Enter, the Tiger

1.
Metamorphosis

He had turned to stone
but it was not devastating:
the annihilation
into nothing
was a usual event:
such as the lava
that froze rocklike
on the volcanic slope;
ripples of wind
that struck the hands,
all in the order of things.
No word ever from her?
No big deal at all —
in Liebniz’s world,
monads we all are
thrown helter skelter
everywhere:
souls without windows
for something to exit or enter.
Simply, all things
happen
even without God willing.
If you grit your teeth,
injustice remains.
When he became
one with the elements
the heavens
simply shrugged
as if in celebration
of a non-existence.

2.
Auld Lang Syne

How do you meet
night stalkers in your
dreams?
They slip out of your head
& into the wee morning’s
nightmare
when the sun turns
the room upside down:
yet always,
you are mortally moved
by cheap loverly mood:
the circular conversation,
the Medusa look,
the averted eyes,
then the crystal silence
that seems to tell all
that limps
at the edge of worlds.
Eventually,
between cup & teabag,
the perpetual void
that sucks you in,
as if in habitude.
Your vanishing
is always foretold:
why you have to linger
around
only fools
sick of empty gestures
would dare
crack a joke.

3.
Imprint

The customary resolution
for the future
is damned silly.
Trace, like a jaguar’s ghost,
lingers in the air,
& the misdeeds
are snarl recoiling
from the wall,
as if it has always been
there
upon visitation.
But the heart occasions
itself
to write it down —
“the quiver & the fear” —
as if it were the truth.
It is all a lie.
It has always been
that way.
& you salvage it for yourself,
this Minotaur
trapped in the labyrinth’s
mirror.
Nothing seems to change:
She goes her way.
He stays put
& he is not the first
to have been
unremarkably fooled.

4.
Rx

So the entering year
carries the tyger’s growl.
It is tradition —
& omen —
that texts
all possible misfortune
that befalls
your daily dreaming:
But this is to retrace
what the ancients
take of the circle:
It happens
the way it should,
like a rat
running in circular hold.
It’s not going anywhere,
but the mileage
is marvelous to behold.
You are back
to where you started.
The decade’s end
returns itself
to a sad becoming.
What was forecast
centuries ago
repeats itself
in fatal infinitude.

5.
Deadend

What must be done
to shift paradigm?
He could stare
her down —
in anger or distress? —
like any anchored slut
who once held him
in a vise,
but now is wrestled down
to be kicked aside.
There is no other choice
lest he perish
in her jujitsu hold.
If he wavers
& stalls his heart,
he’s doomed
to repeat his servitude.

6.
Revolt

He was a laughable
slob.
She pinned him down
with her Medusa lock,
& he whimped like a dog
for the bone
in her hand.
But it was all charade.
She was simply playing
millions of guys
out there
to fuck
& he surmised
he was the Holy One?
Lovers who take themselves
profoundly,
like Socrates with his hemlock,
deserve to be the butt
of divine comedy.

7.
Probe

& how should he prepare
his face
for faces he must meet?
He must gaze into their eyes
& assume the stance
of a clinician:
recommend an ice-cold
solution
but only to his blurred vision.
This is an inverse operation
when the doctor
turns into a patient
to minister a cure:
nothing magical here —
the instruments of emotion
must be wiped clean
of blood,
& the patient himself —
who is the healer —
& etherized upon the table,
must be pushed off
to give way
for himself the client
down the line.
A tear, a frown
is just disguise for strategies
to survive.
In the world
of reflexive wisdom,
nothing lasts,
especially when everything
seems to hold fast.

8.
Way of Truth

Solidarity
is the millenium’s
jargon:
Marx & Lenin
founded a fundamental
line of discourse
on it.
But the ancients
minced no word
of censure
when Big Daddies
of Words
beat their chests
as in jungle lore.
O He knew the arguments —
how they bloomed
then died
at the crossroads.
Yet he can’t still figure out
why he feels stupid
thinking he’s all alone
in a world
that drifts away
like a wayward balloon.

9.

First Version
A.

1.
She could have been
anyone
of the warrior tribe
who aims an arrow
as her privilege.
No more the stoical, waiting
that chains her to the throne.
She puts her foot down
alighting from the moon.

2.
He could have been
anyone
of the warrior tribe
who hunts
to his heart’s desire.
He smells of blood,
everyone is for the taking
but the country has shrunk
to his claim of rule
& obedience.

3.
O, Is there a middle ground?
Will each eventually
hunt each other down?

Second Version
B.

1.
She ups & leaves
when he’s unconscionably late.
The kitchen
is no room of her own,
but the well-lighted one
where she plans
the day with friends
& sums up her life.
The children’s future
is not her decision alone;
wiping their asses
is a shared parental job.
She has her own
Sunday circle in a cafe
where they hold court
to chat about
the weather & men
who catch their eyes.
She’s a busy bee,
her day is not
for her husband only.

2.
He’ll find the air waiting
if he forgets an appointment.
He mixes his own health juice
while fixing the car…
He prepares his own sandwich for lunch.
He too must shop for grocery
& resked his activities
to give way for her own female time.
His room hums
with computers to connect
with Stock Exchange
along with magazine & tool boxes
picked up from
the kitchen.
He shares quality time
with kids at the ballpark
while she shoots the breeze
with tired sorority wives.
He sleeps on separate bed
to contemplate the stars.

3.
There is a claim of parity here.
They make necessary arrangement
when & how to make love,
break off
when the seven-year itch
sets in:
if everything goes stale
& there is maddening rush
to start new lives.
& where love has gone,
neither of the lovers
would dare look back.

4.
They agree on
exclusivity of space.
Love is now,
never forever.
The world changes
in every orbit;
hearts do
in every pulse beat.

Third Version
C.

Space is the key.
He was quietly observing
the couple
who make out
as if they’re close,
inseparable twins —
as if a moment less
would prove disastrous
to a passion
that burns everything down.
Too far, too close
each should maintain
that yin-yang equilibrium.
A bird in hand
should never be gripped
as if in a vise.
Allow it to wiggle
as if for possible flight,
yet gently caged
in the finger’s
prison house
like a Minotaur.
But this is fascism,
she protests.
Let the winged creature
swim the ocean of air
& if it settles back
& flutters on your open hand,
it may yet stay
to warm your heart.

10.
Trapped

A.
The usual monochromatic
setting —
dim lights in a cafe corner
& he sipping his whiskey
while muttering under his breath
interminable tirade
against the order of the universe
having any oracular meaning.
How do you say farewell
to all that?
2009 was as worse
as any other year, anyway.
His voice drips with contempt.
Does it matter? He smirks.
It’s a done deal
with the lord of chaos,
anyway.
If Nicholas Malebranch
of France
four centuries ago
to this day,
airily deemed:
… “God could have created
the best of all possible worlds,
but [he] did not do so…
Nor can [he] interfere…
to improve it
[for] that would mean
God changed his mind…
What he wills
he wills timelessly…”
Ergo, “evil — like good –”
is a rule of thumb.
Chuckling, he drawls on —
Hello & goodbye
have equal valence.
Only sentimental poets
dare invent
a difference.
She’s not here;
she’s there.
Presence & absence
are one & the same.
You laugh, you cry.
It wouldn’t mean
a thing
to the universe.

B.
Invention

He’s uneasy
with the total extinction
of truth-values.
Meaninglessness
of living & dying.
In effect, it is said,
we should sit back,
puff on our pipes,
& enjoy the show
of pleasure & carnage.
All the virtues & vices
are singular, one
for those
who unsheathe
the sword of war
& those who turn
the other cheek;
those who applaud
the executioner
& those who blindly
enter the gas chamber;
those who run off
with the loot
& those who hold
the empty bag;
those who stay
in sunlit hermitages
& those who minister
in blistering fields…
If there is no dividing line,
should he be an insect?
He wishes to reinvent
the metaphor
for Descartes,
maligned for his reign
of reason,
even concedes
“the human mind
does not reach
into [animals’] hearts.”
They too must have
souls —
& religious sacrifices
only turn priests
into mice.
There must be
boundary between
money & work,
beauty & terror,
reasonably good
& treacherous evil
in the empire
of our finite times…
Let the future
debate on the prescribed
& drawn ethics
of our signs.

11.
Memory

Nabokov,
the Russian aristocrat,
is being viciously ironic
when he asks
for memory to speak.
It has, after all,
nothing really to say
but gibberish
of figures inside his head.
Those around him
will ask
why he’s so hung up
on himself,
torturing his spleen —
for what?
No need to be hypersensitive —
Can’t he just be
a regular guy
who lets things pass
& be in tune
with the ways of mice
& men?

12.
A Minor Incident

A.
Somehow
he thinks he’s paranoid
like America
& the world,
like Bin Laden,
is closing in on him.
The other night
the neighbor’s househusband
who deals
with pedlars
for their market stuff,
got holiday drunk.
He walked up
to his closed gate
& dared to light a bawang,
the while shouting
Fuck you! Fuck you!
But he caught him
in the act
& remonstrated —
Never at our house!
Quickly, he scooped it up
& exploded it
in a distance.
But hadn’t
the would-be victim,
kept all along to himself,
rarely venturing out
to drink with the gang?
O If you’re not one of them,
& don’t speak the language
of the tribe,
you’re courting trouble,
man!

B.

The aged children
of Kamuning
must be jumping
they’re in tune
with the myth
of driving away
evil spirits of centuries
while lighting
firecrackers
& bursting the ear drums
of celebrants
who keep their peace.
Just a casual
fascism of idiots
inflicting
their method of madness
on those locked up
inside their houses,
& howling
their saturnalia
of lumpen & petty-B
politics.
If you raise
a hue & cry —
you’re an oddball
who can’t groove
with the tribe’s
common crimes:
a candidate indeed
for imaginary stoning
like any woman
who breaks the rule
men observe
in the breach.

13.

The crystal ball
is ever hazy.
Fidel Castro
would never know
how Cuba would be
after his time.
No philosopher
could outline
how the horizon
would color itself
even if he had
all the tools of logic
& the plenitude
of genius
to spark
something old
for something new.
So saying,
he sleeps uneasily
until the next day,
opening the window
in the morning
to see
the streets
heavy with drifters
who never worry
about tomorrow.

14.
A.

So
what now?
Back on campus,
the same old route,
& rote.
Still weary
from holiday break,
& wary of the room
that snatched them
from vacation.
The stupefied look
& timorous fingers
make them fit
for academic execution.
Is this
the gas chamber
of Auschwitz?
The stock exchange
of Wall Street?
O lessons
are never learned:
acolytes
stoically inching
toward the synagogue
before they themselves
become
beatific popes.

B.

Impossible to break
the ice.
After the hiatus,
he is mired
in cobwebs & dust
of the early morning room
that speaks
of another year’s tide.
of impasse & misfortune.
Knowledge doesn’t live here,
where words in the head
snarl like leopards.
Do they need this,
the basics of lit?
Errors & travails
of passing through the mill
when gladiators
before them
now rethink their folly,
barely asking
why the world
is recklessly spinning.
Impossible to break the ice:
the globe is warming fast,
spinning wildly
as if on a hara-kiri drive.
Impossible to break
the ice.

15.
Metaphor

When will poets
realize
the volcano
is bad social metaphor?
After the lava flows
submerging fields
& slow peasants
life would pick up
as if there never were
geysers of ash
& grey clouds
that blanketed the land
& sky.
Farmers would repair
to their dingy huts,
hitch emaciated animals
then mumble arcana
for next day’s odds.
Back to the salt mine —
without knowing why
life should be brutal
as if anaesthesized
by a faith in God
who coughed up sulphur,
then turned on his back
to snore till dawn.
Unease?
Travail of disasters?
Only a few would
lose their patience
& retrieve rusty guns…
Easy life
is a Russian roulette
for those who wait
by the roadside
for Samaritans.
They may rage
at their own sorry state
but as quickly,
like Mayon,
quiet down.
O But the ballot revolution
is fever
in the blood
in need only of quinine

16.
The Eternal War

CIA Director Leon Panetta
has vowed revenge
for the death
of seven agency officers
in Afghanistan,
noting it as chillingly gruesome
as the eight earlier killed
“in a bombing
of the US Embassy in Beirut.”
The nine lives can be repeated
with latest data input
but the thematic of war
stays the same
for all future newsbreaks
& combatants:
war machines have revved up,
wreaking havoc
on all human fronts.
All manner of death
would leave no bones or flesh
intact,
as if the air had swallowed
bodies in a flash.
When will it ever end?
Until the field is covered
with layers of corpses
& there is nary a space to spare
for footsoldiers to move about?
Generals will forever devise
ways & means to get a W
& flash their shining medals;
fundamentalists
will forever besiege Allah
for the holy sacrifice
of suicide bombers
& claim victory for Islam.
Shall mankind perish
by fire, by water, by plagues
from their own bestial hands?
O The idiocy of it all!
Pestilential insects
may yet inherit the future.

17.
Orphan
(for Raia)

Freeze time.
Just imagine
your old man had left
for a secondment,
the sudden change
you didn’t bother with
when you were a child
deeply engrossed
with guns & dolls,
the while expecting
gifts when
he returned…
Part of the job,
your ma had studiously
pointed out
while tucking you
in bed
& putting out the light.
Didn’t he get back
& pick you up
for the carnival?
His smile,
like your Teddy Bear’s,
should be left
inside your head.
Soon,
you’d be eating again
with a hearty appetite.
Just freeze time.
& Imagine.

18.
Poses

The weather
is “grey November”
in his soul.
Western poets thrive
on wintry skies
& freezing hearts.
At Starbucks,
they talk endlessly
of things
that don’t matter,
except to mark time
for tea & supper
in a country
of shitty movie stars.
Been that way
since colonies
have nurtured
shadow boxers
priming themselves up
before the mirror,
here where poetry
is revolution
of brewed coffee
& fancy talk.

19.
Subalterns

Waiting virtually kills.
You wouldn’t know
what to do or say.
If you stayed too long,
you presumed
being taken for a fool;
if you didn’t
you cursed what
could have been lost.
Filipinos have mastered
the art of queueing
& praying for mannah
that won’t be forthcoming.
Malacanang only knows it
too well —
governance is a low-risk gamble
on people’s patience
& twisted reason —
the threats of revolution
as empty
as their electoral promises
cast like seeds
on fields of stone.

20.
Journey

The perimeter guard
was professionally polite.
[He didn’t wear
his rubber shoes
& looked properly dignified.]
& pointed at Gate 3,
where the grantee
quickly vanished
in its maw.
He waited under
dismal sky.
At Starbucks
across the Embassy
the clock moved
excruciatingly slow
as he sipped coffee,
& gazed out
the front window
where white studs
& nubile women
walked by,
hand in hand —
brown companions
somewhat exultant
for future deliverance.
Of course,
the clients inside
were middle class,
freshly scrubbed
& smelling of cologne,
except for rednecks
who talked loudly,
as if they owned
the territory.

A guy
with a brand T-shirt
festooned with Dickies logo
in Dallas, Denver,
New York
was smilingly stirring
his brewed coffee
while nature
confreres
ogled passersby.
The air was heavy
with hope
& certainty,
as if waiting for visa
were an elitist
honor.
& you wondered
how it was
at the turn of the century
when bodies
of fallen insurgents
were paraded
around kapitolyos
& civilians
nursed
silent anger in their heart.
In the 18th century,
a brigand wouldn’t
have even second guessed
if their dreams
were damned silly,
visibly relishing
independent glory.

But times
continually change,
& the grantee,
seeking her space
in dialectical history,
will seize
pursuit of her art:
discoursing
with fellow artists,
opening up
her Third Eye.
Is it fatal
to tell the truth
about Maguindanao,
the massacre
that would puzzle
Rockefeller Center,
why Barthes’s Lucida
makes for
a newer way
of crafting images
in the light
of suicide bombers
who don’t let up,
the falling subjects
suspended
like black birds
over a murderous valley?

There must be
reason
why this pilgrimage
in the time of H1N1
must be denied:
The world has shrunk,
Berlin Wall has
crashed down,
& the prairie fire
in colonial climes
has reached
witnessing mind.
Will there be discoveries
in words & rainbow colors?
She hopes to reencounter
what was dormant
in herself
for liberation & revolution
could be rekindled
for her kind:
continents
reemerging
from oceans of female desires.
So here at the Embassy
she starts
the journey of a thousand miles —
space cleared
of grass & dark clouds.
O Departure
is start
of final arrival.

21.
Enders

A.
Gloria Redux

She presses the buzzer…
& informs the masters
she won’t be able
to wash for the family
anymore.
After her househusband’s demise
she’s decided
to set-up a turo-turo joint
by the roadside,
hoping to make up for
the financial loss.
She’s trying to find the energy
to leave the house
& ride the bus from Bagong Silang
to Quezon City…
Obviously in shock,
she’s a rat
running scared
in a maze
& faces a blank wall
whenever she eats
like Andromache
but dreams of someone
who’ll never return.

B.
In Memoriam: Henry Dacanay

He was on Christmas
furlough
from Saudi
& drove a cargo truck
for his brothers-in-law.
He must have slept
in the cabin,
away from his crew
who spent the night
singing their hearts out
at Karaoke.
When M/V Baleno
suddenly sunk
off Verde Island —
deep channel between
Batangas & Mindoro —
as if struck
by a thunderbolt,
he must have been
trapped in the roro ship’s
aging belly…
He rarely visited;
spending time with family
was a high prize to get.
(Always it was not —
the money to send —
enough.)
His wife received
his fate with equanimity,
having been accustomed
to his absence & long journeys.
They have virtually lived
separate lives:
O How the poor
“stint themselves”
the pleasure
of their young company.

21.
Sinatra

That old fogey
whose ears
were pressed to Sinatra
on radio
had puzzled him
no end
when he was
knee-high.
The words registered
jazzy rhythm —
stiletto shoes,
cocktails & tuxedo —
& he couldn’t
figure out
why the thin guy
would tightly
close his eyes
as if in a trance
whenever Ol’ Blue Eyes
crooned.
50 years later
& quietly listening,
he felt the song
as if he completely
understood
the secret
lovers’ call.

23.
Upper

Heavy snowfall
that extends from London
to China
forest fires that torch
Australia,
lava that spills out
of Mayon,
quakes that shake
Asia.
& refugees
seeking asylum
everywhere…
But the old dog
won’t budge from his seat,
texting vainly
a fix
who never replies…
Can he take it
like some guerilla
time has forgotten?
In his stubborn mind,
he’s dug deep
in a foxhole,
gutting it out
to survive the holocaust
of signs…

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