Morning After & Other Poems


He has kept his distance
from the dictator’s son,
who insists on
shaking his hand.
[He couldn’t compromise
with Palparan,
whom he argues
has blood on his hands.]
The photo-op
makes him sweat profusely.
The heir has yet to renounce
his father’s rule
that sent him underground,
then to camps
where he was tortured
for just resistance.
Now they must share
the center stage
like animals in a zoo
where people stop & stare,
then line up for another show.

It’s done,
it’s back to square one
& his detractors
have increased a thousandfold.
Why ride the bandwagon?
Was the logic to win
so irresistible
as to employ Machiavelli
& advance the grand design
for general welfare?
In his rocking chair,
he sips his coffee,
flips through
the morning news
where the story is told—
yet knows it already
like a familiar face
encountered before.

Dead Town


A strange country, he says.
He wakes up in the morning
uncertain of the day;
at noon, his heart melts
his soul & brain;
at evening, he is dead drunk
to carry him through the heavy daze.
The next sunrise,
he starts off another
blank sheet,
repeats what yesterday
had tortured him
with clueless grief.
His memory deserts him:
blank letters
stud the future’s
white page.


So, if people forget
what the dictator
has done through the decades,
who will confront the child
for the root’s infamous crimes?
The patriarch had left
a legacy of blood & knives,
yet no one would dare
visit the crimson site.
Amnesia afflicts the living,
& the heir had snatched
a Senate seat
which the old man
once ruled with iron hand
& cryptic smile.

The Return

They’re coming back
[as if they ever left].
The buzzards
are poised to take flight
while half-blind children,
born too late
to witness the murders,
thrill to their arrival
as if prodigal angels
have swooped down
like avatars.
What is the world
coming to?
That memory
should begin on a clean slate
& history
wiped off
like dry blood?
will go scot-free again:
God could be laughing,
but it doesn’t seem
to hurt.


When quarters
are finally shut down,
leaflets swept away,
tarpaulins pulled down,
how must he drink
his coffee
with morning ease
& wash away
all the crap
at the husting?
But he will persist—
his loyalists promise—
as in the reign of generals
when Marcos centurions
hunted him down
like mad.
It ain’t over
’till the fat lady sings—
& he plugs his ears
so he may not hear.


The morning after,
penetrating the world,
through “liquor gaze”,
he makes out
the crosses on the road:
slouchers are in idle walk,
bums assault the facebook,
patriarchs prattle
in the distance,
women wash cheap clothes,
Indian peddlers
leave food for strays
while warlords rule
the roost.
Change is long-time coming
& he is getting
stupidly old.
The young split hairs
over the glass of water
on the table—
if it is half-empty
or half-full
but the clear-headed
& the drunk
wouldn’t part
with contentious words.


She quips, “They lost.” Her co-worker, married to an activist, agrees, “Miserably.” The silence inside the car ceases at the disembarkation point from where she walks toward home.
& the gravity of the debacle—strangely but bitterly expected—is on every bourgeois lips. Particularly those who secretly root for their integrity as resistors to the common infamy.
They didn’t have to cut a deal with the contaminated, detractors heckle with glee.
The party must have misread their radar screen. Lost ground must be recovered, as in past struggles that bordered on systemic catastrophe, loyalists aver.
Meanwhile, parliamentarians—who risk their lives operating aboveground— lick their wounds, like cats in a corner.
They have seen through the dark clouds before; they shall pick up the pieces, observers postulate.
You can’t play both sides, a barbershop wag says.


The orphan
had mixed feelings about it:
“Reynaldo Bigone, 82,
was convicted with five
other military officers
in 56 cases involving torture,
illegal detentions
and other crimes
in one of Argentina’s
largest torture centers,
the Campo de Mayo army base…”
where of “4,000 dissidents taken…
about five emerged alive.”
Pregnant women
who “gave birth”
had their babies “adopted
by military families.”
But the 25 years
wouldn’t be enough
for the days & nights
he had spent
looking for his mother
during that particular madness
that the state
inflicted on
unarmed warriors.


he doesn’t remember her
Has the valley swallowed
her up?
She no longer stays
inside his skull
to send quivers
down his spine.
How long has it been
the impasse?
She who once gripped him
like an iron vise?
But he was
a mediocre mathematician:
he could not solve
the equation of desire
until time flashed
the QED
of the grand design:
X & Y never did exist,
the variables
have long since vanished.
The bird cage
has always been empty:
there was really nothing


it must be:
Saints must have
known it all along
without theory.
He is spaced out
yet the calm
breaks the wind
inside his heart
that used to rattle,
like a glass windowpane,
at the slightest ripple
of a blast.
without her visitation
is bliss
of Boddhisatva
under a tree,
oblivious of a trail
of ants
on his thigh.
Beyond all sentiments
& cheap pain,
blackness covers
his eyes…
[Love has never had
anything to do with it,
so croons Tina Turner.]


It is virtual hieroglyph
of the fifties:
Kilroy was here.
Who would know
the wayfarer
that immortalized
the passage?
No one would remember.
& this desk
in which a name
has been crudely etched
by a pen knife
in personal malaise
must have been forgotten too
by the amateur sculptor himself
as he mentally
flew out of the room
in that zero hour
when words were
extremely useless & void.
O How easily we forget
what was most real & true
in that long-ago moment?
[He would see her
years from now.
But how?
A blank look
would tell it all
even if
once upon a time
the heart trembled
she was worth
dying for.]


The day starts
like a neat kitchen sked,
horribly ends
like scrambled
mahjong pieces
at night.
These days
of unseen generals
wielding invisible knives
we linger in bed
to size up the chances
of things turning out
But movie studs
rule the Senate
& our petty lives.
We gingerly slip
into frayed slippers,
cross our fingers,
that rain clouds
may yet purify
the esteros
of El Nino months.
We make plans
to safely scamper
behind closed doors,
away from rampaging
[& to hypothesize
there is the tipping point
to watch.]



They have shuffled him
from one room to another
without even
the grace of a formal note.
Courses have been
hard to come by,
like fish in dry river,
& he manages to survive
on the kindness of the apparats.
Does he aspire
for a fancy title,
or hustle
for some pricey position
that is worth
an ego-massage?
He laughs like some hyena
at the lot of bureaucrats
who call the shots.
Brats have slithered
in & out
of lecture rooms,
shifting paradigms
like they were the necessary
Must he advertise?
Young hustlers
are on the rise
& the word is thrown
like pearl
into the pig sty.
of his own counterfeit delusion,
he counts his blessings
& finds none.


There were
strange names,
as if to express
something horrible
& unnamable,
prisoners of Taliban
in their fear & loathing
dirty up the wall.
The guide,
who survived it all,
shook his head,
But they are human beings…

He feels the lump
in the throat
as he notes on the chairs
pentel works
to mark their
classroom presence:
rebellion ennui
of twitter-like postings
on the wood
to while away
their passage
into the corporate world.
This summer is
so brief,
it will vanish
into air.
The encounter
has never been so
empty, futile.


He only knew
too well
that memory of Africa
& its fruitful life
is hedge against
colonial forgetting.
Walking the town
& villages
in smoulder of dust
& rain
he brought together
the children
& their forefathers…
His hut was a swinging door
through which
in need of food & shelter,
Had a mother
who always cooked
extra dinner
for someone
who might knock
on the door.
Sotique Koyati,
movie actor,
did so faithfully
his role
as man
of the people
dancing at his funeral
in fond farewell.


There are speculations:
the architect has lost heart:
the posts remain standing
like sad crosses
on the hill of Palestine.
Masons have left
mounds of sand & stone
under the cruel sky,
& skinny dogs litter the ground.
What disaster
must have happened
for a change of plans?
Someone suggested
the fool abandoned
the project
because of a broken heart.
O how silly a lover!
It’s only love
& it has lost
its grand narrative
as any postmodernist
will agree.

Fourth of May
(For those who remember)

He hears them
calling him down
from his “invisible cities”
up the trees.
They’re waving
a box of crema de fruta
to mark
his millennial passage
on planet Earth.
O how amazed he is
that a handful remember him
when he left
for the stratosphere
of his imagination.
Of course,
he cannot
like Andromache,
spend all his days
he must also eat
like any mortal
on the ground.
They know his limits,
after all—
cracking jokes
they lay out
the celebratory mat.

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