SURVIVOR & OTHER POEMS

1.
A.
“I had something better to do,
which was to keep silent,”
Groachino Rossini,
who composed “Guillaume Tell,”
& retired from the operatic scene
for 40 years,
quipped, adding,
“I belonged to my time,”
in his conversation with Wagner…
To be barren
like sand in the desert
which was once a radiant forest
is natural a fate
of vegetation
prey to cataclysmic climate
to death & desire…
O Such is brutishness of life?
& Rossini only conceded
to Time’s crippling grip.
He’s done;
he couldn’t follow
the second Act,
lest he repeat himself
like a vintage
gramaphone.

B.
What happened?
she asked
when they bumped into
each other
after a long, long while.
He couldn’t answer –
it was so long ago
& he had forgotten
the joys & sorrow
of a distant time.
Things do change,
he philosophized,
why she whom
he was willing to die for
suddenly
turned him to stone.
Is it the parabolic human condition?
In a crowd
she would stand out
but he, as quickly,
would lose her
like needle in a haystack.
O It wasn’t written
in the stars:
Rossini stopping
on a dime
in the heart beat
of desire.

2.
You can’t sit easy,
propping your feet
on the table
to contemplate the world
outside.
No longer the era
of Virginia Woolf
who pleaded for women
to work in a separate room.
The site today
is a bloody battlefield
& you live off
dodging bullets
in a crossfire
to survive.
Then you write
fast & furious
in a space
of the interregnum
larger than your mind.

3.

A.
Yes, postmodernism
plagues bureaucrats
who air the bragging right
to claim freedom & truth
behind the rostrum.
Then retreat
into air-conditioned cubicles
& rage against the world.
The hacienda peon
will just look up
the open sky
& see the jet screech
across the blue
like a comet,
as the white-collar dudes
wing back home
after the seminar.
Of course,
they need to reconcile
facts & figures,
& ways to draw up
plans to combat
the dinosaurs…
Yes, it’s payback time
for whatever they owe.
But peasants
vulnerably welcome
compassionate hands,
fraternal voices
of alliance.

B.
From all over America,
Fil-Ams protest
at the Chinese consulates
the “invasion of the Spratlys.”
Lay-off our sovereignty,
their placards
scream in bold letters.
But white police
are quick to disperse
the migrants
who sing the national anthem
with fervor burning.
They love the country,
a guy snaps,
whose heart stays
buried in native ground.
But someone drawls –
who wants to stay put
in Manila
where squalor & cacique rule
morph into an animal
that menacingly growls?

4.
Too late the lover,
he shrugs
at the dude
who mopes in a corner.
It only happens
in romantic novels:
to bite
the bullet
& regroup.
Time is never on his side –
women come & go
in his Michelangelo heart
& he can only watch
the shadows
like a bodyguard:
he cannot question things,
his duty is never to poeticize.
Lest thinking kill him
like a poet
who cuts his wrists
because it suddenly dawns
nothing meant nothing,
no one knows why.

5.
Or he can commit himself
to something higher
than himself,
lectures Edward Said.
“Truth or freedom”
that makes all truly human?
They are still counting bodies
on Tahrir Square,
looking for the disappeared
in Bulacan…
The order of the times
for those
who blog
to all & sundry
“The Beasts are back!”
& the innocents
must close rank.

6.
They are seriously considering
returning their luxury cars –
after having been dragged
into the quagmire of scandal.
They, from the start,
have been clueless
since Rizal,
telling themselves
they do justly in the service
of God
& the all-embracing Church.
O if only they didn’t look
so well-fed & sacerdotal
like Palace officials
so we lowly worshippers
would have religiously believed
faith overwhelms
the doubting Thomases.

7.
It took awhile
for her to text back.
What did he expect, anyway?
Was he impatient?
As if he knocked on the door
shouting, “Anybody home?”
Yet there wasn’t anything
to rue, anyway.
He was full of illusion.
She had looked
with her eyes
saying, she is easy to forget
if he doesn’t commit
the fatal mistake
of mistaking friendship for love.
[Says a signage on the lawn:
Keep off the grass.]
O How he had tortured himself
with fairy tales…
Thank God,
He’s an old survivor,
an ancient galleon
tossed by the waves
adrift from the harbor.

8.
She was married to barracks discipline:
her two sons in uniform
who were ambushed in the countryside;
her husband, a colonel,
who left her much earlier.
She would smile when
they met at the office
& he would suspect
she felt like spanking him
for being a regular truant …
Her demise was carried
on Facebook,
& he couldn’t make it to
Crame for the final rites”
[O How he abhorred
visiting the camp
that still bears marks
of authority & seizures …]
But she’s gone,
last mentor of his student days.
Prof. Clara Ravina,
who gave him an incomplete,
must be looking down
at him
holding back
a tear.

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