Inaugural & Other Poems


There is so much noise
inside the plenary hall.
The yellow army
is overflowing with joy.
Red warriors
are shaking their heads.
lumber in like old ships
coming from the cold;
they blow their horns
as they drop anchor.
He can’t stand the crowd of beggars
in their finest clothes
as they clap at their
beloved sailors.
He picks up his bag
& maps out
the long, long route.


Now he doesn’t glimpse
Neither hide nor hair
of them who hustled
last May:
licking their wounds,
or parting ways
for singing
a different tune?
He now dreads
anything narrowly political:
He can divine
the same old diktat
through the same old sight
of the telescope.
He is anxious
the future
will be commandeered
by those who man
the fort,
even if the walls
are not secured.
The Revolution
still blooms on their lips,
but their eyes
are half-shut
like windows
when light is shuttered
O How he fears
for the children
of the crusade
who gnash their teeth
because they are puzzled
by a dead-end faith.


The night
is too heavy
inside his head:
of friends in pain,
possibly dying
& darkness that strikes
his eyes
even if the sun
hotly breaks
through the cloud.
She texts
of money
pressed between
the pages of a book.
She left it unused.
But it is easy
to fathom why.
The day breaks
as if
the flood of tears
is still stuck
like fur ball
up his throat.


She’s coming home.
She cannot stay
in New York
where her soul
like a black bird
to roost.
The officialese
reminds her
she’s an alien
& Americans
are sadly paranoid:
she can’t extend
her visit
if some consul
decrees so…
But there’s still
so much to do
about art & life,
unlike in Manila
where she
must close her eyes
to shut off
& dissonance
with jobless truants
& high-end bums.
In a country
where food
is source of murder
& mayhem,
& prayers fructify
in shuttered houses,
how can she live
it down
as if the heart
does not matter?


The oldtimer
in Chicago
curtly replies:
as if to impress upon
the young woman
he’s smart
& knows the city
like the palm
of his hand.
It must be his generation,
she says to herself,
that frowns
on Manila transients
as fobs
overwhelmed by electronic
& galleries,
plus the exotic
Buddhist shrine…
O Mandarin cool
is Rx best
for handling
ignorant dudes
who boast
they have the best
of both worlds.
He had come
a long, long way, after all…
[& nothing would surprise
him anymore].


She’s flying back
to Jakarta,
staying away
from Sing
which mimics
Paris & New York.
Here where race
so discreetly,
& the Chinese frown
on Third World
who serve as amahs
& coolies
in cold townhouses…
In Indonesia,
people still flow
like a slow river,
smelling flowers
along the way.
O Never has the city
been a strange refuge
for quietude,
displacing Manila
where families
desperately brood.
Yet even
stranger she’ll be
if heart drowns
in solitude.


& then,
she strays
like a ghostly wolf
into the caverns
of his mind.
But will he
know her as before?
Time is a fog
that crawls slowly
& she is lost
in the mist
of a grey landscape:
No camera
will zoom in
to reveal the grotesquerie
of old times
when she was
a magical light
in his soft sleep.
Must it all
come to this?
Never it was
a question of love:
he’s old.
Deep in his guts,
it never existed
like God.
But why do dry tears
freely flow
like liquid knives?

The Damned

She’s a widow.
Last heard
she’s sick,
all alone
but for a lover
& her son
who darts in & out
of the little house
for his itinerant job.
She’s gripped
With fear & trembling—
But kinsmen
could only pull their hair
like Othello
they too are visited
by desolation’s angel.


Of course,
again the snot-nosed
massing in the room
as if they were old & wise
with their pimply faces
& paperbacks
of Coelho & Gaiman,
plus expensive
that wire them
to the world.
But they raise
the same old alarm
on jouissance
& adolescent despair
of Lindsay Lohan
& he flees
into the sanctum sanctorum
of himself
where cries
& laughter
will fail
to reach him.

Danger Signs

A stroll
down the road
hard & sloping
under his feet
is a misguided
health regimen:
danger lurks
like stray dogs
with hanging tongues
at garbage-dumps
of every corner.
Insolence greets
his morning coffee,
looks him in the eye
as the sun
through the sky.
This is eternal time—
& he’s perpetually
in the cusp
of cheap survival.
If only he were
in Paris
like a flaneur
& discoverer,
like the Jewish victim
Walter Benjamin,
a world
entering another
century of signs.
But Manila
is a cesspool
for potbellied politicians
& seasonal floods
of water, heat-haze
& dust,
where two-legged
with switchblade
scamper like rats.
He cannot linger
on the side:
flowers of evil
like Baudelaire’s
before his eyes.
But he’s too scared
to cut his wrists:
he’s not a poet,

The Unfinished

He isn’t done yet.
He has plenty
of things to tell.
But does it really matter?
Is anyone listening?
There is an ocean
of silence
hissing in his ears,
& words of rain
& moon
get in the way.
But someone
is peering through
the hole in the wall
of the city noise.
Can he be
totally alone?
Scream or moan,
any jazz of sound
makes him wonder
if all is worth
the trouble
just to be heard
as if he has
something important,
even avaricious,
to share.


The man
on the tarmac
keeps coming back,
like some gymnast
bouncing on
the trampoline.
First, his widow
who forced out
a river of tears
from millions
orphaned at the funeral.
Then, his son
who promised
a turnaround
after the One,
like an unwanted Queen,
overstayed her welcome.
The heavens
seem to have made it
the blood under the plane
would forever haunt
shadowy murderers
who refuse
their crimes.
But how long
must the country
do penance
for the evil
dictators visit
upon the land?
O so long as blood
keeps flowing
from the mind.


She was aghast
at how an old friend looked:
he was idling
at the office lobby,
as if catching his breath
after collecting
pay for his editorial
No, he wasn’t sick.
Why did you say that?
These chicken littles
from Mcdo,
wrapped in napkin
were for the kids
who sought shelter
in his abode:
their mother had
abandoned them
for other lovers
in distant neighborhood:
her carnal adventure
to live with thugs
as if freedom for sluts
were absolute…
Don’t worry, he said,
am all right…
& she kept thinking
how badly people age…
When she looked
in the mirror,
how she wished
the question itself
were not directed at her.


He got 800 bucks
for two numbers
in a four-digit wager
& he felt
the stab in his heart
as if something malevolent
had finally resolved
itself in his
gordian mind:
at his age
he can no longer win
any major prize
as if it is written
in the stars
he’s Queen of Spade’s
unholy child.
There are no more
fairy tales to be told,
the storyteller
has run out of fables
to sell
& blinders
on a horse.
It’s all dramatic flair
if he grits his teeth
because no one
would bother
to offer his shoulder.
O She’s with a new guy
but ever
the planet
smoothly moves.


He could only
inscribe himself
via long hand
but this is already
the 21st century
when computers hum
& abacus no longer
clicks the digital mind.
His encoder
had simply shut down:
too bogged down
in community work
to engage with trifles.
But a little ceremony
posting up
the inconvenience
would be Emily Post’s
proper desire…
The world however
would carry on
it’s dutiful design.
Alone with his wretchedness
of being like a luggage
lost in transit.
Everybody’s zipping by,
a blur of faces
much like his
that he himself
won’t even recognize.
Scream & let out
That would rouse
the sleepy neighborhood.


When the Lakers won
he was forewarned
it would be another
dreary afternoon:
hoopla was gone,
rioters had been
corralled into
the police station,
every scalper had left
for home.
&, alone with his
Walter Mitty eululation,
he must wait out
another summer
for mirthful mayhem
to begin,
the while managing
the unease
of the rainy season.
How we choose
to live by the limits
of our trivial life!
The zealots
are out to change
the world,
but he has turned
into a couch potato
to witness joy
& glory


He is fascinated
to the point of mimicry,
with old men
who drink alone
by the wayside.
Boisterous company
turns him off
for the feast of wine
is ceremony
of a chosen few:
wise & despondent,
carefree & austere.
But is he missing
something here?
The point is
to fan the fire
in the belly
before he hits
the sack,
the infinite
with its cavernous mouth
won’t swallow
him up.
The road is long
& winding
& guzzling with
Socratic bums
lessens the disaster
of words
getting stuck
in the throat—
like a glass of gin
with a drowning cockroach.

The Foolish Thinker

He is thinking
but his heart
isn’t into it.
The very idea
is stale,
& he longs for
some routine
Yet he must eat.
he must steer
his fear or angst
into the belly,
away from
the logic of madness
that opens & dares
he finds himself
& asks
why this life
must linger,
as if there’s
always something
at the next corner.
is real but
too frenchy—
how long must
he suffer
the banality
of this century?
O If her smile
doesn’t fade,
he may
wait it out yet…


They’re waiting
like dogs under the table.
The new governor-general
at the Palace
points to the horizon:
a new day coming?
he’s no Hercules,
& the Aegean stable
of our daily lives
is too great
to be cleaned alone—
but if the natives
will bring each
a pail of water
& a broom
the task won’t be
Yet out there
in the mountains & plains
they have heard it before:
haven’t they learned
so early
it takes a season
for flowers to bloom?
But how long
must they wait & wail?
The feast of fruits
is still up in the sky.
The children
break the silence of the night—
for their parents
are toiling
in the field,
praying that God
will be merciful…
So many centuries ago,
& they’re still at it,
knocking on heaven’s door.

There is no end
to hoping
the world turns
for a reason:
we can only spin like a top,
move on…
But he has known
it before:
is there any fresh revelation?
Every messiah
that comes his way
a word intones,
then vanishes
as if swallowed up
by time & season.
He is just surviving
like any beggar
limping from one stranger
to another…
Living justly
is, after all,
baying at the moon.


He cannot share in the fun:
he will be
a wet blanket
in the street party:
why witness
the carnival
if a long face
turns the revelry off?
The Memorial ball,
fronting the mausoleum,
is for the deaf & the dumb
who opine
heaven has opened wide
its door.
The cynic surely
will be a killjoy
in the debaucherie
of the moment’s gratification.

The Second Choice

He is not
to the manor born:
his roots
never prepared him
for the event
though he wildly
dreamt of it:
out of sync,
heavy with the language
that only fits
the sans culotte.
He gropes
for words
as if blinded
by the grandeur
of the honor.
O How his childhood,
steeped in the tribe’s
& ghetto’s,
gets in the way.
So, like a black
he sulks in his
imagined tent—
puzzled as to how
he must wrestle
with his fate
that he’s far above
the phalanx
of Palace stooges.
O How can you
get the country
out of him
when his mind
gambols childlike
in the field of green.
The city,
which he rules
like Robin Hood,
he still finds
easy for the taking.
But in a bigger world
where lights
are brighter & blinding,
he’s a boy lost,
but beating
his chest
& bellowing…
Is anyone listening?


But is this destiny?
Did the stars
& meet at an angle
to raise him up
from the faceless
& forced him to lead all
like Moses
to the promised land?
All philosophies
will not explain
how & why
it sagely happened.
But this is not
where numbers
are deemed precise,
can be calculated
& foretold…
has its answers,
but can we accept
the truth
of grand designs?
Surely, he may map out
the trail for us;
& we wait & watch.
Yet our option stays:
within reason
we can also
willfully act.


Of course,
it didn’t rain
that day.
Pag-asa forecasters,
despite their science,
couldn’t make out
the sudden shining.
Is this
nature’s magic
that complements
our hearts, tears
& desires
for peace & justice?
No, the world
turns on its own volition:
it wouldn’t bother
with human lamentation
we are on our own
yet the universal rule
to care for forests & rivers,
animals & birds,
mineral & air
that preceded our organic
lest we perish
as if by ignorant design.


Since three days ago
lotto outlets
have been off-line,
& the bettors
idle around,
like disciples of lost causes,
they’re on God’s side.
They will expect
the next day to be lost
& worrisome
for they have nothing
to look forward to,
O that imagined win
that would raise them
from daily ruin—
& he finds himself
tarrying a bit
at the closed window,
but shakes his head
as the line grows longer…
O How the crumpled play slips
in the clammy hands
betray that
quiet desperation…
It has come to this
that he must utter
the name of Yahweh
for him to wake up
next morning
screaming mad
because He gave him
a second chance.

In Memoriam

It is almost
like lightning.
It can strike
anytime, anywhere
& you can only stare
dumbly at the universe.
Jean Llorin,
NGO activist
& humanist,
who wore her heart
on her sleeve,
just passed away
in the morning
when the world
was lazily asleep.
& we were all
why someone
who had always
time for anyone
at the mouth
of a sink hole
suddenly leave.

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