DOG DAYS

1.
He relives characters
of his literacy idol,
Ernest Hemingway –
so when he found a typewriter
in the residence
of the sportsman-hunter,
he would imagine his alter ego.
uttering:
“Once you write it down,
it is all gone.”
As if he occupied the space
of articulation
of the Nobel prize winner.
Was he Jordan?
in fiction
who virtually lost his lover
in the Spanish Civil War?
He thought he was stuck
on the same boat
to make a wish
for memory to turn blank
like a desert of sand,
O much like the storm
that obliterated the towns –
he must file away
like dead cases
in the cabinet of his mind
the passion –
& writing a god-sent blessing
from despair?
Never to stay longer
in a moment
that keeps flitting by…
The yellow pages
of word that flutter
in his heart
would only trigger a sigh,
even a secret smile…
O who would dare remember
that long ago
when he had wished to go mad
like an abandoned child?

2.
There he goes
gazing at the ruins,
his youth flashing by
like an apocalyptic film
backward rolling …
Here was the street
where he would play
with his fun knife,
to look
tough & ornery
& scare juvenile enemy.
There, the old house
where he had a glimpse
of a woman
far older than he,
hovering beyond his impossible fling.
In the distance,
the church tower
no longer rings
with its bells robbed
of their solemn evening.
No, he could no longer bear
to walk around the deserted town –
only ghosts would greet him
howling like the ill-wind
in his hollow heart.
Returning was a mistake:
the journey to desolation
should not have been taken –
the wound would never heal.
But forgetting is only a balm
that would not allow
the hurt to stop the maggots
from crawling out
like a cup of sorrow
overflowing with poison.

3.
Why did she have to come back?
Her family?
Old friends?
They’re all gone,
sucked into the depths of the sea
like flotsam
when waves roared back
with a vengeance
to claim the innocent &
the damned…
She was not however
shocked at all:
it was at the back of her mind,
grim possibility
like the gust of wind
that ruffles her hair:
when a town mate
informed her the mother
had died 10 years before…
Did she loosen her grip
on her homecoming gifts
& let them fall on the crowd
who cheered with sanguine welcome?
Was she too busy
with her life
that her mother
had gone without a formal goodbye?
This was tragedy twice over.
She would go home
empty handed,
weeping like a penitent
in a silent corner of a convent.

4.
A.
He didn’t hear
from her
even when the signal
from the site was turned on.
His sweetheart
wouldn’t text back
unlike the others
who mercifully narrated
their tell-tale woes?
Was she dead?
Did the sea in Leyte
claim her for its own?
No phone would ring:
nada, nada, nada…
So in youthful desperation
the young lad committed
suicide…
There was no future
without her by his side?

B.
He stood up
as if from a long deep sleep,
to pick up the pieces
of his ravaged life?
He groped for the hammer
& pounded on the twisted iron sheet
to shield him from
the rain over his head.
No relief is in sight,
but there is no moment
to squander under the fallen sky.
No one but himself
would pick him up but his own bootstrap –
He must survive the silent lamentation;
plug his ears & shut his eyes
on the gross devastation.

5.
Thousands of miles away,
across the continents,
he heard it loud & clear
in Hollywood,
as if there were Martian antennae
on his head,
the mumbled plea & moan
of the poor & suffering in Leyte.
He had everything going for him –
money, fast cars & women –
but what was this maverick
doing on that day
he called for ROWW,
a cause he founded,
to check on the poor & unlamented?
He was everywhere:
in Haiti, Chile, Oklahoma,
where he had so much
fieldwork to do…
O He was too young to turn
into a legend
in a life that didn’t
dare speak of his fast & furious
good.

6.
Suddenly, the kid
would sit up from bed
as if gasping for breath –
sweating & shivering:
In his dreams
tonnage of waves had
threatened to swallow him up,
his lost parents & playmate
that would make him
desolate, despondent.
He could not be comforted,
no one could.
His dream of terror
was ever his enormous
solitude.
The old woman would
wait out his solitary,
interior storm,
and then tow him out
into an ocean of air.
He could not stand, she mused,
the sound of waves…
He’s seized with fear
whenever the rain dribbles on the iron sheets.
The old woman sighs,
herself a victim
that threatened to shut out
the liberating light.

7.
They will reconstruct
the ravaged town?
But will they purge the despair
from the people’s psyche?
Money will be allotted
for rehab,
but how do you doll up
the tattered heart?
The beast of fear
may suddenly dash out
from the promise of delight?
Time, time, time
to settle the issues of the past:
the flattened terrain
must not suffer again
from mining, feudal land,
only revolutionists
can justly spurn the technocratic plan.
O Takes time to compress
infinity of pain
into a millisecond.
O when will the register
of despair expire?

8.
He set up a soup kitchen
in front of the ramshackle house.
O How hungry they were
to come out in droves
for canned meat
swimming in macaroni soup
in the spirit of Christian
beatitude.
O the neighbourhood
where he grew up
can’t possibly open canned goods
with their bare hands…
They were quick to line up
like school children
to savour the communal feast.
He never felt coming home
would be so damned calming
like he were Christ
from the cross descending.

9.
A.
Mass graves are dug up
all over the place.
They have to “collect”
the dead like garbage & shovel them
into the communal pit:
the stench of the corpses
betrays death
as truly mortifying
& infection from corrupted
cadavers
may destroy the living.
But O the missing & unnamed
must deserve some ceremonial
blessing
under a layer of disinfectant
so the survivors
could pay them a visit
when kinsmen are gripped
by sentiments
about the purpose
of God & heaven…
None deserves to be
forever unmarked
in the forever night
of all existence.

B.
Thank god,
the storm had paused
between rain & wind,
between shadow & flesh
when the water broke.
After frantic moments,
a baby screamed
in the dark air,
rising above din of despair.
It will be baptized Yolanda
as if to honour the tumult
& soften the blow of sorrow:
dog-days later,
it was deemed the sun would peek
out behind the clouds
& fill the emptied hearts
with positive ions
of hope & desire.

10.
Butch Guerrero
must have thought
Christmas was just around the corner
& decided a drinking session
with a visiting chum in Davao
would make for a lighter mood.
Amid the news of devastation
he caroused with Choy
for old times’ sake,
but in the merriment
a thief stole away in the night
his pouch of medicine
that should have come handy
when the shadow brandishing a scythe
ripped his heart out.
So suddenly did he leave –
he had stories to write,
a film to shoot,
friends to love…
Was it a gift of heaven
for himself to spare him
future tragedies?
Or friends who would be quick
to smile back & forget?
Who would intone whatever eulogy
it is for someone
who had gone on a cosmic journey?

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