since most of these data are not available online. I hope you could help us sooner. Thank you very much and I also admire your works.


  2. Nineng says:

    07 Disyembre 2008

    When I was a young man, my high school social science teacher, an elderly man of great wisdom (or so I thought), and courage (it was in the early 1950’s) passionately defended the “Third Way”.
    – 24.01.04

    Hindi po ako ang nagsabi nyan.
    Magandang Araw at
    Adbans Maligayang Pasko!

    Sumulat po ako sa inyo para humingi ng maagang aginaldo. Ako po si Jonel “Nineng” Padre Juan na may Student Number na 2006-78343. At ako po ay incomplete sa nakuha kong sabjek sa inyo.

    Sorry po!

    Gusto ko na pong magkagrado dahil pag natagalan, baka madiscredit lang po ang sabjek na nakuha ko.

    Sana mapagbigyan po akong makumpleto ito.
    Nasa baba po ang detalye ng sabjek:

    1 English 11
    2 Kinuha noong 2nd Sem ng SY 2006-2007.
    3 Tampok na Topiko:
    Modes of Production
    viv Literary Production

    Tiwalang Mapagbibigyan,


    *Pasensya na po’t hindi ko na
    mahagilap sa Net ang Course
    Number. Mahirap po kasi ang
    signal sa Hills and Fountains.

  3. edel says:

    magpakita ka na lang. narito ang iskedyul ko: 10-1130 tth ph121.

  4. Nineng says:

    “nalulugod” at “kinikilig” ako ala lacan
    pag nakakakausap ako ng matatandang



    Gusto ko sanang unawain ang mga tula niyo,
    ang mga pinaghuhugutan nyong contexto,
    pero hindi ko pa maisaayos ang mga impormasyon para mahusay na makapagsimula.
    siguro, isang mataimtimang talakayan ang makakatulong sa isang tagahangan nyong tulad ko.

  5. Di totoo iyan. Magkape na lang tayo. Okey?

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