Road Rage & Other Poems

1.
Gunman

Something boils
uncontrollably inside him
whenever he eyes on the road
single-digit plates
& the driver
looking down from his SUV
like he were a peasant
on a slow cart to town.
He gets his imaginary gun,
points it at the punk,
& pulls the trigger,
his lips muttering,
Bang! Bang!
like Frank Sinatra crooning.
In another story,
he was a Special Force
trooper
with combat experience
in Iraq
& he couldn’t possibly let
the smug expression pass…
PTSD
& the story had long been written
before
it disastrously happened.

B.

Tough to tangle
with guys
of high-priced connexion,
for at the end of it all,
they’ll turn your story
upside down…
Yes, he was,
by the looks of it,
ill-tempered,
spoiled as if the world
wasn’t really cool,
a source of just rage
but too often out of place…
When he killed
Middle East militants,
he never felt so good,
refreshed as though
shooting up
from the depths of the river
of his sorrow & ennui.
But here in Manila
he carried back
the smouldering ruins of Iraq —
& that made all
the difference.

2.
A,

What can a Mother do?
She can only lie & kill
for a son beloved but truant.
Can she disown him
& feed him to the dogs?
She cannot even pray
that her son be spared
the tribulation
that never even happened
in Jerusalem…
What can a Mother do?
Defy conventions of the tribe
& sacrifice him
for the sake of another Mother
who is deep in sorrow’s vice?
O She will be selfish
& almost brutish
for their child is her very own,
her flesh & bones.

B.

The Virgin Mary,
mother of Jesus of Nazareth,
was never quoted
by disciples
to have uttered a word,
allowing herself
to be swallowed by the shadows
as the son
was drowned in the avalanche
of light.
Michaelangelo,
freezing her image to stone,
soothed the dying
with her gentle silence,
as if that is all
the universe could utter
in the heart
of affection.

C.

The mother of the hunted
wears her grief
on her sleeve
& hunters
would rather she take
a drug test.
Such has been
the evolved face of passion
since the crucifixion.

D.

Let this be
the dark caveat:
did Jocasta
weep
so wrathfully
when Oedipus
blinded himself
for acting out
a prophecy?
The Pieta,
in Lacan’s equation,
is dramaturgy
of the Madonna
& the errant child
as secret lover
who is not,
but beyond him
that is everything
she’s been missing
all her sad, sad
life.
O let this be the sorrow
of all women.

3.
Hell City

Haiti keeps him on edge.
Images of decay stay in the mind
for a nanosecond,
then vanish with the cares of the day.
He is done with imagining
how hell happens
on the other side of the hemisphere.
It has always been here,
right down the street
this alleyway of the archipelago,
& he walks the dreary neighborhood
with a strange fear
nothing is always the same.

4.

Should he care?
Is it a bourgeois frame of mind?
What with humanity?
A child pulled out of the rubble
will perish just the same —
wretchedly —
in Port-au-Prince
where grief is the voodoo sorcerer
you bump into —
customarily.

5.

They clapped,
extremely buoyed up
by their efforts
to pull out a Canadian
from the concrete belly
of the hotel
that crashed down
like a house of cards.
Recharging their spirits
in their mission
to overcome the flagging hopes
in Haiti
which camouflages
its suicidal metaphysics.
Though faith,
charity, even love,
are in short supply
hereabouts,
they aim to dig up
the others mercifully trapped…
But life, like anything,
is just another dirty word
at Port-au-Prince
that is in perpetual ruin.

6.

So precise
is the caption
for the devastation:
“A nuclear bomb
gone off…”
Or even Marat’s asylum
where men & women
have turned violently mad.
A preview of the future
where survival
without food or water
returns to the primal.
Who must explain
all this?
But God has all along
made known
that the world
continually rocks & rolls…
O There with soft, soft hearts
know only too well
the line between North
& South,
between peon & banker,
is root of it all.

7.

He kept to himself
about the death
of peacekeepers in Haiti:
but, slowly, she pried out
a distressing note from him,
like black pearls
from a strong depth:
yes they kept the place
in shape…
But frankly, they sought
decent wage for family
the state could not provide
here in our godforsaken country.
There’s no money
in common soldiery.
Who must pay for this?
Of course, of course,
if we trace back
the history of puppets
& global misery…
But his voice trailed off,
as if harboring a secret
no longer worth keeping
the lid on.

8.
Class

He hesitates to enter the room.
The very point of entry
is the very fulcrum of forgetting —
& he compulsively repeats
what usually happens before.
They look you up,
then tighten their emotion
like bubbles about to burst
at the point of expansion.
O Why is forgetting
so unforgettable
than remembering?
You turn the page
into another page,
& so forth & so on,
as if everything is worth the action.

9.

You remember a face,
worse, a name.
& they will as well
not have a sense
of who you had been
in their petty lives —
though they had walked up
your back
without leaving tracks.
They may assault you sometimes —
anywhere, howsoever —
a hint of recognition here,
knitted eyebrows there…
But that is all there is to it
& nothing really
you may conjure.

10.

You’ve written on the board
words bound to be erased.
But they don’t care a hoot.
Everything is in the order of things.
Even if you dutifully hold
the white board marker
& meticulously spell out
stuff you think would make
the difference —
as if Frost were telling the truth…
But they sooner than soon,
look out the window
where the world appears
more real & true.

11.

They are perusing the poems
prepared for the day’s session.
It’s Robert Penn Warren’s
dredged out of the trunk
like a mothballed truth
made handy
for text-savvy youth.
& he secretly giggled
at how their faces tried
to smoothen their brows:
they have always been so smug
about literature,
preferring Math as the more rigorous
course.
Does it please him
to see kids tortured
so early in the morning,
like babies crying for milk
from breasts that are dry
& withered?
But their perilous moment
they will throw out of memory
of their amnesiac day.
Just the same.
Just the same.

12.

She says
she doesn’t know
what to do after leaving school.
Everything is enveloped,
as it were,
in a deep purple haze,
& she can’t make out
the acceptable nightmare.
She wishes to spend
her young life
writing —
but we know the twaddle,
secret ambition
of future housewives
who’ll be constrained
to wipe babies’ butts,
then impress upon their offspring
with their know-it-all
ambiance.
They too,
once upon a time
were seduced by colors,
or signs…
But can he be sure
she’ll follow the same, old route
of the sick & the aging?

13.

They are prolix with
endearing words
but are not even equidistant
from its other’s fears.
Texting heavily,
hoping to pin down a signified
that is always not.
How can hearts communicate
when words are spoken
in split-second
while coming in or getting out
of doors?
Habermas knows it
all along —
dialogue is total communion,
or fatal disaster
that is meant for none at all.

14.

Old dreams revisit him,
& he can’t duck them
like bullets in the war front.
He fails to mark them down
in his early morning mind
but they always end up storyless,
always evanescent.
Strangely repetitious
of primacies of returning grief,
sadmen defeats —
as if the very forgetting
is itself a remembering.
The future,
like the past,
will ever be the same.

15.
Blanket

So he’s pissed with the boys
she escorts to the table.
They look like brutes
in diapers
or gym rats who can’t make
anything of what
he pompously says.
Always, she’s in dire need
of security studs
like Linus’s blanket…
O But love & affection
never really exist
like the fabled angelic guardians.

16.

Out of the blue, a word from her.
Coffee, yes?
Of course, as a matter of ceremony.
Suddenly, he’s all juiced up,
but as quickly cools down.
He knows how it will start & end:
the initial conversations,
the helpless look behind the rim.
The ritual too often ignored
is all gentle torture.
She will leave, as before.
He will drive alone, as always.
O Every two-penny lover
must learn the heart’s translation:
nada means nothing.
Zero is all languages’ common junction.

17.

A courtier has died.
Something that would leave
him speechless:
after all, it’s uncivilized
to harbor ill-will
toward a departed.
His lips are sealed,
as much as the dead’s,
who covered up
for the inequities
of his Masters:
of course, a loyal servant
who would never bite
the hand that feeds.
Here then the epitaph:
Only those who know him
up-close
will remember
his quiver & his tear.

18.
Perpetual Obit
(for the departed)

So many deaths
at the year’s unfolding:
coming in mathematical subsets,
as if the planet spins
a maddening puzzle
why they should come & leave.
Neither angels nor devils
can divinely predict
what the day shall offer next,
& knaves & saints
live & perish on equal footing.
The door revolves
in a merry way:
departure & arrival
are one in the infinite?
The dead always bury the death:
who then really exists.
Why be seized
by love & passion,
fear & dread
if only to end up
vised in the hands of death?
Always, the wind howls
its senseless obit.

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