81 Portraits for June

1.
Gallery

A cheap Hayden
in every guy,
he snarls
as if tired of an old truth
blown skyhigh:
Between saint or fool
no line divides
virtue from vice —
always, an old patriarchal
voyeur inside.
& he who preens
before the mirror
at bedside
fancies himself
embraced by stars
befitting an emperor
of high-rise condos
where Narcissus
rules without question,
airheads follow the conundrum.
An executioner
with academic credentials
to show his rational cool
to carry on a verdict
against inferiors
while ululating frenzy
guides his lecherous tool.
Sans female trophies,
he can’t be bigger
than his size:
It is draconian decree
of the Father —
& sacred heir is he
long before
he performed the tribal rite.

2.

She isnt’ moved at all
by the theatrics
of the doctor
who feigns drug addiction
had forced him
to lose himself,
as it were,
in the mirror.
She wants him jailed
for tempting her
to lock genitals
in a high-rise room
for all the world to see
the details
of their contact sport.
She had no inkling
her jouissance was used
for the libidinal
breast-beating
like a gorilla out
to impress the hood.
If only she were wiser
than the tears
that now flow
also before the camera…
Who could have thought
the bedroom rumpus
where sex beats
the tedium of the workplace
could cause her
so much grief
when all she did
was fuck
with all the passion
of a girl in heat?
It isn’t fair,
cherchez la femme
is a one-sided theme…
Now, it’s too damned
torture
to linger any moment longer
on television.

3.
A.
Defensive

The strategem —
within the bounds
of human error —
is to decree
no one is above suspicion:
all are wont
to commit the crime
of ruling over inferiors —
such as women —
to keep under lid
overflowing lust & ambition.
The Law of the Father stands:
Cherchez la femme!

B.
Offense

Is Mars
God Almighty
who defines
virtue & vice?
War is his nature,
barbarous is his hands
that wipe out
all tears & affliction.
His teeth
are fangs to draw blood.
What manner of love
can emanate
from a fulsome mouth?
His caresses
can turn easily
into whips
that see pleasure
in female grief.

4.

He luxuriates
in the company
of famous dissenters
of big-time publishers
in the writing world,
whose lives
are on secret file
of police
&/or religious pitbulls.
Yes, he did get
locked up
once upon a time
when impetuously young
& quick to spout
Maoist slogans…
But that was faded
photocard
a long, long time ago
of his Beatles years
when long hair
& blue denims
gave the state
some scare:
now, he’s a fat cat
with Cheshire grin
living off hack jobs
& state sinecure.
Curiously, he won’t figure out
pesky activists
who disfigure walls.
(Been there, done that?)
His Americanese
is the delight of Lang majors
who have embraced
postmodernist ambiguity
& simulacrum.
Surely, surely,
the path
isn’t an arrow’s
whizzing by
straight to the dark
dark spot
but the zigs & zags
may also lead one
way, way off
the mark.
(Alas, tinsel radicals
everywhere
in glitzy places
barely know
where every dude
is coming from.)
The Revolution is Dead?
He is not the last to know.
He will gladly lament
the wished-for interment.

5.

He’s too old
to join Palanca
which should be
only for snot-nosed kids
trying to outdo
elders in mock profundity.
But no!
He can’t stop
like a spinning top;
he needs badly
the ego massage
for the world
shrugs off his crap.
(O how he loves
to bask in the glory
of respectability
& awards ceremony!)
All his life
he wants to project
a measure of legendary
worth —
but doesn’t he know
nothing will stop
in its tracks
for his writerly blob.
All his life
he’ll glance furtively
at his harvest
of plaques…

6.

Does it really matter?
She’s got a new lover!
But she’s already spoken for.
O her dude is such a sucker
for a lady who itches
to teach aesthetic palaver.
If her stuff is the unjust decree
for her language’s symphony
that calls for a new ministry
of effects & ontology,
then she should always be in need
of male concubines
to prop up her fantasy.
Vampiric is she
who must revive her metier
with new supply of casuistry?
& this is no mystery:
She cannot be loyal to any guy,
only to her own strategems of poetry.

7.

She’s too damned busy
with her career
to drop a word or two
over the cellphone.
But she’s young,
quick to forget
old fogeys
in her pursuit of corporate
selfhood.
But the secret fool still waits
at the sala
every after noon
when orange lights
filter through the window —
same time the matador
Ignacio Mejia Sanchez
of Lorca & Spain
await the corrida
that will assault the moon —
hoping the ringtone
will shatter his eardrums,
& like an automaton
he will pick up
the shards of a heart
turned to stone.

8.

The young poet
writes about coffee,
the centerpiece
of his meaning,
this aesthetic brooding
over her
who magically shows up
in his mind’s
camera lens.
But this is all poetic nonsense,
a way to pin down
romantic readers
in an old-fashioned way
that he dreams of her
so badly
she turns up, posterized
on the cup’s liquid surface.
But what about it?
The longing & sadness are real:
she will not, of course,
respond, materialize
to his tribute of words….
O Nothing will change his world.

9.

The pop writer advises:
Forget the past,
focus on the future.
In time of recession
& Mexican flu,
the weak of heart,
lost children of the tribe,
should take note
as if salvation
has returned like Christ —
& the horizon of today,
if we will it,
will break out
in brilliant colors.
But how do you keep
under key
memory of loathing & sadness?
IF only
the word to transform
is within reach,
outside the Kabbala of the X
& quick-silver solutions
would open the sunlit window
to the soul.
But smoke rises from
the trenches
& we are suddenly charred.
O There’s a shift of tone
in her voice…

10.

Picasso’s
scenario of colors
is heir
to Manet, Cezanne
Velasquez, Delacroix —
all past masters
of the eyes
that had congealed
in the veins of his hands
to construct
a cubistic world
of re-interpretation
of what is
starkly real,
hidden
from the mind.
Is your voice, then,
the symphony of sounds
that whispers
in the night of
passion & terror?
He only knows
her face
is the blazing icon
of all the images
he has pursued
since his time
on earth
invisibly began.

11.

She’s an incurable optimist.
She knows justice
will eventually be served —
in whatever mode or form —
even if it takes like forever.
When the Hutu exile
was sentenced by a Canadian
court
for massacre of Tutsis tribesmen
in Rwanda genocide
she had felt it in her bones
it was just a matter
of time.
Someday,
the general would be locked up, too
to answer for crimes
in the archipelago.
She’s an incurable optimist.
God, she says,
eventually tires of prayers
from weeping harridans.

12.

Last time she visited
her native country,
they held her up
at immigration
for dubious human rights
activities.
Now, she’s flashing
a blue book
that allows her protection
from an imperial state —
whatever its worth —
while crossing borders
on campaigns
against women & child trafficking,
et cetera.
Could she have done right
by insisting on her dual
Philippine passport?
That would be like
a self-inflicted wound
shown to customs:
the seal of the Republic
is too heavy a cross
to carry around.
With struggle & sadness
she has crossed
her Rubicon…
Now, cosmopolitan warriors
are tasked
to explain it to kids
preparing for a foray
into the forest.

13.

A busy lane
for small boats
& cargo ships
which pass each other
like schools of dolphins
in moonlit night
is Isla Verde crossing.
But days ago
the waves had turned silent
with the bodies of children
who drowned
deprived of life vests
& onlookers simply took
pictures tourist-like
of passengers frantically waving
from the upturned batel
bound for holiday
in Puerto…
Didn’t they know
they’re fighting
for their lives?
Yet piratical sailors
only helped themselves
to salvageable merchandise.
What’s happening to the country?
A politician had once asked.
Nothing, nothing.
Everyone’s standing
on a sinking ship —
only cabin rats will survive.

14.

The news is getting
sadder & uglier.
But people don’t care:
they keep their noses
close to the grindstone,
& only gossip about
noodles & hot afternoons.
The world turns infinitely small
for those who opt to stay droll:
their life of cyclical plot
where suffering is a holy lot.
O Religion is the opium
of the land
& heaven is just a premonition
of what’s in store
for the idiotic, the damned.
Yes, death & despair
are mere footnotes
to a restless, mortgaged youth.

15.

She’s a candidate
for a sex video —
if not now,
then tomorrow?
She’s got this idea
of playing the field
to get high
by being simply
a cocktease.
For how long can she
keep off harm’s way?
She’s always on the look-out
for guys,
dumb or cool,
but never better
than her, of course.
She has to lead
them by the noose.
the alpha of the tribe —
then leave them
with pricks
frozen like popsicles.
O She’ll be primed
for video sex —
after all,
she who overrates
her wiles…

16.

He is a sentimental slob.
He fancies himself
Walter Benjamin’s
angel of history
who looks back
& heads into the future
disastrously.
He fondly accounts
for brats who forget
envying their survivalist
density.
He is stuck in the mudhole
of memory;
they fly inside his skull
like dwindling fireflies.
He cannot blot
all the winged shadows out
like light across closed eyes.
He is a sentimental slob.

17.

He is wired to the world,
keyboard pulsating
with fear & terror,
joy & exultation
in the neural nodes
of planetary servers.
He cannot sleep.
Dazed by electronic input
he has become
a balancer of emotion
& reason.
What shall he do
with the integer rush
of the universe?
Starbucks Coffee
won’t even be any closer
to that headlong rush
into heavy wakefulness.
He cannot move.
He is frozen like an icicle
on a chair.
He has become
a blinded cyclops
thrashing about the cubicle,
lost in the calculus
of calmth & revolutions.
& he is just a cyberman
never knowing
how to function anymore.

18.

The prophet of ice-cream
sees with his Third Eye
the woman in his
inscape:
she will breed
like a Queen Bee,
falling & rising
with her fattened body.
Her lover will cozily sport
a pot belly,
bossy with sex & money.
She’ll screw around
like a voracious nymphet,
buying her liege of fuckers
only to chew them out
like a spider.
O, She’ll be twice clever
with what she used to offer.
She’ll keep preening
like an aging witch
before the mirror
& secretly weep
at her corpulent figure.
O Where is the lovely rose
of yesteryears?
His Third Eye blinks
from the sting of light:
she’ll repeat the cycle
of smart-assed floozie.

19.

He’s a busy bee
foraying in & out of town
as if trafficking with danger
is the all-time high —
orienting the plebes
on ethical paradigms
in a land
where knives flash
to honor pols & generals.
O How long
must he be on the road?
He’s still at it,
teasing the barking dogs
of Malacanang
it holds on a leash,
waiting for his false moves
& his comeuppance.
After the now
of the lecture circuit,
in the hiatus
of acts & speech,
what then?
The future
is a cloudy lens
where figures
are a weave of smokes…
He must map out
the routes in his mind —
what he will be
years from now
when heart is fatigued
by so much hoping —
for assassins camp out
waiting to pounce
from the edges of night.

20.

No, she wasn’t taking —
contrary to the allegation
she’s a delinquent, a laggard —
her own sweet time
to come up with requirements
& be done with graduation.
But definitions dont have flesh
& bones
& she will rather dawdle
at the margins
before she can write down
discourses akin to the heart.
She must live
the nitty-gritty of modernism
(in a country of pushcarts
& lottery)
only city slicks with fast cars
or nubile women on ecstasy
seem to raise as bohemian art.
Alone, or lost in a crowd,
she has to gut-feel
what anomie is
even alienation as she holds
desultory conversation
about sex & stones
with closet renegades at CAL.
True, she can quote with abandon
masters of all isms,
but Lacan’s real befuddles her
as unreal, perplexing,
almost intellectually
evasive scheme…
She needs money too
to focus on the abstracts of life:
thus, she negotiates to complete
a capitalist practicum
of being done with academic shit.

21.

On the contrary,
poets should distrust the Word —
a hand grenade it is
with pin pulled out
but gripped in check
by an iron hand
lest it explode
in one’s face
or dispatch the enemy
in terrorist measure.
Poets cannot abide
by it:
a vain lover
beholden only
to itself.
When she flared up
at the innuendo
that she didn’t care about
Nick who passed away,
he was taken aback
at the vehemence of her website:
She, who would drop by
from Melbourne,
to say hello
had become distantly inscrutable,
a complete stranger
because the word
that was meant to insulate
from grief
also injured.
& he fancied he had mastered
the art & craft,
this alchemic tool
that makes for a hand
to tenderly stroke the heart.
Word is two-faced Janus
looking at
the comic tragedy of truth.

22.

It is something
of a slap in the face,
but he knows
how fast the pitch is coming:
when he asked some guys
to encode his stuff
no one bothered
to send a text
they’re in a dead zone.
The task
he faults himself
for not knowing,
but he was a chump
given to old technology.
Sure, it’s not their duty
to answer distress calls:
after all,
everyone is at mid-sea,
abandoned or blind,
& couldn’t cast a line.
& he would be continuously
amazed
at how he could
inure himself
to all tragedies
that come his way:
love & compassion
indifference & desertion,
water drops
sliding off his back
like a duck
on the chopping board.
Pull oneself up
by his own bootstraps?
Now & then
a samaritan
saunters by…

23.
A.

How do you hear
the emptiness
of an old man’s mind?
How do you see
the rustle of leaves
in the dead of night?
How do you echo
the scream
of a tortured soul?
How do you dream
the terror
of a heart’s free fall?
Nothing hasn’t any color
images, sound.
But when he bumps
into her
he navigates
the interlocking tremor
that seizes the air,
signs like clouds
forming at twilight —
& he weeps
with the emptiness of tears
that won’t even flow.
Nothing, nothing, nothing…
But these are utterances
that ring like bells
in a vacuum —
& he sits by the window,
cupping his chin,
colder than the wind.

B.

His poems
witness the flow
of events
changing swiftly
in the brink of an eye.
O What used to be
isn’t what he now sees.
& you, ever fixed
on my mind,
are ever in flux,
moving like the stars
& silent as space.
Who are you now?
What have you become?
Nature’s law is draconian:
Everything is heraclitean.
& he keeps looking
at her
who used to be her.
But only she
who keeps vanishing
every moment ago
lasts forever.

24.

Karate
isn’t a fixed art
of combat
& spiritual mode
but like an ancient text
it must be reinterpreted
from custom & tradition.
The classic
is a flower in a vase,
turned crystal
or brittle carapace
of time & space.
Bruce Lee
released it from rigid form,
noting the rise & fall
of wind
in devastating storms.
She’s into it,
the structure of camouflage
& attack,
but O how delicate
& taciturn she poses,
like a petal of a rose.
But appearances deceive.
She plays within
the ambit of the game,
yang balancing ying…
In the age of patriarchs,
a goddess
in the eye of the storm
performing her art.

25.

Seated in class
she’s bored to death,
occasionally doodling
portraits of friends
on front row.
Yes, she’s free
with her emotion
& theatrically bangs
her head
against the wall…
So much languour,
formalities of the rule,
to freeze her
on her way to Xanadu.
She’s regal
with her high-cut boots,
but where is the stallion
to deliver her
from Cafe fools?
Manana is hers,
few the impediments
except desire
& temperament —
& old men can only
swig their Pale Pilsen.

26.

The ersatz masters
of the art —
always in the cusp
of summer —
are quick to teach
novatos
the craft of real truths:
it should be said
this way or that,
maybe the literary depth
should be deepened
to encompass the sky
lest the solitary voice
fumble to stutter, sigh.
The abyss of signals
must be bridged
like wound
surgically healed.
But old herbalists
are afflicted
with the onus of centuries
& shepherded sheep
are lost
in the mountain mist.

27.
A.

So there he was,
his face hiding
behind the camera,
profusely thinking
the state department
for his alien deliverance.
No, he’s not criminal,
dogged by Homeland Security —
just an illegal on the run…
But granted asylum
on grounds of gender dif;
now he’s confessed gay,
something he clumsily
concealed
from Manila’s Catholic crowd.
O He remembers him at UP
chasing after a movie stud.
Then he disappeared
from college talk
only to resurface
in a foreign turf:
Is he freed
of accusing eyes
of masculinist foes?
But California
bans Proposition 8?
Will he tread again
the twisted road?

B.

They kicked him out
of marine service
when he declared
publicly he was gay.
O How he hid his desire
for years,
rising from the ranks
as though he were straight.
But his combat experience
they didn’t scoff at,
& couldn’t believe their eyes
he had crossed over
from Mars to Aphrodite’s.
But what’s the beef?
He had to leave
his Methodist parents
who ruefully insist
homosexuality is a sin…
He had gone to New York
to be by his man
allow his family to cool off
& get over the shock
of having sired a kid
who can muster an armalite
but prefers
a stud in his luggage.
Now, he’s on war footing
against Proposition 8.

28.

In Seoul,
the yellow movement
with confetti & balloons
pushed him out of the shadow
toward the center stage
& claimed Roo-Moo-Hyun
man of their own…
How did it happen
he would end up
jumping off a cliff,
crestfallen over
bribery charges?
His supporters sneer:
a set-up by state rogues
to get him out of the way;
besides, no rapproachments
with Nokor
to rock the Southern affair.
His death
tells the story
of a soul
in sync with the tremor
of the people’s voice?
But in Manila,
this is blasphemy!
Here, screwballs
take to the polls
despite populist censure.
O When will the hoped-for
conflagration occur?
Harakiri is the domain
of authentic poets.

29.

As usual,
a phalanx of nuns
surrounds the lieutenant
like a morphic embrace
to ward off hitmen
from military camps
that would gag her up:
money was pocketed
by scoundrels in uniform,
& foot soldiers
would never have an inkling
of the real score.
Will she tease pitbulls
all the way?
Lonely is the hunter
turned hunted
by rats & generals.

30.

This is no longer bizarre
that Pinoy kids
would be hung up
on future pop idols
that will infest the air.
The lifestyle
of clean-cut whites,
even that metrosexual
who “wears nail polish
& eye-liner”
makes for a heated discussion
at coffee break:
not the recession,
not the salvaged peons,
not the Palace scam,
even the silly elections
for Trojan studs
& the blackened moon
but the bunch
of milk-fresh Gringos
who twist & shout
as if
war vets don’t commit suicide,
death never mounts in Iraq,
refugees never flee Pakistan
& the world
is simply
a video of song & dance.
Edsa is too far
from their mind,
even if lotto
robs them blind.

31.

It is always back
to square one
when bad professors
hit again the books
to prepare for roles
of impeccable mentors.
Their lives may be
in disarray,
theories have expiry dates,
& crises of the world
leave them perplexed, cold.
It’s all damned repetition
of what has always been
regressively told:
nothing has happened
since seasons ago
& heavy rain
will pour down
as foretold.
O Time to attend
the country’s opening wake:
this generation
has slit its throat.

32.

The Calatagan pot
dated back to 14th
& 16th century
(Which age really?
Has carbon dating failed?)
has been,
like an ancient scroll,
read & re-read
by scholars of antiquity.
Who’s privy to the truth?
The syllabary
still escapes wise men
when, during its time,
it was conversational,
ordinary,
never arcane
like Kabbala signs.
O It will not end —
papers to be churned out
for bragging rights
who has a better
insight on the world
of seafarers & artisans;
& we’re overwhelmed
how a primitive artefact
can elude scientific trap.

33.

When the world was young,
he was the nino bonito
of the middle-class Diliman:
cherubic & fat
he stole the hearts
of colegialas
who swooned
at the barricades
over his fiery farts.
O Times had fastracked him
to be the Benjamin
of militants,
O when tongue was quick
to lash out at the social rot,
oligarchic glue
that kept battered ship of state
from foundering on the rocks.
Now, he’s come from New York
bristling with the morbid truth —
Mao Zedong is dead!
China rules the global market!
With a clear conscience,
he walks up the microphone
to say
the view from Malacanang
is not that baddd…
O How time flies!
O How faces drop their masks!
O How old jargons
put a lie
to spoiled brats
who flirted with Lenin & Marx,
but worshipped Darwin
& Rousseau.
& Hotheads of yesteryears
give him company
as Wall Street’s
auxillary crew.

34.
A.

He says
with all the naivete
of a truant
caught with his hand
in the cookie jar,
his conscience is clear.
It was his duty
to enforce martial law.
He doesn’t suffer
any nightmare.
He has his own clique
of businessmen
to keep him safe, occupied.
He doesn’t hear
the cries of victims:
always, there are bad apples
in a cart.

B.

But the killings
have never stopped,
old women cry.
They picked him up
on the street,
put a gun to his head
& his brain scattered
all over the place.
Convinced
he had committed
some crime
with the way he furtively
glanced over his shoulders:
a telltale sign
he trucked
with the underground.
They rape women
who deserve their fate
for fucking around
with subversives.
We want justice?
Sure, hang them
from the lamp post.
We take pills
to forget
the long, long night
of insomnia,
anyway.

C.

After Edsa
they slowly come out
of the shadows.
Are those olive branches
they wave?
Always, there will be
suckers everywhere.
They mingle
with the crowd
& walk the talk.
How’s that
for surviving fate
& deaths?
Man lives by
his wits,
all have petty crimes
to commit.

D.

So history
is a no-man’s land.
There is no judge,
nor a credible jury
to render verdict
on the living dead.
Everyone lives for himself,
ideology of right or wrong
is a religious myth.
Yes, Mussolini is dead,
Hitler popped cyanide pill,
Nazis were tracked down
by Israelis…
But Cagliostro lives in Manila
& will never get hit.
He can always pay
his way out
of any imagined case.
O this country
lies outside
God’s biblical mercy.

E.

Do old writers
in their twilight years
grow impatient
with the truth?
Or do they lose their venom
& lie down
like mangy dogs
faintly barking
at the coming ghosts?
A few
burn brightly
in the cusp of evening;
a number stay mute & blind,
licking their wounds.
But truth does matter
to heroic souls,
if only to crush executioners
who made life
for kinsmen difficult.
The rest linger willynilly
at the edge,
dreaming of dreams
they have forever lost.

F.

Wil there ever be
punishment
for executors
of evil?
O The Devil puts on
an angelic face.
How to separate
the chaff
from the grain,
light from shadow
when sun
casts the darkness
from the heart?
Will history
be ever fair & just?
Victims lie speechless
in the grave:
orphans stir
with anger
that will never be
relieved.
Is there really
a summing up?
A tying of loose ends
as if the cloth
of despair
can be stitched again
O Only the insidious myth
that we can restart
keeps all moving.

35.

He fears the coming
of the rains.
But tillers of soil
who see the greening
of the land
grin at him
curled up like a kitten.
The pitter-patter
on the roof
rouses his heart,
like machinegun burst
he once
covered from
while men
slowly retreated
into the dark.
Even the heavens
won’t spare an orphan
from being soaked
in wind & river
rising about him —
& no one to
offer a hand
even if he screeches
like a cat.
O He won’t be threatened by
cyclones
if only his loved ones
were around…
BUt he won’t let out
he’s scared
lest old men
paternally laugh.

36.

The truth
shall set you free,
intones a priest
to a group of detainees —
& somebody,
perhaps atheistic, irreverent,
couldn’t help himself
the mischief of a chuckle,
as if to deny the adage
with his scars & dead muscle.
His truth
is the people’s war
But state agents
would rather shut him
up with their lies.
God is on their side?
He’s a captive
to dignify their jibe.

37.

He trailed
the matron just
out of the restaurant,
tugging at her arms:
some food
& penny to spare…
They had, all day,
posted their faces
onto the windowpane,
eyeing the fat ones
to pester them
with charity & bondage.
They’re smart,
quick to follow
the order of syndicates.
The rich must part
with their wealth,
admonition of crimes
in wheel chairs.
O How the church
has ably succeeded
in quelling rebellious
spirit
in a country
where Russian roulettes
are played daily
spinning between
dying & being buried.
The poor
dream of being classy
sometime
by quirk of misfortune
& divine circumstance.

38.
A.

The school bus
honks its arrival
at five am.
& the boy
who waits at the gates,
the load of books
& lunchbox
thrice his weight,
slowly drags himself…
The whole day
he must learn
more about intricacies
of the world —
the factories
& high-end offices
he’ll call his own —
but never about
the wisdom
of wind, fire,
animals & trees
that flourish in forests
& the spirits
that humanize the tribes.
Ancient knowledge
of stars
will be lost on him,
who’ll be
a silent accomplice
to destroy or burn
the silent planet.

B.

He will set
great store
by the fresh smelling pages
of the book,
assured by mentors
this is all
he must need
to survive the perils
of metropolis.
He will forget
how it is to live
with rocks & leaves,
rivers & seas…
He will be adept
at electronic gadgets
& connect headily
with capitalist bigwigs.
He’ll forget
to exist with lowly insects,
even dogs & cats
that humbly
scoot down the streets.
His heart
will turn to iron.
It will be
his real education,
this journey
on the road
to destruction.

C.

If he’s lucky,
he will keep out
of his perfumed sleep,
& resist
the nightmare
of corporate Wall Street:
return to his roots
salvage the human truth,
repay with kindness
the hard, dry earth:
O things have badly changed.
He must
join the vanguard
of kindred spirits
in trees,
in rocks,
in rivers,
in clouds…
in air…

39.
A.

The boy
leaves the house
on uncertain steps,
his heart
full of terrible unease:
how will the day
start & end?
How shall he meet
new players
of the backyard game?
Who will be
the strangers
to comfort his pain?
He is all alone,
& he secretly
pats his confidante,
good ‘ol teddy
in his knapsack.
He knows
he won’t leave him
stranded anywhere.

B.

He must leave
for school
under the mango tree
kilometers away
from home.
His father insists
he should not
miss a day
or roll call:
crossing mountains
& rivers
he finally sits
on a stool
to start the lesson
at almost noon.
His parents
have dreams:
be unlike them,
illiterate
from debt & peonage.
Slowly & painfully
his tongue
rolls over the necessary
English words
that will secure
his future.

C.

The Aeta knows
he must be baptized
to register
at the municipal hall:
if he must shift
religion…
But the mountains
& their lair
have been edged out
& they must adapt
to the ways
of lowland bureaucrats.
He must learn
their style of living;
he cannot
instruct them
about math & language,
only the habits
of forests
& their elements.
But even this
knowledge
is bartered away,
packaging it
for militiamen
in their combat
with insurgents.
O He’s heavy
with old ways
& new schemes.

40.
A.

He undreams himself
too often,
but the interior event
leaves no trace.
& if in waking hours
it comes malevolently back,
he refuses
to hold it down
& examine the abstract.
It wouldn’t make sense,
anyway,
to find if the id
has filtered itself outward —
he could be mistaken
for the doppelganger
runs riot in his mind.
But if it’s an omen
of old wishes & desires
how should
he confront tomorrow?
He gingerly sets foot
on the street,
his heart trembling
at the metaphysics.

B.

But some terror
keeps coming back:
there was an artist
who hies off
to the mountain
producing an art work
that was for show:
but all observers
are denied clues
to its secret location,
except for signposts
along the trail
of dead trees
lying like corpses.
There, he finds himself
drawn to sleep,
almost hypnotic
for its sweet pleasure.
Is it the earth
delivering him
to the jaws of nightmare?
He is troubled
shrinks insist,
but the signs
are too cryptic to speak.

41.

His shoulders
are hunched over,
his head bowed low
as though
he’s the kitsch thinker
on the toilet bowl
assaying,
with rheumy eyes,
his worn-out shoes.
Sitting on a curb
leading to the market,
he’s lost
to internecine madness.
People steal a glance,
then hurriedly pass by,
hoping he’ll evaporize
& be unburdened
of a grief
his presence multiplies:
This Christian site
isn’t right
for vagabonds
& small-town miracles.
He’s not worth
a parable
even if he looks like Christ
smelling of horse manure.

42.
A.

How do ex-lovers
look each other
in the eye
when they bump
into each eyes
like pushcarts
in a supermarket?
They breathe uneasily,
but try to steady
their foundering hearts —
the past is too recent,
or too far,
& shrugging it off
will be a matter
of survival.
One hums a song
on his mind
the other averts
his glance
as if too startled
to respond.
But it’s all over now
& they marvel
how the first time
they were seized
by desire
to be unitary, one.
Now, they dread
to touch,
puzzled
why things didn’t
work out.
Was it
in the alignment
of stars?
On the surface
of a cold planet earth
they wanted only
to keep warm.

B.

Or it might
not even cause
a knotting
of hearts.
They can either
be relieved
it’s over, done with,
& the initial terror
was sheer
mischief.
Or quaff vermouth
for accidental tryst.
Everything
is dandy now:
divorce
they secretly wished-for
but too damned busy
to call it quits
before.
The rollercoaster ride was
presumably pleasurable.
The crash
was inevitable.
Now, to push wide
the bar
across the road.

C.

Or like a loyal widow
who closets herself up
in the room
weeping over the lover
who refuses,
like a wayward drunk,
to come home.
The world is finished,
& like a baying wolf
she moans on her pillow
as if he were
a knight of ultimate pleasure,
& she a maiden
of ultimate sorrow.
She won’t pick herself up
hoping never to witness
dawn or morrow.
What manner
of a fool is she?
Romeo was an ardent juvenile,
Juliet a nymphet sentimental.
O Love is illusion;
Pure like driven snow
in mythical imagination.

D.

Yes, it’s cold comfort:
always, there must be
someone
to hold by the hand
as the dark
settles in
like a crouching leopard…
& we can barely
make out the figures
in the house.
A voice
that chirps
to brush away the tears,
pat on the back
that assures
the memory of wicked nights
& days
isn’t a backpack of stones
too heavy to bear:
out there in the wings
is a samaritan
to lighten it
as we stagger along
the way.
Quasimodo
who faces alone
the tunnel light?
Somehow,
an angel,
dreamlike or real,
hovers above
in strange attendance.

43.

But she’s
terribly, crazily
in love!
Does it matter
tht her lover
was caught en flagrante
before her eyes?
But she protests:
women in secret liaison
are prostitutes
juicing up his desire.
He’s a voyeur,
worships himself
& love to hold
the women in
derision…
He’s all
her money’s got
& won’t part
with her share
of pleasure!
O Love is blind,
& she’ll come up
with all the putrid alibis:
she’s a victim, too,
of female wile.

44.
A.

The men
with a shopping bag
who singly faced
the tanks
at Tiananmen
has stayed unknown.
Would he have made
the Chairman
smile in his grave
or scratch his head
why students
would confront
army troopers at the Square?
Generations
after Mao —
remnants of warlord
cliques
& capitalist roadees —
must have returned.
to Empress Dowager’s way,
June 3, 1989
& 20 years hence
the celebration has been
muted:
interest is blocked,
cameras are shielded
by umbrellas
of roving state agents
to hide the militants
murking the field.
Yenan relics
are still scared
coming into
the 21st century
of an opened world?
& the future
is the scores
of children killed
in the purge.
O Never have the
marble monuments
of the Long March
been so unreal,
almost a lie.
O There is much
to be done:
revolution
is not a happenstance.
Which direction
it will take
is also lost
on fortune tellers
& philosophers.

B.

June 3
is D-day
for the horde
of onlookers & students
who struggled free
of the junta’s vice:
O the heat
on the street
had turned grief
into rivers of fists
that flowed
through the crowd:
thousands did die
(200, says
the official release)
but the prairie fire
had been stopped…
Will it spark a revolution
in another form,
in another generation?
The long wait
has just begun.

45.

Jesus
was a resettled
squatter
in Dasmarinas
& had to work
in odd jobs
for a construction
company —
he fixed the
kitchen
last time:
timid to a fault,
he would only sigh,
after being coaxed
from his peasant
silence,
it takes a lot
of smarts
to survive…
That was two months
ago:
he’s gone,
burned in a gas explosion.
His is a workingclass
story —
the bits & pieces
shall eventually
be for a while
make the rounds
of conversation
of fellow workers
wherever accidents
occur on the line.
Then his name
will pass into oblivion
such is the legend
of little people
who are always
under erasure.

46.

The girl
on the bicycle
so many summers ago
in Diliman
did start it all:
a Lady Godiva
in pastel jeans
pedalling
from one stop
to another.
She stood out
in a crowd
of pedestrians
as if primed
to be
a native Hepburn,
elegantly alone
& steering clear
of cheap romance.
Her freedom
she had sought
on wheels
from pastoral location?
Nobody cared
to cycle by,
be her accidental companion.
O She must be
in New York,
disguised behind sunglasses
in a motley crowd.

47.

She couldn’t believe
the Philippines
could be so brutish:
their daughter,
a bonafide Fil-Am,
was abducted
by men in bonnets,
then released
days later
after torture
& interrogation…
Did she land in Guantanamo
when they tried
to asphyxiate her
with a plastic bag,
or beat her
body with their fists?
& the government
ever looked the other way,
averring there was no
case on file.
Did she stray into North Korea?
Afghanistan?
She only wants
to map out
a medical mission
in Tarlac…
Strange way for their kid
to know the country
first-hand.

48.

“If only the trees
could speak”
what could they tell
about Buchenwald
where thousands
were mercilessly gassed.
That was surely impossible
to imagine —
evil that transcended
possible despair,
& outsiders
would turn speechless,
all is beyond mortal depth.
In Germany,
survivors remember
with disbelief
how they could have lived through
the man-made hell.
After them,
will there be memorials
to perpetuate the wish
that history
may not be repeated?
But people
are invested
with Alzheimer’s disease —
& generations
will always be adrift.
Only a few
will dare pick up
memory’s pieces.

49.
A.

Kayenne’s a tough cat,
& he would hiss & snarl
if a stranger
so much ruffle his fur.
But the clinic attendant
just went about
his routine task:
to clip the nails
that had curled inward
into his right leg & paws…
He nodded almost mindlessly
at our staccato story:
we are only known
friend, family:
O how thorough stressful years
he has given us
explicable company.
But the conversation
dragged on to nowhere,
like the monotone of a clock:
once done with his craft
he vanished
into the backroom
as if to edge away
from this daily dose
of crature malaise
& cheap camaraderie.
O How eons we are
far, far away
from true human society.

B.

She couldn’t sleep
the whole night,
held listless
by Kayenne’s
inexcusable limp.
& how relieved
was she
after the anxious visit:
the cat bounded
out of his rattan basket
to sniff around
his old territory,
this townhouse
he has poked its nooks
& crannies
for century.
O if only the valued
masses
were not outright
cannibals
they wouldn’t have allowed
a kitten
one rainy night
to be crushed
by a cab driver
who, against all Marxist
diatribe
deserves his cheap wage
& class, anyway.
(Poverty is no excuse
for a universal crime.)

C.

It was this throbbing
pain like a toothache
that kept her awake
all night…
But when her cat
settled down
in his cozy cubicle
in the store room,
lighthearted as before,
alert, wide-eyed,
exorcised of infection,
she thought
of splurging
on Starbuck’s
chococreme
to celebrate
a joyous animal event.

50.
A.

He was ambushed
with a colleague
in Ethiopia,
but the agency
never acknowledged
the valence of his death:
now his parents
back home
insist his name
be placed on the wall
of honor,
before the mitzvah
in May.
Bush didn’t bother
to respond to the letter
& the father
of the martyr —
in paternal eyes, anyway —
is visibly desperate
for Gregg Wenzel’s
secret existence
be circulated
as tragically heroic.
Observers
would possibly find
the issue ideological —
but it is all
on which side of the fence
one sits,
& his American family
deems it patriotic,
yet Washington
whom he served well
is tight-lipped.
Was he a cipher
on Pentagon list?
The tomb of the Unknown
soldier
leaves all believers
an extra-bitter taste
on their lips.

B.

A day-care center
was burned
in Mexico City
& the little children
who can only toddle
drowned in an ocean
of fire
cascading from the ceiling.
People, of course,
ask God why,
but cynics spiel
the site
is a disaster
waiting to happen.
When tots die
old people weep
at so much
fragile tenderness.
& they could only
tear out their hearts
in rage
why innocents
in diapers
should suffer
when there is so much
of life
yet to be lived.
Maybe, only philosophers
should be granted
the right to honorable
exit,
but never wild-eyed kids
who can’t even
speculate on death.

51.
A.

A candle
burns at the garage
this 8 of June
that saw years ago
Bugsy pass
into the light.
Only the rememberers
marked off
his time in a world
that preys
on beasts & children,
celebrating
a cat’s life
that makes sense only
to those
who rage against
huntsmen
& affirm
the primal roots
of existence.

B.

But children
are made to love
the taste of blood:
prefer slaughtered animals
over fruits & greens
as if the Devil
with a lovely countenance
has nurtured them
since the cradle
to devour hapless creatures
of the cult.
They blindly perform
the dutiful rite
at cages & abattois
& dance to the death-rattle
of the living sacrifice.
When shall they ever
wake up
from the nightmare
that is the dream-stuff
of chefs & cannibals?
After the vampiric act
wars inevitably follow
like a metronomic clock
to carry out
the mandate
of shrieking, phantom gods.

C.

Brigitte Bardot,
incandescent
beauty
who was Eve original,
has spent
her aging years
trying to stop
the manhunt of seals
& artic animals
to be skinned
for their fur
or coats
for vain women
less pretty than her;
Greenpeace warriors
pelt with acid bags
whaling ships
draining the ocean
of sea mammals
for Japanese market.
O When shall
the killing stop?
Ignorant sailors
shrug off the crime
for their daily bread!
But savages must pay!
The working class
must start at
their end,
then ramp it up
to corporate bosses
whom they serve
like plantation serfs.

52.

The signs are there —
even the imbeciles
must take heed:
the wind rougher,
rain harder on the skin,
floodwater up to armpits,
deaths multiply
like a plague of insects.
BUt who’s listening
to nature’s most silent weeping?
Politicians
are still robbing
the people blind;
the rich splurging
in Boracay;
soldiers juggling
skulls & bones…
But the catch dwindles,
forests molt into landslides…
When shall we hear
nature’s warning?
As if we can just
sleep it off
to wake up calm, serene
in the early morning.

53.
A.

The dictator
is always quick
to talk about
progress & order,
the perilous journey
of the ship of leaders…
O How she loathes
the phalanx of placards
that blocks her way,
but her bodyguards
behind dark sunglasses
are as swift
to scuttle the protesters.
Only her circle
of loyal bureaucracts
applaud her speech
for troublemakers
outside Congress
swarm
with their collective grief.
O governance leaves
the masses clueless —
her kind is always at risk.
Has she ever gone
hungry?
No problemo, you militants!
She can always
fly out to Egypt,
to reconfigure Pharaoh’s myth.

B.

People just whimper,
move out of sight
when I unleash
my dogs of war.
Must I continue
my divine mission
to sit tight on the throne?
Of course, of course.
I call the shots
according to the Law
my trusty lieutenants
summarily change
as constitutional rule.
Yes, I lose my temper,
but I am no heartless general.
Demonstrators
have malevolent intention;
but they bite the bullet
to steer clear of murder.
Enough of the masses
who sloganeer injustice!
They always wish
to even the score —
but that’s absurd, imposible:
they are suckers
for Nora Aunor.

54.

He drawls
over a bottle of beer
as he watches
from cafe windows
the ragtag band
jogging down
the main road —
They’re marching
into the future,
but they may
eventually split hairs
among themselves
over the markings
on the map.
But first things first —
ease the pain
of common sorrow,
soak up on beatitudes
of tomorrow…
& if the messiah
is on the run,
what shall be
the unnerring sign?
They wind down
the labyrinth of streets
toward the plaza
where an imagined Minotaur
has left its trail
of foul scent
about the air.
Do they hear
the moan of hungry children,
violated women,
hiss of thin men
in their heads?
Who has turned
petty criminal himself,
like the Queen
who gazes
from the wings?
But they vow
to move out of the place
for death
stalks them
like a mad lover,
hoping at the end
of the year,
the sun will break out
on this country
of rain.

55.
A.

James Von Brunn,
88, a Nazi disciple
who faulted Hitler
for not gassing all Jews,
denied the genocide
ever happened
despite the evidence,
snapped after 49 years
& killed an Afro-Am guard
at Holocaust museum
in Washington.
But his legacy leaves on,
as young brownshirts
wave flags
& warn
they shall eventually overcome.
O People look for causes,
but their ilk
repeats the ghastly history,
anyway.
O What must be done?
If they’re packed
into wagon trains,
would that replicate
Hitler’s desire
for an Aryan race?
The Fuhrer clones
are flourishing everywhere —
in Africa,
in Asia,
in Manila…
& we can only tremble
at the drawn knives
as we prepare to sleep
in the everyday
night of the generals.

B.

They liquidate
peasant leaders
from north to south,
& the river of blood
never stops to flow.
Orphans & widows
congregate like flies
& their wailing
in churches & streets
silently terrify.
O This modern-day
holocaust
where victims
are picked off
like sitting ducks,
one by one,
& the long, long list
exposes
Mussolini
on the rise.
Again,
what must be done?
If wise & just men
will stay
in their room like monks,
praying for deliverance,
then hear the thunder
of hooves
in their ears
while they dig
their pitiful graves.

56.

As she reads
the crowd
like crystal balls
winding down
the streets of Tehran:
Watch the women
like bellwethers
with their exposed faces
& home-made placards
howling like waves
of green silence
that sweep the city
of thunderous air
& the Grand Ayatollah
who sends signals
of death
against “troublemakers”
like Shah Pahlevi
of old Iran…
O Watch the women
& see why
the doves of peace
are held tightly
in their hands.
On top of minorets
birds of prey perch
monitoring the black land.

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2 Responses to 81 Portraits for June

  1. Neferti says:

    Hi Edel,

    My email didn’t notify me that you answered my previous response!
    Tell me what address I can use to send you a book (mine).
    The freedom and abundance of your poetry is something to marvel at!

    Neferti

  2. Hello. I’ll email you. Regards.

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