Same Old, Same Old

1.
Massacres

The coffee shop
is abuzz
with diconcerting news.
But he’s trapped
in the vise
of mourning daily
that greets his cup of tea.
As if he’s dog-tired
of all the usual disasters
that assault his ritual.
Will he scream
he’s done with everything,
media-wise?
That will be too theatrical.
He looks up from the paper,
pretending he’s on another
planet
where nothing fantastic
ever happens.
Suddenly, he’s laughing hard
— & secretly —
into his coffee.
From the standpoint
of Archimedes
he finds out the world
from Millennium One
has really been insane.

2.
A.
Expiry Date

There was
the professional routine.
He had prepared himself,
preening studiously
before the mirror.
Breakfast
was done in a huff:
a car to catch
to ferry him off
to the convoy site
where the procession
would start.
O Nothing troublesome
in sight:
blue was the sky,
breeze was all right,
clouds were
sweet cotton candy
to signify
the day would happily expire.
No sign at all
to make him stop
& think twice.
At the highway
armed men ordered them
to step out of their vans…
Suddenly, the sun blacked out.
The clock stopped.

B.
The woman pleads
she needs to find
her husband’s body
so there can be closure
& they can move on.
She, of course,
is lying whitely,
for an absence
heavier than a stone of air
sits in the room
& she can’t push it away:
one false move
& it crushes the heart.
Silence
in the garden of leaves
& flowers?
It catches in her throat
& she can’t speak,
much less scream
the hurt.
No one really moves on.
All must make do
with the illusion —
like Andromache
she must also “eat
after so much weeping.”

3.
Squeeze Play

57 bodies
so far have been dug up
but the pinpointed culprit
couldn’t care less:
The law prescribes
his initial innocence,
can still duck
the legal musketry.
No cuffs on him,
of course,
contrary to police rules:
For that would be too harsh,
vindictive,
on a high-priced member
of the Palace & paramilitary!
The poor guy is badly missed
by his gun-toting wards
in his southern territory.
The world watches however
the goose-stepping figures on TV.

B.
Square One

Of course,
the skeptics
will just snicker
it’s over & done with:
the criminals
will go scot-free.
For the formal bodies
will declare
only wayward underlings
misinterpreted
the marching order.
Kafka had known
it before:
in the castle,
no question was ever
answered.
Of course,
things will stay
the same:
secrets must be kept
under lock & key
even if the owl
of Minerva
has flown the coop
way, way before
the inquest.
Of course, of course.

C.
Probe

Elementary dear Watson,
says the pub house sage
of a wannabe
who puffs on his pipe
while hot coffee steams
into his face.
There is no perfect crime:
always forensic evidence
betrays the perpetuators
of the deed…
Bullet shells that construct
the specific act,
& the backhoe excavator
sitting atop the hil
like a lonely minaret
that speaks its coded message
of a managed mayhem
that jumpstarts
the war of generations & clans…
Yes, criminals can seek refuge
under umbrage of innocence
but let it be.
Scoundrels always speak
about the majesty of the law.
Just an argument, of course,
to forestall the dreaded destiny.
It banks
on the sense of history
that nothing is ever finished
in this godforsaken country:
months later,
the state will suffer
loss of memory.
How shall it end, dearie?
Read my lips, he smirks
as he blows
a circle of smoke
before he sips his cold coffee.
Oh yes, he quotes the daily,
the President assures
all & sundry,
they’re still her kind of ally.
Our Sherlock Holmes
breaks into an acid smile
as he keeps to himself
the perfectly unsaid
of everybody’s story.
O the public secrets
that hold her
like a vise!

D.

The farmer shook his head,
then chuckled,
the seeds
were planted years ago;
it’s harvest season now
& fruits fallen on the hillside
merely shows
how elements like rain
can be gleaned
from the drift of clouds
& wind.
Nothing is unexpected,
adding an old wisdom:
What you sow is what you reap.
About time
that blood be shed, he said.
When the family
gifted the youngest —
because small & cherubic —
with a toy gun
to be at par with his bigger
playmates,
old women
peeking through the curtains
would seem to read
a page from a grim fairy tale.

E.
God’s Warrior

They didn’t stand a chance.
A hundred they were
armed to the teeth
to mow them down,
as if to deliver civilians
from earthy pain & grief.
[This is not justice.]
Sure, the convoy
wasn’t a retinue of saints
marching on the road to Sinai;
nor were they dangerous criminals
who looted & murdered
helpless beasts & humans.
[This is not justice]
They didn’t stand a chance
when a punk with warrior’s
head band emblazoned
with a crocodile insignia
gave the signal
as if the off-road site
were Samar or Vietnam,
Take no prisoners!
Clear the area of witnesses!
[This is not justice]
Newsmen could no longer
beat their deadlines,
terrible words
wouldn’t pour out their hands…
[This is not justice]
But the wind of Maguindanao
will carry their message
across the dark land
about warlords & henchmen
who kill children,
rape women
& pray to Allah at dawn…
[Executioners
will not define justice.
Victims shall keep
track of infamy]

4.
Same Old

Same old,
same old,
massacres
from Magsaysay to GMA.
But he doesn’t seem
to care.
Deaths are daily fare,
ending up with the resolve
to end all
with another round of murder.
There is no let-up
in the flood of blood,
& people have lost
all fatal memories
that used to shock
in the crimson past:
crimes to bead like rosary,
repeated monotonously,
like chants
of cherubims above.
Wake me up,
he says,
when the killings cease,
but if everybody
falls asleep,
letting criminals
pull the trigger,
who shall be left
to remind him
things have changed?

5.
No Exit

She blows in
from the office
in a foul mood.
She’s pissed off
again
by the dose of tragedies
that passes over
her computer keys:
orphans,
husbands & wives
& the blanket of blood
that smothered
their instant cries.
She can’t take it
anymore?
But her job is to process
events that shake
the world
that drives her mad.
No way out
but to leave
the hoary scene:
But the world outside
the editorial room
is just as
terrifyingly grim.

6.
Theory

He claims
being world-weary
so when he hears
the two waiters
chatting at break time
across his table,
he suddenly realizes
he is eavesdropping
on nothing,
petty & insignificant
to matter in a world
between living & dying,
for the ersatz lovers
will quickly forget
what they have said
in the cheap conversation
at that particular time
& place.
Nothing will remain,
for memory is buried
deep in the psyche
like ashes in columbarium.
O In consonance
with his theory
the world is all beautifully
mucked up.

7.
No Way

He is a total
stranger to the world:
every face
is scrutinized
if it sends signals
of familiarity & pain
that grips his heart.
Nothing is confirmed
by what once upon a time
was sacral at the start.
Data have been
compromised,
everything has been devoured
by the chameleon of time.
So this is all
there is to it?
Neurons that stored
all desire & loathing
one by one
like hardening arteries,
expire.

8.
Dead-End

Always
the world of imagination
turns out badly & false:
allowing him
to drift like a paper boat
in a stream
true but unreal.
At the snap of fingers,
everything melts
into air,
& nothing crumbles
like liquefied steel.
Didn’t he take
himself seriously
as minor Nostradamus
& two-penny seer?
What if imagination
is a lie
which he has lived
off all his life?
He shouldn’t be pitied.
A sucker
for hope & salvation
when really
there is none.
The game is forever lost.
& gamblers
perish at the fall
of die.

9.
Stasis

He finally,
as he crushes
the cigarette stub
into the ash tray,
& the trail of smoke
eddies toward
the ceiling,
realizes
in the catch in his
throat
that he has outwasted
memory
in the summing up
of encountered figures
that hide
everywhere & nowhere
like pestiferous mice.
Was it all worth it?
O the fatal truth
of looking at himself —
hunchback in the mirror —
with a caravan in the Sahara
of meandering time.

10.
Register

It will,
he booms,
slowly dissolve
like a cube of ice
in a wine glass.
Who will remember
what was said,
this or that time?
A point of order here,
a rule of discord there…
None shall persist
to mark in the mind
a quiet ambiguity
in the learning curve.
All, alas,
shall vanish
as if the air
has whisked them off
into a corner
of the universe
where the river
of forgetting silently rushes.

11.

The kids fill in
to read a poem
on Akhmatova:
lit on love
inexplicable,
fleeting & yet eternal,
for children
just roused
from their infantile sleep
of Cinderella & Wolverine.
he screams inside
at this misfortune
of marking time
with them
whose notion of love
brims with chocolates
& bear hugs.
Of course,
Blok, author
of the lyrical stuff,
“supported the Revolution”
but became “disillusioned
by the Bolshevik’s
repressive policies.”
Torture at 7 in the
morning:
he laughs,
like a hyena
of a Cafgu militia.

12.
Persistence

Wedged
under his armpit
are sheets of print-outs,
petition for reinstatement
of a colleague
badly screwed
by the local satraps.
We linger over coffee.
After so much light
heckling,
he admits
he’s really tired —
but he can’t help it.
Something must be done.
Inertia mustn’t cease,
lest flies feasting
on power
shit
take over.
There will be new faces
to augment the rally.
With fingers crossed,
he ups & leaves.

13.
Wrong Way

They hunch over
a fistful of rice
& cup of watery dish,
stuffing it
into their dirty faces.
Of course,
they live miserably.
But they do not think
they do.
Looking up their plates
they glumly eye
the posterized candidates,
hoping to earn
a few bucks
come May.
What can they do
but accept their Godly fate?
Besides,
they fear/hate communists.

14.
A.
Blind Spot

He caught the sight
of her
crossing the corridor
& into the street
to hail a cab.
She would probably
attend a meeting,
as required of her profession,
or hie off to her new lover
in their private nest.
O Whichever
it shouldn’t be his concern:
she had made her
sudden farewell
by not responding to his call…
& he wondered
how idiotic he was indeed
to have missed
the symptoms
that would push
the button
while he blindly strutted
like a peacock
with a knowing air.
O How he rued
wasting himself so much
on her & her only
every second of his waking
only to come to this.
But fantasy is infantile,
regressive,
Freud postulates;
& he can’t even console
himself with this
cruel, scientific fact.

B.
The Wasted Years

The last time
he saw her
she was slim & lovely
so fragile a petal
He could feel
her vibrate like a membrane
at the touch of his eyes.
There, staring at him
like his dark coffee
is a photo
of a matron cutting ribbons
to a pastry shop.
It must be her,
years have gone
& no one has kept
in touch.
She had always had
sweet tooth,
& the enterprise
affirmed a childhood appetite.
She’s grown mercilessly fat,
almost like a doughnut…
& sadness swept
over him
like an allergy.
Time, written on her face,
had run her down,
& she floated like a corpse
on the ocean of his thoughts.
If they bump into each other,
will sparks fly?
They’ll just nod,
smile a bit,
talk of kids & weather.
Then speed off
in different directions,
as if regretting
the happenstance.
He himself looks like Ichabod,
a ghost lurking in the woods.
Will the moment
be bittersweet?
But shit!
Memory
is always a brutal joke.

15.
Eternal Puzzle

The Archdiocese of Dublin
has kept under wraps
cases of child abuse
by pedophile priests,
having subordinated crimes
to keeping the church’s
respectability intact.
O Faith is the Holy Terror.
Christians pray to Christ
to lead them off
harm’s way
in Iraq & Afghanistan,
& refreshed by an internal light
blow up the brains
of turbanned militants
& passersby who won’t roll out
the welcome mats.
& Allah’s poor children?
They pray devoutly on their knees
at the hajj
to lead them to salvation,
then swiftly set-up roadside bombs
to blast infidels
pulled down by the weight
of bullet-proof vests & machine guns.
O When combatants
from both camps
claim God for their side,
who must root like a soccer fan,
will there be ever an end
to mutual annihilation
by saints & angels
dancing on a pinhead of religion?

16.
Postscript

A.

Former Khmer Rouge
prison chief Duch
has asked
the UN war crime court
to be acquitted
of “overseeing
the murders of 15,000
men, women & children
at the notorious S-21
or Tuol Sleng
torture center.”
He has also “begged
forgiveness for his crime.”
He is clueless
why he must be punished
when “he was not
a senior member
of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy.”
O Just a small fry
who diligently followed orders.

B.

The memory of thousands
of chalk-white skulls
piled up in sheds
keeps haunting
survivors/witnesses.
Will the jury have
the conscience
to stamp out a cockroach
for being one?

C.

He exterminates pests,
pumping insecticides
into nooks & crannies
of the house.
He does not cry
after flushing the vermin
out
with scientific precision.
He is mighty proud
of his job —
decent & acceptable
to all.

17.
Party-list

A.
For now,
Satur & Liza
must go it alone
with their faithful
working
to buck the odds
that the masses
could no longer
be fooled.
Is it the dawn
of new truths?
But did Lenin raise
false hopes?
Alas, the wisdom
of Marx
is still at the fingertips
of the poor
who claim
God loves them
because they’re a multitude.

B.
Hope,
like prayer,
is just an attitude.
We wait outside
the door.
But the dark stranger
knocks on the other.

C.
If life is a game
of chess,
what variation is this?
But Fischer died
& paid his debt.

18.
Tipping Point

Anytime is May 10
& the world
is speeding
like a bullet
in space.
He wants to get off
but where?

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