“Two former military officers
were convicted…of murder,
kidnapping and torture”
at “El Vesubio” prison
during the 1976-1983 military
junta’s dirty war on dissidents,
which officially claimed
13,000 lives”
& where “Col. Pedro Alberto Duran
regularly raped female prisoners
and forced them to live with him
in rooms of the compound.”
Should the victims applaud
that finally the jailors
would be clapped in the stockade?
Will the wailing stop?
Life sentence to atone
for pain, humiliation & death?
But lining them up against the wall
is an easier way out,
some contrapose.
Let them brood over their acts
every minute in the prison house
& hear the spiralling groans
of the disappeared…
Yet nothing is enough.
It will not bring the dead back.
No, no, no!
It is not always enough!

In Azerbaijan,
the oil-rich government —
which raises the hackles
of the “Facebook class,
young people with wealth,
education and time” —
does it differently:
no crude water cure,
no electric shock…
Just a simple rap
of hooliganism
to merit time in jail
& release back to their family
that has been cut
from their state jobs:
friends suddenly shy away
from ordinary contact,
wives divorce their husbands
to stay clear of sufferance…
The protesters
stay in their rooms,
as if marooned on an island
of perpetual half-light,
vainly reaching out for others
who will not dare speak,
much less touch.
In Azerbaijan,
they torture with velvet gloves,
stuff throats
with dead, dead words…

In Manila,
they are still egging on
the military
to come up with Burgos,
Cadapan, Espeno…
They deny the charge,
protesting they are innocent.
But everybody knows
the brutal truth:
they’re dead to the world,
silenced by officers
who tremble in their boots:
if they opt out of the shadow
the light of day
will blind their eyes shut…
They have burned
their corpses
& in unmarked graves
buried the bones…
O they still roam around
with their medals,
but crossing their fingers
that evil holds
& the country maybe forever lost.
If only families
with lovely children
would link hands
& raise their voices.
But they feast among themselves
at the table,
oblivious of the monsters
living next door…

The desaparesido’s mom
screams at the retired general
who denies the crime —
torture, kidnapping, rape,
et cetera —
& will not glance
at her hysteria.
It’s their field day
for propaganda, shrugs the defendant,
as family & kin outside
pelt with tomatoes
his tarpaulin portrait
& his President
who ceremoniously promised
The judge admonishes,
her lawyer to keep her down —
her noise breaks the court’s
magisterial countenance.
But how do you hush
a violated heart?
Smile that justice is finally
at hand?
She has been waiting
a long, long time
for her child & buddy,
knowing painfully
they will never return.

“He’s a cheerleader
for the Revolution.”
The guy says
as if he has found a knife
to cut the old gentleman down
who has drumbeaten
the cause
like it were a religion.
Facts are ambiguous
but depressing,
old fogey admits.
It has always been
a “bad hair day”
for militants
since the ‘80s.
The students massed
at Palma Hall stairs
are not his kind of crowd:
generations of short-term drivers,
guide to surf the Internet
for overnight solutions —
Do they listen
to the speaker with a bullhorn?
They are listless,
break into groups
then disperse, as if to shrug:
They have heard it before.
What’s new, pussycat?
The gentleman isn’t perturbed.
As it were, patience personified.
As if he has waited
all his life.
at the end of the road
for some beautiful surprise?

He has been in Africa
where famine stalks
the inhabitants;
has not rained
for two seasons now.
There isn’t a drop of water
for miles around.
A mother has to wet
with her saliva the scrap of food
to squeeze into her child’s
dry mouth,
its belly swollen with imagined mud.
O they are living at the edge,
the Unicef official says,
& are pushed over the edge.
He does not elaborate,
as if bewailing his lack of words
to explain how parched throats
can still allow
the painful passage of human sound…
O How could they ever survive?

As he leaves Katag,
he curses himself
for buying the cheap food
served at the cafeteria:
meat cubes swimming in lard,
bottle of water exorbitantly priced…
There again,
he’s on a guilt trip
as he hears the sad, sad news
on TV,
among others, the taxi driver
who returns the 400 thou
custom-built shoes made from snakes & crocodiles
by a movie star…
O how it hits him like a stone!

Well, he tells him,
in professional tone
it’s disaster for militants
to marry off —
Always romance gets
in the way.
Raising a family
isn’t on the Spartan agenda
to change the world.
Children will hold the couple
for their lost childhood.
No one is always home?
In the hollow of their hearts,
they are abandoned!
Is this the curse of the albatross?
O who will understand
among the generations
the agony for posterity,
as in Brecht’s,
of warriors turned barbarians
of the holocaust.

They are clueless:
the Manila Zoo helpers,
the veterinarians,
the manager,
the visitors who marvel
at the living spectacle
& intone animals
like to live
in artificial habitat,
behind bars.
They have survived
through the years:
isn’t that proof enough
they’re worth
the profit from ignorant eyes?
Not so, Pete vehemently objects,
elephants & tigers,
snakes & birds,
all animals need space
to roam around
& explore desire.
This is freedom,
elixir of revolution,
but one-eyed bureaucrats claim
cages are fit for the inferior
O if only the Zoo guards
were also housed
in a penal compound…

A Kafkan world
with revolving doors
& no one is in control:
when the whistleblower
Sean Hoare of London
blew the lid off
the phone-hacking scandal
that fed Murdoch’s
“News of the World”,
he was commended by
the public
protective of the privacy
of victims & survivors…
He however inexplicably died
as if he had committed a crime.
The billionaire shrugs
he has nothing to do
with the tabloid’s malice
& imagined lies.
In Manila,
tandem bikers come cheap.
What make truth-tellers
turn around
from stonewalling the evil tribe?
High-stake gamblers?
Truth for a price?
Loonies with kamikaze drive?
All of the above?
Always the die is cast:
Rizal in Luneta,
Pio del Pilar at Tirad Pass,
Lorena Barros in the countryside.
Children know,
but adults don’t
it ain’t cool to tell a lie.

Allende, forensic experts say,
committed suicide
as Pinochet’s troops were about
to close in on him at La Moreda.
He had sworn never to be
captured alive,
firing his “assault rifle
that was held between his legs
and under his chin…
blow[ing] out the top
of his head…”
It was a popular myth
that fascists gunned him down —
they probably wanted him
to show the world
they’re fair, never brutal —
they who obeyed
the CIA order
that assured Pentagon
imperialists could freely extract Chile’s
Through history’s details
could be rectified,
never however the lurid lesson
that the coup symbolized:
He who protects
the people
risks his life
as long as Wall Street interests
are justifiably denied.

Sinatra on early morning radio —
& suddenly
she was there
like a gale that violently breaks down
the door of his mind.
Has the old pain returned?
He has steered clear of her
but the world forces him
to make her imaginarily real
like a child held down,
to swallow a spoonful
of cod liver oil
& cure a fever.
He can’t understand —
the farther she moves away
the closer she turns…
Torture it is,
never that filmic romance.
& he wonders why
the breeze, so cool & soft
to the skin,
can be so rough & violent:
remembering is a medieval rack
that pulls apart his arms & limbs,
silently imploding his heart.

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