Bossing & Other Poems

Bossing

1.
It caused
quite a stir
when he bought
hotdogs
for his entourage
from a street seller
on the corner
of the Avenue of the Americas
& 45th street,
all worth $54.
This folksy gesture
must have endeared him
to his fans
who mistake it
for humility
& wise governance.
But he said
virtually nothing at the UN
to stop the debt payments
of poor countries,
mouthing instead
abstractions
about global people power
which actually spawns
more feudal lords & generals.
Playing safe
& taking sides
of the familiar
he assured diplomats
he wouldn’t rock
the boat
of the imperialists
as they navigate the world.

2.
They used to fool around
in school,
flunk some courses
frequent soirees
& shooting galleries
to morph beautifully
into masculine Terminators.
The girls went gaga
over the popular appeal
of rich, cool kids
like they were
the future Big Deal
in a few more years.
Now,
in fancy suits,
with cordon sanitaire,
they sit behind Palace desks
calling the shots.
Can they answer questions
from a skeptical panel?
Can they defend
The hostage snafu?
They hem & haw,
biding time.
They know they’re untouchable,
The President’s Men.
(They once were kids
in a playpen,
screaming for milk.
& the nursemaid would
rush in
to pacify the ordained).

3.
He is past
the senior line:
looking at the Young Turks
who have taken over.
He couldn’t help but sigh
how mediocrity
rules the petty empire.
O The illusory freedom
little people cherish
they’ve bartered
for promises of imminent desire,
that things may yet
turn around,
as if to showcase
hope
as a parakeet gleefully
flying/talking
in a cage.
But the ship of state
is steered
by young buccaneers
who flash
toothy smiles.

4.
The bum knows
he’s not qualified:
a shooting target
painted on his face,
as it were.
But he’s close to the Guy,
& he can take solace
that he shared
their salad days.
After all,
the heir is sucker
for loyalty,
trained as he was
to observe the ethics
of the manse.
The orphan
is surely leery
of peons massing against
the ills of governance.
Only his circle
would suffice:
Not the faceless rabble
who rise & burn.

5.
So
where do we go
from here?
In the ruins
fresh bodies
are dug up
for refusing to believe
the Messiah has arrived.
But blood still flows
silently on the mountains
lapping at the riverside.
The snake devours its tail
& the wind
goes in circles
as if to finally stay…
Old poets
visit hospitals
for mortality has turned
real,
& words are no longer
talismans
against danger signs.
Poems turn
like papercraft
soggy in the rain:
who whimpers
like stray cats
crushed under the wheel?

6.
The world
keeps on turning
like an imbecile
babbling on a swing:
lustily screaming
at first,
then lapsing into silence
like the stagnant air.
Hooves rampage
in his ear
but what has really
happened?
The new horsemen
have galloped in
& we all tremble
at something,
as if idiotically,
destined.

The Visit

7.
This is where
old men repair:
slow, almost hesitant
to enter
the cubicle
to hear the verdict –
O how dank
is mortality
& the once-robust organs
no longer
tolerate neither virtue
nor vice…
Almost,
the air is heavy
with dark presentiment
that dims
the bright fluorescent light.
Now & then,
a rare smile
to signal a conversation:
He’s ok,
luck is on his side?
How one must live,
nobody ever knows.
You tread
the straight & narrow,
but ghosts lurk
in a corner
& quickly
one is done for.

8.
He’s a guy
of low pedigree,
but finds it clever
to address the doctor
in pidgin Shakespeare.
He says to himself
this is to equalize
matters:
the physician owns
his body,
he himself alone
its philosophy.
He thinks of the parity
of sorts
in that sordid situation—
he’s no longer a peon
but a bumpkin-emperor.

9.
Words, of course,
are measured here,
even uttered in monotone
to break
the silence
of the void.
One braces
for that sudden ambush
but the healer couches
his spiel
skillfully
lest his language
betray
a bad, bad day.
But who can postpone
the inevitable?
Always, the die
is cast,
& prayers
are mere smoke signals
sent to confuse
the faithful.

10.
Again,
they lighten up
a bit
if you’re done
with the paperwork.
The place, after all,
hums
if one has moolah
to take care
of required costs.
The nurse is strangely solicitous,
even if it’s
an institutional protocol.
But that will do:
this is at most
a luxury:
hospitals must turn
a profit,
it cannot function
on compassion
& Samaritan good.
Everywhere,
money talks.
Utopia is far, far off.
At the chapel,
those who pray
have only themselves
to comfort & hold.

11.
This is just
a waystation:
doctors & nurses
await the next plane
to whisk them off
to Canada or UK
where they won’t labor
like dead-end miners
scavenging for coal.
Certainly,
every shard of money
should be left
here, like cheap luggage;
all tearful hearts
can’t afford to brood
lest they convulse,
can no longer move.

12.
Surely,
doctors
make a pile
faster than
any hack,
but less than
a politician
or wheeler-dealer
in public works…
This is all empirical:
he’s got to administer
the cure,
anything less will
cost him
a body or reputation.
A nasty trade-off,
but at the end
of the day,
he can count
on prayers of well-wishers
who were formerly skeptics
& rational fools.
Or suffer pinpricks
of a conscience
for missing to score.

13.
It edged
the God-Dictator
off the chessboard
of memory…
Ondoy,
its rush of drowning waters
had washed away
the sediments
of the torture & jails
of the Marcos years…
O How blurred
is the onus of collective recall
when a holocaust
swept the land
38 years ago…
But detainees
still languish in prison houses,
hold back
black-robed hoodlums
the wheels of justice,
& children are born blind
to grope through
the labyrinthine hall…
Voices in the lee
are bladed weapons
raised to cut them down
as they wail…
Nothing here moved.
Always, we’re back
to where we mourned.

14.
His dirty shirt
loose about him,
like a scrawny kid
too small for
its size;
His gnarled hands
dipped in the thick
grime of the street;
His stony face
burned by the noonday sun…
The old man
squints into his playship,
as though to divine
the magic numbers
on the glass counter
of the betting station.
O He’s dreaming again.
But does the universe
care?

15.
He broods
he sees too far
ahead.
The future,
by his own reckoning,
is a white sheet
where people appear,
then vanish
as though drawn
on invisible ink.
He’s bloody sure
he’ll end up nowhere
but how can
he sum up
the day’s end game?
Grandmasters
may invent the craft
to be able to
humanly persist
like any stubborn fool.
But there are infinite moves
& no one has mastered
the original chessboard.
Life, after all,
is a necessary miracle.
Never be a seer,
optimists say,
with a black
crystal ball.

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