The Afflicted & Other Poems


The mass
is unbearable.
The watch
for the miracle
of light
in a never-ending
for the presence
of Christ
who promised
throughout the nights
& days
of mortal plight.
Every regime
has its own liege
of loyalists:
when it was
falsely alarmed
she had passed on,
an eerie sigh
like ocean wave
on the crowd…
How long
should her pain
be shared
by collective hearts?
God isn’t telling —
He’s always
profoundly silent
whenever you confront
about a cherished life.


So yellow ribbons
must be tied to trees,
fences, car antennae,
for a token belief
the Highwayman
would fail
his duty
& speed by
the hospital suite.
But no one believes
in the country of saints
the clock
will forever tick on
to announce,
The crisis is past!
She has
come back
to the candle city
of lights…
Such beautiful fable
to enable
the crestfallen
lest hearts turn
to marble.


You wouldn’t want
to wish it
on your worst enemy,
he says
while sipping tea.
is folded neatly
on the breakfast
He doesn’t want
to touch the pages,
only glance
at the front
flashing in
heavy font —
the illness
has rampaged
like a Mongolian horde.
criminal or saint,
who can bear
such suffering?
He must admit,
bucking the law,
the wizened philosophy
of the poppy field
whose extracted heroin
the Devil’s strategem.
As if the peasants
of Afghanistan,
bereft of medical science,
were graced
with God’s puzzling wisdom
to deliver them
from pain & affliction.


There will be
more prayers
like planetary storm
& after
the appointed hour
for the One
to suspend
the workings of the universe:
Assure the orphans
the future
is a monochrome
of light
or field to mediators
the infernal question
why the puzzle
of a passing
with all the futility
of being loved
too much?
All, of course,
have their fated time:
The Guy in Black
stares them in the face
or ambush
the unwary
from behind…
But how to sum
it all up
if history
is never merciful
or just.
The Executioner
keeps on wielding
the Scythe —
frightened like a child
they all are
in the blasting dark.
To believe
in truths
conceived by old men
for that pat on the back?
Those who watch
could only wring
their hands
for God in Heaven
is so damned distant.


He prepares
the effigies for burning
at the SONA:
it is a vow,
he has told his son,
for the sin
of having been ruthlessly
from ancestral land,
& death of kinsmen
way, way back.
So he meticulously
cuts & pastes
& paints
the grim cardboard faces
of hers & cohorts’
who would again
seize the air
with same old song
that she did it
for the common masses.
O That secret pleasure
when he sees
the mole
turn to spiralling smoke
as chants rattle
the licks of flame:
In due time
the effigy would
be Pygmalion
& he would sweep
her dust & bones.


Should he
damn the ASG,
round up
women of their tribe
in exchange
for the helplessly
A tooth for a tooth?
to bring to their knees
the holified brigands
who barter bodies
for a satchel of cash?
But suppose
all terrorists
& resisters
must be counterchecked
by holding hostages
wives & kids?
Would that be fair?
Would war
breach the human
Friars & preachers
bless the armies
of religion
to erase
all modes of vengeance,
ethical imbalance.
But combat
has its rules
to honor the justness
of the cause.
To engage the enemy
in a war of annihilation
is to pursue victory
among skulls & bones.
The combatants
cannot be
savages again
to mark the parabola
of civilization…
There must be
a stop
to the bestial tradition.


But will the rite
of vendetta suffice?
after the burning pyre,
he’ll get tired
of the vivid spectacle,
as if the wish
had fallen short
of the hype:
heaven awaits the poor.
If only
he could reenter
the world
of innocence original,
where death
& desolation
didn’t at all occur.
But there
is no turning back:
guns had been fired,
he’s on the road
with a trigger to pull.
Will the knees
buckle under
from fear & terror?
Will he let go
of his terrible unease?
O He has to keep moving
lest he freeze.


the death
of the Patriarch
the children
are finally left
to their own devices
to count the coins
tucked in Dickensonlike crevices.
is in disarray,
the pivot in the wheel
spills all
into centrifugal
& orphans
they have become
like their offspring
in the future tense:
living on edge,
counting the days
& nights
for whatever reprieve
from sadness.
When evening falls,
looms bigger
the shadow
of the Root:
cats roam desolate
children on no-man’s land
make do
with their own bullshit.

Prison Cell

Whatever the field
of engagement,
he drawls,
a cigarette
stuck between
his lips,
the relations of power
are indexed
by money signs.
& he thinks
of the room
where paper bags
are strewn around
like fallen road signs:
when he reconfigured
the floor plan,
she flew off the handle
as if he had
committed a crime:
no reordering
of personal effects
where she moves around
like a dexterous acrobat.
The angle of seeing
has shifted radically,
she won’t have
a part of the altered
& he finally understood
why anyone
who brings the loot
is lord of the manse.
Space is just perception:
other vacancies
that opened up
are beyond recognition.


To think
that he aligns himself
with women
who for centuries
have been
axiomatically crushed…
the theory
of rights & privileges
seduces & enthralls,
but the elemental
has remained
since Adam
a clamor
for partner in crime:
he who doesn’t
savage the world
for food on the table
cannot rule
the roost:
You give an inch
of the tent
the camel
will edge you out.
Are men & women
created equal?
Can the truth
of the ancient game
be the cultic


So she felt
by all this clean-up
tidying up the space
like a foolish concubine
without her permission
to shift things around…
How long
must he practice
his pipsqueak quietude?
If he doesn’t
win the lotto,
women will run him
to the ground.
Any sentiment
for the tender gender
is virtual trap
for men one
with warrior women,
who didn’t divine
the ancient ploy
of Trojans:
She is the gift
he didn’t look
in the mouth
& broke his castle


It could have been
simply a gentle
like an old companion
prey to bad reason —
no matter
the physics of new compression
in the architecture
of the room,
she would perceive it
just the same
barely legit
to her perception.
Yet, she had to prance
& hiss
like a wounded beast
when all it needed
was a soft riposte
for the askew equation…
He darted out
of the conflagration
as if dazed
like a bird that hit
the wall.
This woman
leery of bums
who threaten the throne,
the woman defined
by de Beauvoir —
O never Medusa
of the mirror —
but human
of recreated passion.


No longer
it is wise counsel
to keep cool
in the face
of savage attrition.
Hell hath no fury
like a woman scorned?
But that wasn’t altogether
the score:
the miscue
is so tragically trivial
as to fire up
a revolution!
This hairtrigger
that explodes
like Mayon.
Is it the handiwork
of dark childhood
swallowed up
by the moon?
Or an act
in Lucia di Lammermoor
that mystifies all?


She’s always screaming
& he can’t plug his ears.
The high notes
penetrate his mind
that shatters to smithereens.
He is confined
in an asylum
without iron bars —
but onlookers
just stare
with their knowing smile.
It’s ok.
Have patience.
She’s too damned tired.
It’ll take time
to come down
from the height.
But the screaming
rings inside his head
& won’t stop.
If only it were
a telephone
so he could hang up.
Why can’t you leave
things alone?
Her eyes blaze
like flaming coals.
But isn’t that
what he does
with his pitiful silence.
She doesn’t believe
his protestation.
Always, the primal scream
that must be let out —
Something’s wrong
with her life,
with everything.
Screaming is all she’s got.


It is as if
he were
Rip Van Winkle
who fell asleep
for years
& woke up
seeing her
for the first time:
it couldn’t be —
the sweet, young
was the witch
in the woods
who offered
the poisoned fruit.
He didn’t
his own blindness
that made him
ever at fault.
Time to cut
the Gordian knot?
He doesn’t have
a criminal mind,
even winces
at a simple lie.
Which is exactly
he’s always
taken for a ride.


But she’s got
all the reason
in the universe
to scream
at her lot.
Fuck the way
her life
has been turned
inside out.
He’s no knight
in shining armor
to succor
the damsel in distress.
A scumbag
full of hot air
whose words
can’t even
impact the universe.
He can only
count pennies
in the purse,
never bricks of gold
in the backpack.
& you fault me
for the madness
of my behavior?
How I wished
I could recreate
& destroy.


They looked
each other
in the eye
& saw the ghost
of plague
between smiles:
How did
it happen
each had turned
once upon a time
nary a minute
to spare
to tussle
each other’s hair?
Rx this is
for all lovers:
it takes time to master
the perfect passion play
if God
shuts down
paramours’ mind.
O Between glances
only the nakedness
of air.


The day
is heavy enough
like stone
on grass.
& he cannot
even turn in
for a night’s reprieve
or his head
from dismal unease.
this monkey
on his back,
this parody
of Sisyphus
pushing the rock.
He’s always
at a loss
why through
all weathers
he is gripped
by inexplicable grief,
even stupid sadness,
& he can only
chatter it off
that makes people
he would vanish.
The world
is dark enough:
why the long face
to meet the future?


But the morning after,
nothing seems
to have dazed him
like the night before:
traces there are
of secret tears
but these have dried,
nothing therefore
to mark scores
on board.
The sun breaks
through the cloud,
but he knows
deep inside
like games of childhood
rain suddenly falls
& naked children
run for home
to return
with their toy guns
& rag dolls…
The squeals & shouts
plague the air
as in carnival fair.
Always, always
a looking back —
but the stories are told
with nonchalant shrug.
Someone will
whistle through a leaf,
& the gang
will pass around
the sinful jug.


No one grows up.
This is the rule —
even when the child
master of the turf.
The gaze original
at the world
still strikes at
the mystery
to be puzzled out:
the toy car
he had always
wanted to drive off;
the mother
who stayed at his foot…
Nothing novel
nor new
to shock the cosmos
& usher in
arrival & departure
repeatedly encountered
in childhood,
only we didn’t take note.
We never change.
Movement is never true.
Things stay
the same inside.
At deathbed,
hear the sounds of Sunday
when voices
call you home
& you linger
in the undergrowth
until the sun
is pushed off
by the moon.
They have always been
lurking behind
the mind’s post.


In a cafe,
they are all smiles
as she confides
over the microphone
she & her groom
leave well enough
each other alone —
neither too near
nor too far —
unlike igneous rocks
that upon close contact
spark a fire.
elective affinity of desire?
the secret of the feast
that stood the text
of their own conjugal times.
& If the merrymaking
among friends,
who open doors
for the bride’s flair,
tells a story
for all to learn,
it must have been
for a bonding
to steer clear
of short-lived passion,
embracing instead
the cool danger
of reason.
Gold medal
for him
visible with ascetic grin?
Applause for her
who collates goodwill
of kith & kin?
A toast to hearts
who beam
at the fairy tale
worked out
with delicate precision.


At 11pm
the celebration
was almost
but the singers
were still belting out
as if they had
just begun
to feel the heat
of fun.
Outside Cafe Juanita
of postAmerican
with old world air
& yellow lights
from lamps
wrapped by
silk gowns,
the rain had stopped,
emitting a scent
of late-night
& after the formal
settling of the bill,
rearranging of chairs,
plucking of wine bottles
off the tipsy tables,
the couple
would drive home
a few blocks away,
as if overwhelmed
by love’s
strange declaration.


They came,
singly or in packs,
to be with the couple
despite the heavy
They, who stood
through thick & thin
of accounted years:
laughed at the same
tried jokes;
exchanged warm toasts;
heard the chorus
of ersatz troubadours
that drew
the night to a close.
What is there
to expect
after the celebration
of beatitudes?
Another 25 years
of magical struggle
& passionate hope.


He has gained weight —
was thin & impoverished
last he saw him
weighed down by the task
& putting out paper
for a counter-regime.
Now he owns a pub
that is watering hole
for TV stars
& novato artists.
It is more than
breaking even,
profit looms
in the business horizon.
Yes, he recently
backpacked in England…
You must be
the only Marxist
left in town
after the NGO holocaust,
he jests.
He has met
so many stragglers
down the road,
now fat & sassy
with their new-found
Of course,
they both laugh
at the grim joke
as if discussing
a Pedro Gil broad.
Has he changed?
Has he hooked up
with bums of lesser hood?
The ride
has been rough, anyway.
But read his lips:
There are ways
to skin a cat;
there are modes
to stroke the flames
& keep the water

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