The Vargas Café is shut down
for the summer.
Its emptiness of folded chairs
& canopies
triggers a desperate longing
for solitude among upturned tables
but that would be scandalous
as if sitting in the midst of an eerie landscape
of closed counters & absent waiters
makes one appear desperate
for silent conversation.
It’s no big deal really
if the women have gone on vacation
or getting hitched:
he knows the story very well,
about passion that is fickle
or the 7-year itch
that is too damned late to call.
Always it happens that way:
like a cheap movie script,
the café redolent with dead-air,
bereft of human voices
like bad poetry…
But you go on with an imagined life,
as if things
are ever ordinary, repetitive.

She has no boyfriend,
she stammers,
to remind you of what?
He cannot figure out
why she says things
with a sense of impunity:
she must find it fluidly easy
to be freed of minor distractions
like love or intimacy.
But come rainy days
Will she look around
for a body to keep her warm?
She may just retrieve
her old winter jackets
from the closet
to make for a logical chemistry
with contingency.
O How he wishes
he can be so draconic,
never longing for her
who seizes every moment
of his stupid fantasy?

You know
it’s taking a long time
to sink in:
the little guy no longer
waits behind the door
to purr his welcome…
almost like reflex
He turns on the key
expecting his company
by his rocking chair
to ward off the evil
of the day…
He is pure memory now
invisible to the eyes
that are done with silly women
with their picture-perfect faces
& bodies…
How can he go about
as if it’s business
as usual?
Mourning is however a disease
if nurtured:
O How he dreads the time
when he’ll get accustomed
like an orphan
to an infinite absence.

The students wait
for summer to end:
though sharpened enough
to know
playing the game is all
that matters in the academe,
savoring the theories
like tin cans
opened far beyond
their expiry dates.
They’ve briefed on signals
to fire
as they journey toward
the precipice.
But he is well-versed
in the ritual:
he cannot blow the whistle –
they won’t wake up anyway
from their dream state,
(& we all fall down
on our butts).

It’s somebody’s birthday,
the household hums,
triggering Beckett’s hee-haw
of his life –
nothing to prove he has existed
in this century
of anxiety & dread.
A handful of rememberers
to feast on a being,
but the world won’t skip
a heartbeat,
& he stares at his black cup of tea
as if eternity
has gone cold & watery.

The informal settlers
must push the envelope,
as it were,
if they’re going anywhere.
They can stone the demolition team
but time & stratagem
are not in their side.
Trapped in a ghetto
like Algerian guerrillas,
General Massu will have
his way.
What must be done?
Is God watching?
If they look into the barrel
of the gun,
will they see tomorrow?
It is a wager
only the working class can decide.

Always, a hot, hot summer
for those who have barely
lived enough:
how can they bear
all the dislocation & suffering:
brats begging around,
women changing hands,
bums robbing fellow bums…
How can there be deliverance?
When is the tipping point
where the heavens
pulled down by the horde?
If rain comes,
they will pack up
for higher ground,
& start all over again,
like detritus of time…
Unless they remember
their history of origins
& claim like the Sakdals:
We’re holding the line;
Enough! Enough!
Always, a hot, hot summer
for the underclass.

May First is a placebo,
he says between puffs
as he views the marchers
on the street.
They can rave & rant
but they move in circles
as in Kafkan tale.
They never meant to assault
the castle
nor linger at the entrance.
O What must be done?
How should they invent deliverance?
The lordship avers:
Make do with what you have.
twist your bodies to fit
the space.
But the poor exclaim:
It is not always enough!
We cannot be
contortionists as you demand!
Always the state reserves
a strange pill for us
to swallow!
Spit it out,
He counters, with his crimson face,
his fists clenched like an outsider’s.

Centuries ago,
in the age of buccaneers
& empire-builders,
a grand spectacle it was
to witness royal heads
laid on the chopping block –
their red blood flowing,
never blue as mythified,
to the raucous cheering
of the crowd.
never learning its lessons
of medieval gore,
now sees
Londoners & colonial
pay homage to the Prince
& his bride,
like Hollywood opening
a box-office team-up.
& media factotums
from Manila,
hearing the distant
drum of empire,
fly in,
breaking the tedium
of covering informal settlers
stoning cops massed up
to throw them out
of their wretched shacks.

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