CONUNDRUM

1.
We must stop
writing love poems,
the bartender
winks conspiratorially.
Only stupid young poets
do that.
They can sniff our decay
a mile away
& hear the bark
of Bolano’s romantic dogs
from the region
of our hearts.
He grins,
having parodied his poetic
style.
He wipes the spoor
of beer dribbling down
his lips.
Pablo Neruda,
in his old age,
shifted to shafting
dictators
in Latin America
who dragged his people
through mud & stones
of impunity & sloth.
But the people
never seemed to rage
against the past
when criminal lords
ruled the farms & urban sprawls.
Do people forget
so easily?
Oblivion the Rx
of all perdition?
O The children must be saved!
Lu shun lamented
as if ancient trolls
have come back
from the jungle & suburbs…
Is poetry ever a solution?
Will words mean anything?
Is it a hyper valued commodity?
Duh.
They stare into the beer mugs
while shadows stream
into the windows.

2.
But, of course,
who remembers
May 4, 1919
nearly a century ago
when “a massive student strike
forced the Chinese government
to reject the Versailles Peace Treaty
which have ceded to Japan
the province of Shandong.”
The young intellectuals
saw through the ruse
of foreign colonialists
to give control to Japanese
militarists a piece
of the homeland…
So much like in Manila,
where Obama must be offered
the access treaty;
the activists must rage
against being sold down the river
by their elders in Malacañang…
O that was the order
of history in his time,
there in distant Mindoro
where his family had to
make both ends meet,
stuck in rustic poverty
& millennial despair –
O there was nothing to look
forward to then
in the heat & dust
of summer that hovers
with perpetual silence
like buzz of locusts in his
ears.

3.
Should he act out
the secret plea
of Barrabas
to the other guy by his side
for a free ride
to the undiscovered region
of his mind?
The one at the center
had lamented
he had been abandoned,
after all,
& left to the mercy
of centurions
who speared
brutally his side?
Barrabas couldn’t accept
the verdict he should be
nailed to the cross
for brigandage
when the Romans had stolen
his sacral land.
He could only
say to the guy in jest,
why not include him
in his journey to the so-called
paradise?
Hell is bad enough;
he could only cheat death
by seeking the confidence
of the man called Christ…
O Does the world
move on without
moral & logic…?
How should he fathom
his dire existence?
Such was centuries ago –
he, too, had the same
bucket list
that he would forward
via a postmaster
sauntering in the sky…

4.
In the labor market,
he finds himself
trapped in the graveyard shift,
stuck with street kids
who claim, that being poor,
God must have loved them
as if salvation can be had peacefully,
by praying to Yahweh
for the blessing of knowledge
to serve them in corporate hell.
They’ll be rewarded
by heaven by settling for
the silent order of things.
O How they love
to support the crippling system
they aim
to beat
from inside?
But the darkness around
allows them a blindness
to navigate the terrors
of the night
as if the inward sun burns brightly
in their eyes?

5.
& the women?
The sirens who ululate
in simoom of air?
How foolish can you be?
The bartender teases him.
O they will play you around,
twirl you on their pinkies
& drop you eventually
when a dude in white convertible
drives by…
Cinderella they all are,
awaiting their Prince Charming
who will fit their glass stiletto shoes
in the Palace…
Did he believe his ears?
All is truth
from him who knows
the ways of the world.
The women are floozies
who have run off
with lesser bums
& opened their legs
with all the virtues
of a sacred harlot?
O Damn him who falls
in love so easily –
a sucker to cheap charms,
a knight with rusty armor
& ghostly horse:
O If only he could laugh
without suffering hurt…

6.
The day will pass
like any other…
In the neighborhood,
a wake blazes
in the heat of summer –
the children of kinsmen
who paid homage to
the departed,
play in the shades,
flirting like secret lovers.
O Oblivious of the state
of familial mourning
where elders drop their voices
to a murmur
& talk about the harvest
of flowers to beautify
the circumstance of the day…
Then the burial
at Lemery where the deceased
practiced her medical craft
to the unfortunate…
Nameless folk
in cheap vans flock in to pay homage
& bid her a final farewell.
O But this day in April
will be eventually forgotten –
crossed out of the calendar
to give way to marriages
& baptism to break
the ritual of mourning…
O Everything will come to pass,
the first rain of May
will wash it away
in coming torrents
of floodwaters
& laughter will again reign
like a happy disaster…

7.
In this dive,
they give free passage
to celebrants of natal day
for the buffet table…
In his mind,
he had reserved empty seats
for beloved figures of his
youth – old companions & pets –
who have passed
into the light…
The living are busy with
their own lives,
fortifying their career
& familial loves:
will they send messages
over the cell phone?
Nah, at his age
he has learned never to hold
expectations…
He can only hear the ticking
of the clock
& the premonition
that the gift of life
is strange & often unjust.
The earth spins
on its merry amoral ways
& he could only watch
the mob wave & curse
as day turns into purple dusk.
Where are the women of
yester years?
Who triggered immeasurable
desire?
They have morphed into bitches
& sluts.
How can the orange seasons be
unforgiving & black?

8.
It must be a rare occasion
for the buffet table
is heavy laden
with food from certified chefs
who seem beyond reach of
native expertise:
intimate guests had invited him
to partake of the feast
to give him a feel
how gourmets live –
as if his time hovers
on the edge…
The good, good life
his ideological sentiment
would not dare permit?
To suffer Christ-like
was never copacetic…
O What is this vice
that sounds Calvinistic
his grandmother
fanatically practiced
like a vise?
To indulge the body
is to feed the spirit
that seeks pleasure
in sybaritic trip.
O let vanity be damned!
Should he languish
like a monk in the monastery?
But he cannot help it
if the world is in flames!
Mendiola is burning
Obama & Aquino effigies
to impress upon
the lords of the realm:
They the public
cannot countenance
the onerous exchange,
the access pact,
O the foul, foul deed!

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