DARK YEARS

1.
His face tightens
when the student asks
if he has names
who can talk
about the Martial Years.
He is too young
to experience the sordid past,
anyway.
But he can’t rattle off
anyone within
his ancient memory:
the past is too distant
for the details.
Most have gone separate ways,
a few have been devoured
by the cause,
a number have been coopted
by the state,
the rest of the tribe
have moved on
as if gripped by amnesia,
like a blank page.
Mao is long gone,
China’s bureaucrats
want their pound of flesh,
like Shylock,
& would claim Spratleys
their domain.
The high road to socialism
is a field of landmines
but for the hold-outs
in the islands
who zig & zag through
the forest trail…
What icon to recollect
through the forgotten years?
Times are never the same:
Hegel gives way to Marx,
Descartes to Zizek,
Einstein to Hawkings…
When he woke up that fateful morning
of 22nd
[the Dictator
had craftily delayed
the martial proclamation]
the radio was strangely dead.
Heavy silence hung in the air
like a concrete curtain;
rumors bristled about soldiers
in military trucks
parked all over the place;
activists waved flags of defiance
only to finally retreat
as they were clapped in jails…
The television boomed
with the President’s baritone…
& he dashed off
with family in tow
toward an aunt
who received them without question,
never accusing them
of bull-headedness for
the moment’s perdition…
They eventually survived
the conflagration,
mourning in secret
friends who fled & disappeared…
O How he wished
to drink the nectar of forgetting
because a wound
must never be opened raw again.
If only it were a matter
of celebrating a grim occasion
every September
to warn the young
never, never it should happen again
but it was an episode
in a helter-skelter life
on an anxious run
that worn out even the hunted.

How has it been since?
They manage to slog
through it all,
bearing invisible sears
on minds & bodies.
Mornings are slow to respond
to the lightness of being
under the sun,
aches & panes crawling
like tendrils of vine
in remembrances
that quiver like an insect
pinned to the wall
as the radio pushes them
to embrace the day
like they were butterflies
shooting out of cocoons.
O Even if they’re stuck
with a leader
who claims the need to unwind
in his Porsche
while he stirs his coffee,
sighing at his meager subsistence.
O If only he could smash
the ash tray against the wall,
but that would be cheap theatrics,
he was not cut out for the play.
He carries the day
like bricks on wheels,
can only grimace
as if burning in a mental furnace.
Done with living?
Yet life is too damned precious
to lose, even forget.
Silly it will be to cut wrists:
there’s the human race to finish.

Even while children,
baring their milk teeth,
bury themselves
in Neil Gaiman’s narratives,
he lugs his satchel
of bad poetry
for no one in particular to read.
His is the history
of the forgotten,
brief on loving badly
& desiring impossible objects.

2.
The survivors of NY
Twin Towers,
spires of Babylon,
thought it was the Armageddon
when skyscrapers
turned to rubble
in the blink of an eye.
& who will forget
the billow of concrete & bodies?
In the aftermath,
the world went on post-traumatic shock:
a bureaucrat enlisted in the Marine Corps
to even the score;
a flight controller lived adrift on a boat
to forget the spectacle;
many changed their lifestyles
& shared blessings with the homeless
while laying wreaths for the departed.
Surely, they were shocked out of their wits –
but in Iraq, Vietnam, every terra incognita
where soldiers clash,
the wretched victims morn theirs, too,
praying that drones & marines
may forever end their mission.
O if only, as in St. Augustine,
all believe in evil
is in everyone’s heart,
not exclusively on others we denounce,
we can be slow
to countenance
the dropping of hi-tech bombs.

B.
On the site will rise
the tallest building in US,
a dirty finger in the sky
at anyone
who can be racially profited
as potential criminals
who dare challenge the Empire.
3.
Who must have done right?
Splitists are raking it in
for trucking with the establishment:
they’re experts of the game,
never regretting the parliamentary swing.
Spawn nowadays
can opt to be partylist congressmen,
hobnobbing with dirty politicians
& talking the talk of ideological schism…
But comrades rot in jails,
having pursued the line
of encircling the city
from the countryside.
But how should one have
survived the martial holocaust?
Who remembers the many
who perished?
Children of the streets
can only watch the fall of die.
How long must the truthful endure?
Even the shrewd & wicked rule:
silent crime is their iconic signature
& the weak can only squirm
with their internet voice:
one guy of wisdom may come along,
but hundreds of fools back up
the evil warriors.

4.
A.
In the interregnum,
she has to return
to the university
to finish what she had left
decades ago:
she must earn her keep –
her first born has his own
family now
& can’t fork out an extra penny.
After all, where was she
when he was growing up
& making something of himself
all on his own?
She was engrossed with
the revolution,
so he must take it out
on her
for having suffered
an orphan’s affliction.

B.
He left the movement,
reconnected with state institution.
O How long has he been penniless?
He has expertise & skills
to serve him in good stead,
& shouldn’t beg for pittance
from strangers.
The passion of his youth
cannot warrant a pension:
the revolution’s fruition
can only be his secret wisdom.

C.
So he’s decided
to go legit –
he must wage combat
on another front:
Capitalism, after all,
is only for those
who can juggle options.
Not a matter of conscience,
but working within traditions
of holding poverty at the door,
investing on his failure.

D.
She managed
to warn herself
into the confidence
of taipans,
& succeeded accordingly.
She has her own
earthly possessions now,
far from the days
when she was a cadre
& her children
allegedly suffered the pangs
of hunger.
She knows no better now
than to hide under
a nom de guerre.

E.
As if to shock
the listener
in his midnight conversation,
he avers
he hasn’t abandoned
the revolution.
His voice slurs
but it makes up
for the imagined hurt:
it still happens everywhere –
Libya, Tunisia, Egypt
in varying forms.
Akin to first passion,
an addiction
that surpasses limits,
& his heart will only be
at peace
if the pursued realizes
he has all along been faithful,
despite the contrary allegations.
Is it insinuating
a sexual attraction?
No, he shakes his head,
it is more than
a Freudian fixation,
a dialectics of choice
& will,
synergy of heart & mind
that cannot be dismissed.
He hurriedly leaves
as if he has lost
his head
for overconfessing –
he who hides
behind perpetual silence.

E.
I.
She is finally given tenure.
A new regime
has seen it fit
to have her reinstated
after the department
booted her out
for breaching protocol:
she had raised the alarm
about her two students
who were picked up
& salvaged by military henchmen
in Bulacan;
she had not sought permission
from the chair & cohorts
for her spontaneous act:
What where they
Big Bosses for?
She was a brat,
with criminal behaviour,
& should not be spared
the rod.
No, they refuse to be tagged
small-town fascists,
simply interpreters of the law.
A collateral damage herself,
like the desaparesidos,
but who will confess
to the moral impasse,
gross ideological error?
Academics
with fancy titles,
who weigh facts
with their sense of justice?

II
She’s virtually broke.
The university is hard put
to decide if she’ll be paid
for her three-year hiatus.
But her mother had a stroke –
now she has to attend to her
by sleeping on the floor
of the charity ward.
When will her saga
of perdition ever end?
O lesser souls would have denounced
principled resistance:
if it doesn’t pay, they say,
to be firm upright.

5.
Martial rule
is the refuge of scoundrels,
& they are legion.
Resistance is an antidote
yet the revolutionary code
is full of semantic loopholes.
How do you keep
hope forever burning?
Every generation
has its own map of cognition,
continuity has different
looks & fashion.
So we seek signs
to forestall misfortune:
should we pray
for cosmic beatitude?
It would be a gambler’s choice,
not a logician’s,
that won’t define revolt.
What is left
for a layman then?
How could Mao
have persisted with his grand design
when apostates
wait in ambush
after his demise?
Philosophers can only diagnose
the social disease,
but never the cure:
anything utopian, beautiful
could only end up as windy fable.
So we live
twixt iron gloves
& hands with olive branch,
twixt the cult of peace
& the cult of war.
6.
A.
It’s been
Breaking News since,
this war on terror
that, for Henri-Bernard Levi,
is “war without army,
without frontline, and so on.”
It is everywhere
America feels threatened,
civilians under siege
by an invisible enemy
who lurks at every corner –
schools, cafes, neighbourhood,
churches where multitude prays
in joy, sorrow, solitude
because terror lies in every heart
that warmly beats
in fear & trembling…
But Washington is milking
the tragedy dry:
replays of burning Twin Towers
& people fleeing –
early risers “about to get on
with their everyday routine,”
stunned & bewildered
that morning –
are accusing fingers
at the dark minorities
who were also speechless
at the infamy.
Yet America saw it before
decades ago
when village children were
running naked, napalm eating
into their skin,
in the green paddies of Vietnam.
Will it take forever
for the lesson to sink in
that all victims
in Asia & Africa
relive as they breathe
the terror of New York?
War, after all,
is essentially evil,
debases all of mankind,
rues the French philosopher
who saw it all
on the battlefields.

B.
Americans simply
cannot get it:
they have believed
the democratic hype
they are verily
pacifists at heart.
Surely,
the death of innocents
is “unimaginable evil,”
but Washington
bureaucrats
tearfully argue
they do not deserve
the mass murder,
anyway.
How, outside its turf,
America is viewed
with mixed fear
& loathing,
allowing imams
to twist Islam
& rally the blind
behind the divine plan!
A dollar
to the piper
for a way out
of the metalabyrinth.

7.
There is contagion
stalking the land.
Filipinos are spellbound
there is lesser evil now
that the martyr’s heir
has become
leader of the pack.
But desaparecidos
have remained in
their graves,
generals are free
to fuck around,
people still bellyache
about the cost of living,
& taipans
are rampaging bulls
who breed labor discord.
Has something changed?
Was there ever
a tipping point?
Have the hacienda
tillers
lost their desire
to own the land?
He seeks refuge
in the “procedures of the law,”
but beggars have prayed
long enough
to expect deliverance.
If they look the other way
& tire of waiting,
what now
for the boy who stays
in his suite
& wakes up late?
O How his collections of music
soothes the nerves
for the job that is
too heavy, complicated.
There is a silent outrage,
but he won’t believe it.
Only activists,
not of his Jesuitical choice
spark the malicious discontent.

8.
A.
He is reduced
these days
of intermittent sun
& rain
to kill time
at Vargas
where they serve
Americano hot
while he coldly
stares at the trees
around
that sway gently
with the slow wind.
But time can never be
swallowed up.
He can write
all his silly poems
yet never be
at all relieved
of pain that
is metaphorically insane.
What salvation then
from ennui –
poet’s hype
as despair
of unique metaphysics –
that parallels
the soul’s disease
gnawing at
his heart & spleen?
This waiting
for nothing,
which does not exist?
On the table
are the day’s papers
full of gory events,
& he wishes
to crumple them
into a ball,
they never have solved
any problematic
why, for instance,
he is alone
waiting like a fool
while people jostle
at the museum?
Like a picture
mounted on the wall
whose familiarity
nullifies meaning,
a trigger for saying
the same old things:
again, again & again.
But he returns to
the café,
like an addict
who hopes for a new high,
something cool
in the flow
of events.
Again, again & again
to stare at the trees –
listless
but heavy with
perpetual silence.

B.
His is a state of mind
engendered by events:
he moves at a fast clip,
doesn’t have time
for tears & cheap sentiments.
He doesn’t even claim
being savagely sad & mean.
He doesn’t sleep:
he slows down time
by boozing himself to death –
& that is deemed an accident.
He functions like a machine,
being soft is not his element.
He crosses his fingers
evil may have its blessing.
Robbers kill & state lies –
that is the order of living.
In a poor idiotic country
where fascists comfortably reign.

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