Dog Days

A.
Fixture

A café aficionado he is
but waiters can’t help wondering
why he’s given
to staying late
even on rainy nights
when going home
means driving through murky floods.
Once,
he bantered with the bartender
who had gently reminded him
of closing time:
“It’s too quite there.”
O He loves the beautiful noise,
alone in a corner.

2.
Summertime

It does happen
every summer:
somebody leaves
never to return.
But he’s such
a sentimental fool
& carries the past
like a scar:
unlike those women
who bitch
they can do without
a heart.

3.
Miracle

The old Sunday palms
must be burned:
there is nothing
ominous in the very act,
just a wager
if spirits are in attendance
to solemnize
a less dangerous year:
No harm attending the Mass
for a fallen Christ?
The universe,
after all,
remains inexplicable –
but a little Phoenix myth
maybe good for the soul.

4.
Suckered

But of course,
he dumped her –
clearly, unmistakably
eliciting gasps
from her circle.
After all,
she was loyal
to a fault
26 hours of the day,
like an emperor’s concubine.
But the ways of the heart
are strange:
Did she smother him?
Did he suffocate?
Did he fall to the spell
of his unknowing,
as in his first earth days
when he gazed into the mirror
& saw one woman
spring back to life,
unannounced
savagely pulling the impostor
out,
like wind
uprooting a tree?
Apparition who returned
& claimed her lover
for her own?
Was everything so sudden?
They all watched
with bated breath –
but such is the way
of passion:
always, always
tears await
those who love.
Wisely. Foolishly.

5.
Dandy

He was putty in her hands –
he who rigorously watches
the march of events
& all modes of gamesmanship
in art & war
in libido & politics,
didn’t know
the trap she was laying out
for him –
She a nymphet with lollipop,
he a bum with gallon of rhum
who easily fell for her charms.
But Lolita was pro,
Humbert an amateur
& wild-card dealers
saw with closed eyes
tears would be silly to flow
in a play
that’s staged everyday.
In the inner room
of the heart,
a silence explodes
like a bomb in the head,
choking a sound
that floods the ear drums.
The curse
of foolish lovers
who wriggle like insects
pinned down
on the board of time.
Sadly, but he cannot weep:
for a clown,
that is not permitted.

6.
Doggerel Love

What is there to do?
What is there to say?
The foolish lover cries.
O But the stars
have their own stolid ways
to measure
death & bereavement:
Damned he is
if he slashed his wrists
for she’s just another bitch!
An idiot not worth
all the discourses he’s bled…
These are ordinary times,
when women make fun
with their slew of guys:
Bite his fingernails,
scratch his ass?
Things don’t really matter
because she’s just another trash.
What’s there to do?
What’s there to say?
Everything in the arc
& fall of die.
She’s your everyday cosmic joke.
His passion is all a fluke.
O that all-too-familiar
sinking feeling…
But he cannot drown.

7.
Ordinary

He’s a blue-collar dog
chained to his desk
from 8-5,
then rides a jeepney home
with several stops.
A princely meal
of rice & pork chops,
then a TV game show
to bark at a million bucks.
But when he fell for her
he imagined fortune would
make a u-turn…
But she’s a fickle brat
& wouldn’t get stuck
with a dude of ordinary luck,
O There’s the rub!
O How he rued
she’s the passion of his youth!
But these are ordinary times,
& he’s just an ordinary bloke.
People of his social class
are not even worth
the tabloid watch.
He was born cheap,
like a blind sailor
in an abandoned ship.

8.
Survivors

It’s the waiting
that kills,
almost fatal
as the bodies
being hoisted up
the rubble
at L’Aquila.
Survivors
could only stare
at the sky,
& watchers,
faces buried
in their hands,
could only wince
at the day colder
than all the days
of their lives.
Heavy blankets
& jackets
are sheets of silk
swaddling them
as they mumble
their prayers
for those still struggling
to live
in the faint voices
from under
fallen bricks
& twisted steel.
The tremors
had been there for ages,
but the Big One
came without warning.
Disaster has always been
a casual encounter –
but where will the living
go?
This is their town,
older than the grief
that ambushes
like a thief.

9.
Bataan

He is stung to the quick
whenever “a priest or minister
preaches to share everything…”
He was a war vet
who had seen it all
at the Death March in Bataan:
beheading, rape & all that,
when surviving meant
thinking only of your own.
The young generation
has no idea of it all:
even those born-agains
who mimic Christ’s suffering
never really know
how hell really happens.
“If you don’t even on
your own body…”
how can one profess
divine faith & compassion?
Sure, he’ll get $9000
backpay for his ordeal…
But he must be saying to himself –
Is this worth
his nightmares & grief?
His sky-blue youth violated?
MacArthur, after all,
reneged on his promise
& left his boys
dying in ditches.

10.
Formulaic

This summer
is a repetition:
boys with books
upraised to hide their pimples;
girls with sunglasses
perched on noses like Hepburn.
But they will not say anything
so anti-climactic, so dangerous:
they subscribe to time-worn protocol,
& pretend everything’s damned cool.
There is no need for arguments,
they destabilize novatos & systems.
Diploma is all
to gain a market hold –
Why deconstruct the world
of capitalism & recession
when all that’s needed
are wit & power dudes?
They enter the room
without expectation.
They leave it without remorse.
Which is just as well
in a country that recycles its doom.

11.
The Intellectual

All signals
converge in New York –
police dogs in Zimbabwe,
death squads in Davao City,
bankers in Wall Street,
brokers in London…
Here in the space
of artefacts & signs,
she sits on a cyberchair,
as it strapped
& paralyzed
by so much knowing.
She knows what’s going on,
sees where the holocaust
leads
but she can’t stop the world
from disastrously turning.
But she’s not alone.
With the faithful
she gazes at the Panopticon
& shrewdly plays
the game of survivors.
Their time will come –
patience is all
to tilt the balance
in their favor.

12.
Gabriela

A year older,
but she defies the law
of physics:
slower she should be
moving,
but there she goes
spinning & spinning
on her spiderlike gyre
as she runs
into Time’s hurricane.
She can’t be located
like a fixed dot
on a plane,
geometric locus
like a bird in a cage.
She can’t be gripped
like sand in a fist.
Or drop of water
that dries up
on the palm.
He who traps her
gets to stroke
her skyblest hair
& measure the tremor
of her mercurial heart…
But who shall snare
the wind in the lair?

13.
Gethsemane

Is a casual
everyday affair:
She leaves
& bangs the door shut;
he stirs the cup
until it runs white;
she walks by his table
& glances at the other guy;
he doodles on the napkin
to let time expire;
he snubs the beggar
limping past the car;
she mourns the flock
swarming from the sides;
she dumps her lover
with his heavy hand;
he rereads old letters
like burnt Sunday palms.
The blank page
stares like a cobra
about to strike,
& he freezes like a stone
for words have emptied
him dry.
The house is swept
of dust & mites,
but the wind
carries all the insurgents back.
Conversation
is brief & desultory,
as if communion
to each personal god…
Gethsemane
is a casual,
everyday affair.

14.
Artist

He is a gifted child.
At an early age,
he would knead
a shovelful of clay
& fashion images of birds,
fish, animals,
biblical disciples of Christ.
Even Jesus himself
one day,
& his playmates –
as if in a jest –
would suddenly
genuflect
before the striking figure
of holiness.
Never had he felt
the power of his hands
to make people
rise
like a magician
with the flick of his
wand.
Now, like Hitler
with his shrill voice,
even Buddha
with his fat smile,
he can fancy himself
god come to play
with mortal happenstance:
After all,
the imitation saints
he had consummately done
they mistake for the Deity
of deliverance.

15.
Swashbuckler

A.

Tio Elmar
is a legend of sorts
in his family:
pianist, guitarist
that puts
to shame
talents of formal learning –
wielder of a mean knife, too,
in his time.
Scourged by disease,
he must now be honored
by survivors of the clan
come to the feast
in his lovely abode
in Calapan.
He has never contemplated
any fancy rationale
for his native resistance:
such is life
you take things
as they are.
Marx & Nietzsche,
Mao & Lenin
are apocryphal names
current generation brags,
but he wouldn’t fathom –
what the hell, anyway –
their historic significance.
(A grand nephew
who has gone underground
must be expanding –
with a nod & a smile –
his small-town mind)
O The circle closes:
a toast
to a premier boozer
& a merry gentleman!

B.
Forgetting

The well-wishers
say he’s alright:
he recognizes
children who are much
older now,
but just as quick
forgets
when they turn their faces
away.
Much has been eaten off
his memory
& they’re afraid
the lights,
as it were,
will go out
& he will be left speechless
in the dark.
A child once again,
like his father
attended to by his aunt,
who succumbed
to the same tragic fate.
O What is it in this town
where people deny
what exists:
dull provincial days,
mad ticking of the clock,
crazy croaking of frogs
& that silence
like the drone of
locust swarm.
There he is,
never knowing
he’s under watch
by kinsmen
with bated breath
at his helplessness.
They sense some
familial curse here:
When will be
their own sad, sad turn?
But what if
all this
is diurnal relief
from the absurdity
of having lived?

16.
Encounter

Last time
they bumped into him
at Ayala,
he was quick to tell
of the trail of intestine
he had surgically cut.
This Holy Week
he was laid out
in a coffin
at St. Carmel –
his passing,
like the sudden gust
of wind on a hot day,
was puzzling.
He had refused chemo,
& gutted it out
with his close family.
He talked softly
in his youth,
never telegraphing his pain
to a circle of friends.
Was that in character?
He had gone
on his own ideological way,
from SDK & street forays
to Malacañang.
This time, there were
no excuses.
Was it heroic
to conceal that gift of death?
The light
must have been
temptingly bright & beautiful
up there.

B.
Pain

Every season
brings up old names
& the list gets shorter.
This summer?
Terrible fails
as a word.
Memory multiplies
like flies
that buzz around:
How long has it been?
Their faces,
Shadows of their departed
elders,
have turned unfamiliar:
almost like
first-time strangers
but for their childhood names:
What was it
you always try to recollect
about the dead?
A few instances
of hurt,
pique,
malevolence,
sky-blue friendship,
bad-weather comradeship…
Then everything vanishes
as if none
isn’t worth knowing.
Somehow, a pain lingers –
& you cannot even ask why
you suddenly remember.

C.
Festival

There was concert
every night of the wake.
Family was giftedly musical:
the flute, operatic voices…
O Beautiful noise
of the bereaved
who lingered with their stories
& disbelief.
Certainly, it was a festival.
They were singing
& bantering
as if he had never left.
But that’s exactly
how survivors confront death:
They strum guitars,
they play the piano,
they strain at notes
to hide inconsolable grief.

D.
The Morning After

Is still bearable:
the absence
isn’t palpable yet:
his suits,
his papers
abandoned on the table,
his voice
that wakes up the household.
Until it suddenly
ambushes
& the orphans
finally break down
at the memory
of him who shall
never return.
Will there be a catch
in the throat?
Will conversations
lead to endless
smoke?
Time heals
but never this departure.
& the widow
will gaze out
the window
with that absent-minded
look.
How long will
the sadness hold?

17.
Recidivist

He squints
into the glare
of equatorial sun
while hot haze
pounds at his heart.
Stores are locked,
as if in ceremonious
mourning
of a crucified Christ,
but for a lone Chinese
store
that offers merciful
favor.
Jesus stays off
this squalid hole
where Buddha reigns,
palisaded by joss sticks
that waft incense & promises
to the same heaven.
Ancient serenity here,
unlike in temples
where Pharisees
with long faces
make amends
for grievous acts
bound to be repeated:
Deep into evening
church prayers
ascend the skies.
The morning after,
sinners,
one-day saints & penitents,
will be at it again:
robbing
killing
like flotsam
dragged back
to the shoreline.

18.
Stations

Always
the diasporic journey:
but the stations,
like the stars,
stay where they are,
as if waiting
for travelers
with woeful tales.
In his time
there have been
so many places:
ramshackle nipa hut,
dark accesoria,
impersonal dormitory,
musty Dapitan room,
termite-eaten duplex,
burglarized apartment
then this site
where hopes run high…
But the journey
always has endless
whistlestops
& there will be more
stories unraveling.
What will be all that?
Christ’s waystations
are prelude
to ascension,
but he was Lord
destined for the throne.
He could only clutch
at his heart.

19.
Magdalene

O Was she a bitch?
He was in the dark,
uncertain of
the hubris of women.
She hooked up with him
by chuckling an invite
if he could drop by.
Of course, she would share
her bed freely,
unafraid to give her all
for the sake of common pleasure.
Then, she would up
& leave in haste –
to brood?
Probe the squalor
of libidinal dose?
The merit of convention? Status?
For the last time,
he embraced her blindly
as if to cherish a moment
he had long ago lost.
Was she a bitch?
O How she loved so defiantly.
But he had always been –
in the final measure –
the odd man out.
In the heat of passion,
she was wont to stalk
peripheral dudes.
Truly, a game of hearts
he stupidly mistook
for a sacred rite.

20.
Ascension

Almost
the same Easter
when she ascended
the firmament –
that is,
she flew the coop
for the Northern West
where snow
chills the heart…
But she has always been
stone-cold!
She never gave a hoot
as if she had made
a wrong move
at the first drunken toast.
Up there,
she could break the spell,
always shadows
lurk in the shade.
Sayonara, Arrivederci,
Goodbye!
They were never meant
together to grow irascibly
old.
They failed to divine
the stars:
there are multiple desires.
The world dizzyingly spins,
no one has a perfect start.
O She won’t come back,
like Christ
who only keeps
the faithful on their toes.

21.
Easter

Won’t have
cinematic transfiguration.
Barangay tanods
will crack open
the vault of dawn
with their voices
over the microphone:
The Lord has risen!
Come & behold!
But Christ
isn’t where he’s at.
A nowhere man,
& the miracle,
for any schoolboy,
is only on the mind.
But is everything
a philosophical loss?
Water & vapor
are of the same element:
something of a payback
comes from
an emotional investment.
But exactly what?
Memory may force out
a smile,
a tear,
but everything eventually
recedes into the distance
of a healing heart.
Suddenly,
you are surprised
at the upturn
in the psyche.

22.
Bio

So it is told
of an English king:
In his youth
he was proverbially kind,
compassionate,
intelligent,
all virtues attending
a fabled monarchy.
But in old age,
he had turned mean,
almost savage,
ruthless
as when he had
his other wife
decapitated
for scandalous letter
to secret lover.
But this quirk
is never rare:
there must have been
an early trauma,
a psychopathic flaw
in familial excess.
Is that the divine rule
of the realm?
Presidents & militants
of the 21st century
are no exceptions:
Always, expectations fail –
pure, white lambs
turned vipers & evil shamans.

23.
Rome

Is theater:
in the glitter
of vestment & scepter,
he is all pure pomp
& medieval pageantry.
The Pope,
as he walks to the altar,
is antiseptically washed,
telegenically holy
& benign…
if you think of Christ
trodding down Galilee
in coarse shepherd’s tunic,
smelling of fish
& bread,
in the haze of dust
by crowds
that swelled & pleaded
with their outstretched
hands…
Where is the Messiah?
No, he cannot be
Germanic –
but legions there are
who swear
they will do
with this lovable impostor.
O How we are beholden
to stage & actors!

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8 Responses to Dog Days

  1. Elcoj says:

    theworksofedelgarcellano.wordpress.com – da best. Keep it going!
    Thank you
    Elcoj

  2. Neferti says:

    Hi Edel!

    I was thinking about you on this rainy April evening here in New York. I feel increasingly engulfed by the professionalism of my own institution. Yet sometimes I manage to follow a stray thought and find a rush of experiences return! Here I can find how you are, but you might tell me differently.
    Sarah sent me a picture of you and her a couple of months ago, which I really liked, I’ve been meaning to tell you. It assured me of things I don’t even know I am missing.
    I don’t know what book to send you. I show up there with a random book or two, but I really don’t know what it is you would like to read these days. Tell me. Do you still not email? If you answer this, I’ll be notified, so no matter.
    I am struggling to find time to write again. You inspire me!

    Ingat,
    Neferti

  3. Hello! So nice to hear from you. I hear you’ve got a new book. Anything you’ve written along with Jon will be terrific. I’ve just read your exchange on art in an art magazine which my kid brought home from CCP. Hope you are okay. It will be silly of me to comfort you that here in this god-forsaken place reason reigns. If only for friends like you, I would have probably said I would have gone mad. But that’s not the way we know, things should be resolved hahaha. Regards to Luna and Jon. Hope to see you again.

    PS this e-mail was made possible by Jomar who has read you both.

    Thank you.

  4. rye palanca says:

    Sir Eden! I hope you remember me.

    1) You should have told us about this blog in class. It’s brilliant. =)

    2) I sent you an e-mail I hoped you received it regarding completion!

    Thanks

    Riley Palanca
    Eng 12
    2nd Semester
    A/Y 07-08

  5. jayson says:

    sir edel,

    happy birthday, sir. sana makita ko kayo, isang araw pag napadpad sa diliman.

    jayson

  6. edel says:

    put all necessary data in my pigeonhole

  7. JaneG says:

    Edelski!

    This should have a link to Facebook. Nice to read your poetry again.

    Me? Don’t have any creative endeavor whatsoever. Have trouble enough keeping awake in the afternoon since I was transferred to the morning shift.

    Coffee soon, ok?

    Ingat, ‘Tay!
    JaneG

  8. Yes, of course. Sorry, just opened it now June 20. Just text me, okay?

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