The usual morning scene:
an empty cafeteria
& he leads himself
to the promenade outdoor,
as if desperate for familiar faces.
But ever the air hangs deserted,
young voices linger in his ears,
their complete absence
echoes without tears.
He remembers the empty frames
in a gallery exhibit
dry leaves falling around his feet.
They claim, the people have slowly forgotten
In this country of amnesia,
only politicians & movie stars spill over
the memory’s landscape.
Church bells have to ring out
the grievous tidings.
But will they rouse the living from the dead?
The day’s heavy with conversation
about lotto’s half a billion.
Who hears the secret sobbing
in the church of the heart of silence?
The botanist died in the crossfire,
although the witness says it came only
from one direction.
It was an encounter with rebels
claimed the military
whose troops are culled from landless peasants
& jobless lumpen class.
How do you squeeze out of this mess
that confounds charlatans & Vatican scholars?
Tell that to the bureaucrats
who love to notch a win on their imaginary
Now & then, he pauses
as if something significant has crossed
Is it her who vanished
in the blue, blue hills?
O, not so dramatic an event:
she doesn’t remember anything.
Bresson’s decisive moment, says Villen Flusser,
does not exist.
That is only a part-decision in a quantum series
that makes for the act to persist.
How do you point out
the second specific that changed
the rules of the game?
It’s all a myth: you can’t pin down
why you suddenly cried
as if tormented.
They saw each other at the pub,
old friends in college,
all het up over her engagement
as if unaware of any disaster.
Too early to get hitched
in a career yet to take off?
But she thinks she’s in love
& blindly she will follow
her tinklebell heart.
old women flock to James for a makeover:
as if time can be slowed down
before the coming of the dark.
They glance at the mirror
mercifully recovering that season
when breasts were firm
& fresh as fruits
in the edenic garden.
The dry skin is smoothed with imported lotion—
how they expect lovers to give them
that second look.
Hope springs eternal, quips the hairdresser,
but not within the patient’s earshot.
But the young girls couldn’t care less:
they exist in the moment of here & forever,
can only cringe maliciously at the perfumed crones
with dry skin & thinning hair.
Do they know they will be next
at the “firing line” once the shadow
passes like a ghost of decay over them?
The sun’s eclipse is not top conversation
in beauty parlors,
nor the weather that terrifies scholarly watchers.
Scumbags, the old man muttered as he glances
at the boisterous vanguard
blocking the CAL entrance.
But is it really him talking like he were
a recycled hierarch?
He must have rued the May polls
where partylist radicals threw their light weight
behind a C-5 businessman…
Because parliamentary struggle is part
of the bourgeois exercise?
Who’s reading Marx & Lenin this time?
Who’s interpreting Mao?
Zizek must be having a hearty laugh.
They claimed negotiations as though seizing power
starts with making deals over a gaming table…
O How they drift like a ship of fools
away from the squalid harbor!
Brown shirts goosestepping toward disaster?
Where is Lenin who insists the Menshevik grip
allows a violent paradigmatic shift?
O No more congressman in barong clapping
to the beat of Pacquiao at congressional reception!
She says the workshop reading of the plays
has been clumsy, pathetic—
horrified the public
including mentors who allowed deceit.
O can the novatos be trusted with looking
at the world as if they hold
O Always within reach is the plot
in a word, a sigh, templates of silence and noise
to weave a story where simplicity
like a river naturally flows.
This caveat then: he should tell only
what he personally knows,
Never presume to inhabit another man’s soul.
He was holding a folder
of papers to petition for a strike campus-wide:
the measly budget has been sliced like an onion
to make you cry.
The union is gung-ho, he crows,
along with a handful of teachers
for the shakedown of the office central.
But what if the Royal Orphan stands his ground?
He says the militant showdown will let
the middle-class brats
see St. Paul’s Damascus deliverance.
He is teased, of course,
once he gets hitched & shops for a job
to pay for bills & children
will he shift paradigm?
Who keeps allegiance?
She must straighten him out
why mass orgs exist…
But the professor doesn’t want any part of it:
he had heard it before
from children who vanished in the crusade…
Did he miss anything—
It must have been the weather when kids spiel
they know better…
(Haha if only they can spell)
Once he saw a Math professor break a rally
& eventually shoot down a student,
enraging the community…
Has the world turned on its head?
The old warriors have gone on leave,
leaving the young to explore the urban forests.
While he lectures the early morning class,
she texts busily, forgetting a simple protocol.
She doesn’t listen, only to the policy call of her superiors.
They’re killing activists like flies
swatted off the table.
She thinks highly of her moral cause
& will be disagreeable, like Said,
to those who score the underground apparatus.
Even her mass org.
O She was born yesterday, eager to show proof,
the times, as in Dylan’s, they are scandalous:
Will the old professor do his part
to change the lopsided world?
But she’s got a long way to go before
the fork on the road:
she’s stuck waging battles on campus
while kids her age are deep already
in the dangerous woods up north.
The lottery is a metagame that risks
God’s holy reputation of loving mankind
profoundly within reason.
O Why, losers wail, one is picked over the other
to have so much luck on the draw
when the world prays for an even hand?
Does the parable of the prodigal son affirm
the unjust share of autocratic affection & change?
Is the rule of numbers the throw of dice?
Is it divine to be blessed with excessive capital
in a world turned digital?
God won’t answer bettors who dumbly
accept the religiously profound.
Always, a person is an unfinished business. Somehow, one imagines oneself traveling on the road, meeting people who would go their separate ways. Always, what would be left are bits & pieces of a conversation, a voice, a gesture…The truth is always uncertain (as postmodernists argue) inasmuch as there is always disagreement on assessing young Marx from old Marx, a young Heidegger from an old Heidegger. Everyone can swiftly change directions, & we are left this memory of a past that may explain a future, or even erase it.
He met N when they were introduced to a panel of interrogators who would decide if they were fit for the academic job. N was a fresh graduate with academic distinction; he was looking for an alternative work to magazine production.
In two years, they would snatch conversation between breaks—until she left for the States on a Fullbright. Fortunately, she would touch base, subliminally informing him of her intellectual progression: She had been turning out fantastic essays, rereading canonical texts & culture.
He recalls her guest stint at a forum:
1. Where she did an analytical reading of Agoncillo’s intro to The Revolt of the Masses, wherein the old historian wrote having been metaphorically interrupted at the sala by a visitor, ruining what was his version of historicizing. A veteran academic didn’t have a clue as to what she was saying, until it was explained to him N is doing what Freud does on an analysand’s slippage.
2. A lecture between the Department where a late National Artist was in attendance.
In the course of her presentation, which she peppered with Freud, Zizek and other modernist footnotes never quoted by his generation steeped in formalist hermeneutics, the old man suddenly rose from his seat, protesting, “I don’t want any part in this!” The outburst was unexplainable, given the professional projection of the guy as a patient mentor.
Was it the neglect of the buzz words beauty, craft, truth that were attendant to literary lectures?
Why philosophizing that turns off creative writing professors?
The following day, he would return her old college manuscripts, adding with a prophetic air that N wouldn’t amount to anything. Unlike his protégés who are busily manufacturing coffee table books.
Today, N is a must-read in a London graduate school, along with Stanley Fish & Fredric Jameson.
She is also set to edit Social Text, an established journal of international repute.
emptied of figures,
of various sizes
hang on the walls
of her mind.
It is the First of December,
21 days before Christ’s.
They say the backdrop
of bright strips of wall paper
that roll downward,
frayed at the edges
with scraps like wood shavings
piled up on the floor,
turn them alternately sad,
joyous, thrilled, nostalgic…
A digital frame electronic device
occupies the middle of the room
for lookers to witness
a road under American skies,
that starts in early morning
& melts, in slomo,
to evening dark,
repeating the passage
like the seasons.
It was unusual
who think life
is full of cakes & balloons…
dare not delight?
The guy is cantankerous, she says,
as if growing old is turning ornery & coarse.
She visits the Church to implore
while elders in society
secretly rob to secure the future.
O She is, by cultivation, not given to anger,
failing to raise her gentle voice,
unlike him who’s quick to censure
as if blessed by a holy sinecure.
It’s only Jesus Christ, after all,
who can whiplash peddlers at the temple.
She’s puzzled why, at his age,
he can’t keep his cool.
Drunk at sundown
as if he can’t hack it anymore.