DEAD ZONE

The old client keeps
mumbling, like the incessant
whistling of the wind.
“Too late, too late…”
The bartender behind the counter
tries to cock his ear
toward his direction,
but finally gives up
at his seeming incoherence:
of course, he has always
been like that,
as if communing with a world
that wouldn’t give a damn.
But at his age,
the bartender muses,
to mourn aspiring for anything –
yet if desire grips the heart,
is he terribly done for?
The bartender shrugs off
the theatrical bathos
thinking he too
would grow old,
like a Garcia Marquez senor,
& get trapped
in stereotypical fashion.
O shiver runs down his spine…
as he wipes the glasses clean,
& be done for the dark rainy night.

2.
They thunder in
Thousands of the underclass
not to listen
to his annual speech:
have they plugged their ears?
O Nothing has changed,
they chorus.
He’s talking to the wind,
this balding president who orates
& beats his chest,
like King Kong,
about his proverbial list.
[O only Dionne Warwick
would the day after
share his sovereign belief]
Plus his circle of bodyguards
who nods & applauds
his PowerPoints.
He is the Boss, after all,
who must toot his horn
& charge outsiders
at Commonwealth & Internet
for protesting on streets
where their voices
raise to deafening decibel,
driving him,
the singular observer
to shut himself up
in the dark, dark retreat…
But can he drown out
the street noise
with Wagner’s concerto –
& wake up the Gestapo
in their burial crypts instead –
or open exorcism books
that churn out asynchronic
discourses
on the future of the globe?
Here & now
are what History deliver
& the throng outside
the Palace
must stand its ground
as riot police chase it
around.

3.
It’s all synchronicity,
Anthony Hopkins
aka Hannibal Lecter,
says it as his personal aside:
What happens
is bound to happen,
in the first place.
O he is delighted by it,
but quickly chastened –
for him, nothing is bound
to happen, anyway…
The wind carries
no tidings at all.
He can feel the ennui
of the heart,
but where is the chill?
Sultry breeze attends his presence,
why does his heart
hardly stir?
O Is he in the eye of the storm,
sitting motionless
like a deserted orphan
in the center of the tumult?
The point, of course, holds
but he would not dare move
lest he lose balance
& fall, fall, fall…
It is as if it is written
in the stars:
she cannot be found
[A needle in the haystack?],
& he is a hawk up
in the sky,
sucked down by a ghostly whirlpool of air.

4.
Gonzalo Lopez, 77
of Madrid had been “scrimping
on a factory worker’s salary”
to save for his brain-damaged
son “who would be cared for”
once he’s gone.
But his savings
were lured by the bank
into a new “new product”
that promised a 7 percent
return.
Now, he has lost everything
along with 300,000 suckers
who “purchased financial products”
& lost a gross $ 10.3 billion.
Yet they blame him
for putting trust
in bankers…
Shoot the bankers, then?
Brecht had warned
the opening of banks
as a virtual tragedy.
O shall we receive with
fanfare & fireworks
the birth of a vampire,
like the monarchial baby
of the British empire?
Like the Greeks
who must now act out
the roles themselves
written by Euripides…
But the protestors
don’t still get it:
Capitalism will always
run off with the people’s money
until you turn out
as zero entity.

5.
“Though this be the last pain
that she makes me suffer…”
The bartender recognizes the line
by Pablo Neruda,
himself a hopeless romantic
who camouflages his demeanor
with his bluster
as he cleans the glasses
& makes out everything
a trifle matter
whether of the head or heart.
Yes, he remarks,
stop being a masochist,
she’s with another stud
right now
while you wail & weep
your heart out!
But the guy keeps his cool, sips his ice-cold beer.
His story is Spartan, atypical –
Not given to falling for women
as if they were a curse,
holding them off
with a 10-foot pole.
O how things have changed.
He couldn’t handle
the amateur grief,
as if his fate were on the line,
the cosmos had singled him out
when he chanced upon her
looking past him,
like the girl from Ipanema,
who glanced at him like air.
What pride, what vanity!
The bartender smirks.
Learn how to swim
with the tide;
the universe isn’t made for you & I.
A slam-dunk no less.
He could only sigh,
O “the world doesn’t end
with a bang,
but with a whimper…”

6.
A.
At Polytechnic
he was privileged
to mentor right-wing kids
of the working class
who struggle with their prose
& logic
& indolently turn
the xeroxed pages of a pamphlet:
poverty
they wear like a badge.
This current state is a slight
inconvenience;
they dream to make it
to Fortune’s list;
Now is just a film clip
of the passing scene…
They are sure as hell
they will succeed
despite the lopsided state of misdeeds
where money rules
& God looks the other way.
So there he is,
stuck with ill-paid instructors,
& slum kids
who loathe their own kind
for being political & radically subversive?
Is this country going anywhere?
Are the youthful survivors
of the system
worth their future in gold?
They, who aspire to be top dogs,
Like their ignorant roots
will surely sell this country
down the river…
O must we pray deliverance
from them who would be
our future patriots?

B.
From the first floor
of the building at the premiere
university,
the recorded lecture in French
wafts down
to the secluded parking spot
on the ground floor.
The bourgeois kids,
scrubbed clean & smelling
of cologne,
mimic the feminine sound
of the language professor
who mentors the future
executives of corporate boards,
But the clutch of students
will never realize
that once upon a time
in the distant past
before they were born,
the mellifluous voice
of General Massu
was barking an order
to his French legionnaires
in Algiers
as they surrounded
the “terrorists” holed up
in the casbah
while black-veiled women
ululated like Hecuba
in the caverns of the ghetto.
Why did they die
under alien expletives
of their conquerors?
They dream,
the future OFWs,
of lazing around in cafés
& sipping exotic tea
as they pour through
the latest pulp fiction
of the avant-garde town.
They shall eventually
be dispersed all over Europe,
never coming back
to the periphery of native villagers.

C.
The Polytechnic kids,
sporting sunglasses & hip-hop get-up,
will come back
from overseas
full of bling & trinkets
as if they have upped
their independent status
in a country still under
the American boot…
Of course, how they
relish their newfound know-how
of things that would
introduce “progress”
to their communal roots,
with their eyes focused
on the horizon
where jets zoom in & out
in search of new beach resorts
& the fabled silver & gold.
These waves of migrant labor
that would sell bodies
and minds for the common good,
shrugging off the list
of corpses in military strongholds
where civilians
cower at guns & heavy boots—
O thy should have known better
than to resist,
they chuckle,
in their thoughts the secret fortune
that still lies abroad.
Who cares about
the posters of dead-men-walking
on walls:
here is our former classmate
who could have been a senator,
there the radical shithead
who could have done better
in the electronic world…
O How they sigh
at a time so complicated & lost.

D.
So, this is the terrain
cognitively mapped
after the gates of hell:
you take the LRT,
then jump off in Cubao
for the connecting jeep
to the edge of the abyss
where urban zombies
crowd movie vans
for some telenovela scene
steeped in populist themes
of gender cocktails & kinky sex.
The hell central itself
is a prison-like compound
of a campus
where juvenile offenders
make out as students
to seal their youth
with cheap diplomas
& break into the multinational
market
whose intelligence
is never at a premium:
connection is all they boast,
because the poor
have only half-baked education
to look forward to
& fly out of the ghetto.
It is as if at home
you are finally relieved
of having survived
the circles of inferno
that ring the classrooms
of hooligans
who insist
with God’s solicitude
& mercy they will be
beneficiary of His beatitude.

7.
But the past
& the present
history of our being
have been paid for
in blood
that spilled in the hinterland
& at the city barricades…
Do we stop the march
if patrols,
armed to the teeth,
block the journey
at mobile checkpoints?
O there is a bigger space
to behold
& kith & kin
who weathered all
disastrous seasons
will forever seize the day—
carrying on through
the night of affliction,
empty stomachs
& dry tears
as a number fall, one by one,
by the wayside…
O the journey never really
ends—
almost infinite & circular
like their will & sorrow:
everyone is a future
conscript
of history that will
swallow, the strong,
the weak, the blind,
the crippled
into its maw.

8.
Looking back:
the memory box
that opens & closes
with psychic worms that devour forgetting:
O how she spat him out
like some rancid meat
He reckoned she could have been
a millionaire by now
if she were born
in Amsterdam
where sex is highly paid for,
bargained without consequential guilt
performed with eyes on profit:
it is pure business
where bodies rise & fall
like the market currency:
& you spread your legs
thinking the future
will be most blessed.
Her body is capital itself
to be circulated,
a banker’s finished product
that will return
with humongous profit
as logically programmed & projected.
If one loses,
that is a risk to take
& she knows it very well…
She could be knocked up
& that would be the wintry end…
O How she flits
from one bed to another
& if she were in Wall Street,
she could be a well funded CEO
where retirement is guaranteed.

9.
In Perdasdefugo, Italy,
the villagers “celebrate
the 100th birthday
of Claudina Melis,”
who belongs to the clan
that “entered the Guinness World Records
“for having the highest combined age
of 825 years.”
They credit the Mediterranean way
of life – “good genes, fresh air,
healthy food, physical exercise…
[&] powerful family bonds,”
that registered
their fabled longevity:
A wish fervently desired by most
to live older than old,
& be witness to the passing
of epochal history.
Truly, a most desired norm.
What if the mind persists
with its fertile memory,
but the body goes out rhyme
with its own state of affairs,
what then?
O she exhausts
the tedium of the day, she laughs,
of her lean, lean years
by moving “from one chair
to another,”
the only adventure left
to explore the vast world
that keeps leaving her behind…
But what if memory
repeats itself,
its bottom scraped of sad, bitter
dregs,
& the body cannot move
beyond its own chair,
what then?

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