A Habit of Shores: Filipino Poetry and Verse from English, 60's to the 90's
So again, my sister bought me an anthology of Filipino Poetry in English a couple of days ago, and, legal woes somewhat assuaged (if you have more detailed knowledge of Philippine copyright law, do post in the other thread) I'll present a lot of the poems here --- gradually, since it's a print-book. The anthology is titled "A Habit of Shores: Filipino Poetry and Verse from English, 60's to the 90's", and its editor is Gémino H. Abad, Ph.D. Feel free to comment on the poems as I go!

Scribe's note 1: How do you indent? I think the indents I used below were a bit too much.
Scribe's note 2: So I tried {=4}, and....well, just look at the contents.
Scribe's note 3: So it's {=4}{space}text! Massive thanks to ray for this.
Scribe's note 4: An especially long update today! I haven't been able to read much of the rest of the book yet, so this thread is catching up! Anyway, some of Fernando Afable's poems had a few typos, the manuscripts Gemino Abad took them from were unpublished, so I corrected them; the corrections shouldn't be intrusive, they all involved only spelling. And for the piece by Albert B. Casuga, the presented copy did not have the subtitle or the prologue, though according to Dr. Abad's notes they were present in other published manuscripts: I chose to include them, as I found them particularly useful. Dr. Abad also presented a few variations of the piece (as well as a few variations on other pieces I've already posted), but I've chosen not to publish them here, to give the especially interested incentive to buy the book, xP.

Luis Cabalquinto
        Sunday with the Smiths
        At Camp Look-Out
        Eating Lechon, with my Brothers & Sisters
        Oil Flame Fandango
        The Dog-Eater
        The Ordinance
        Nassau Lights
        Depths of Fields
Myrna Peña-Reyes
        San Juan
        For E.K.
        Breaking Through
        Red Sunflower
        Ruth Was Not Penelope
        The River Singing Stone
        Grandmother's Jewels
        The Manong and His Dog
        Watchers and Trainers
Cesar T. Mella, Jr.
        The Fragrant Field
Cesar Ruiz Aquino
        Kalisud á la Rizal
        Word Without End
Jason Montana
        Satori, After Reading Sylvia
        From Rituals for Comrade Anna (1950-1989)
Fernando Afable
        The Language Problem
        Letter to the Philippines
        El Camino Real
        The Ice Storm
        Manila International
        In Medias Res
Albert B. Casuga
        In a Sparrow's Time

Luis Cabalquinto


After a supper of mountain rice
And wood-roasted river crab
I sit on a long bench outside
The old house, looking at a river:

Alone, myself, again away
From that other self in the city
On this piece of ancestor land,
My pulses slowed, I am at peace.

I have no wish but this place ---
To remain here in a stopped time
With stars moving on that water
And in the sky a brightness

Answering: I want nothing else
But this stillness filling me
From a pure darkness over the land
That smells ever freshly of trees.

The night and I are quiet now
But for small laughter from a neighbor,
The quick sweep of a winged creature
And a warm dog, snuggled by my feet.



The pond fish have been caught & cleaned
        & I have left their heads on
& Bob says "Ugh!" as Kathleen prepares to
        bake them.
Steve is doing the chickens on the
        outdoor grill
& at a table on the grass in front
        of this white farm house
Vicky and I lay out stuff on the cloth.

When everything is done after an hour
        we all sit down for dinner,
Having earlier begun our wine
        & fruit.
"A fine day for a barbecue party,"
        Kathleen says,
& We pause & Bob says grace.
        I sit sharply aware: I feel & see
Us all, as if apart: I watch from a
        point just above my head in space,
Beside the blue spruce alive with needles
        of light.
We quietly pray, & the bees come to us for
        the wayward wine on our lips.

The sun's long lukewarm rays ---
        & the smells of apples in the yard
& of pears on our clothes
        & of "Shaggy" chasing shadows
Among the yellow lilies ---
        bring a small quake rushing
Towards the end of my fingers.
        I pray that something gentle
& old, involving all of us, should often
        come true: something like today,
Something after this Sunday's mold.



Where the mind turns clean
And light
As sea wind moving into mountain peaks,
I let that other in me free ---
Quickly, he runs towards the trees:
        curious, his fingers explore the lichens.
He rides the breeze, afloat and bright,
        shimmering as a straying bee.
He zooms upon a random-flying bird,
        mounts it, the two becoming an odd object.
He changes into many shapes and sizes:
        gets to be a frond of coconut,
        a graceful broad-leaved fern,
        a bloom in the distance.
He becomes, too, the listening stone, sunk
        in grass.
Finding a solitary sheep, he grazes with it,
        shaking his head, bending his
        tongue into the animal's language.
He meanders among the wild strawberries,
        picking and tasting the half-ripe fruit,
        then spitting it out for the bitterness ---
        like an unlearned mountain goat.
He creates and recreates himself, steps in and out
        of his small and larger self,
        growing more magical with each change,
        with every movement.
Finally losing all distinction, he grows
        to become the mountain itself,
        both the sky and the sea.
Then, finished with his artful games,
        and wanting to return,
He assumes my face again.

Strengthened and fulfilled, I go ---
        carrying that other, peaceful
        within me ---
Back to my busy place, in a lowland city.



What fullness in the life is this which possesses
An October night
In the patio of my mother's house
Eating lechon with my brothers & sisters
At a reunion ---
                We laugh, we dine & wine: my nephews I don't recognize ---
                Grown: my nieces beautiful, with smooth skins &
                White teeth: against my brothers' & sisters' dark
                Middle age.
We are all here, all ears:
I tell them about the Flamenco dancers in Madrid;
How the lights bloom each night in Paris;
How cold the lakes are in September in Switzerland.
I tell them about my disappointments in Rome; how I danced
All night with friends on a canal barge in Amsterdam
Where they served the best wine & cheese.
I tell them, too, about the poverty I saw in India
& the beauty of the Taj. And I tell them specially
About the Chinese friend I met in London & seen again
In Hongkong: the surprising hospitality: the nights
At the Chinese opera: the endless dinners: the eating
With chopsticks in the cold blue dawn at a sidewalk table
In a secret quarter in Kowloon where old men sleep on
                They are here, they listen.
                We all listen, late into the night in the light of
                A full moon over Magarao. We dream our dreams
                Again, brothers & sisters, nephews & nieces, mother
                & siblings: together.
Later, as I rest alone in my room, hearing
My nieces sing of love & the adolescent
In the dulcet tone of my childhood dialect,
I also hear a silence beyond their young
Voices, undisturbed but for the distant bark of a dog.
                I listen & try to take all in
                With a new understanding.
                When sleep comes gently
                I feel at peace: tonight at least, content.



It happened again this afternoon
While watching a Wertmuller movie
In the East Village:
This alignment that comes
Like a magnet's work on iron filings
When most things of the mind
As well as of the body are turned
Toward the one direction
Where all must come from
And where all must one day begin
Again: it comes unsummoned, a shift
Now familiar, a quick
Turning over of an event,
It comes as a small wind in Central Park,
The noontime hammering heard in a Philippine village.
It is an afternoon walk on a rain-wet street in Agra,
Neon lights seen from a hotel at midnight in Tokyo.
It came once from the bend of a woman's body in Rome,
From a late Flamenco show in Barcelona.
Also it came on the Monterey road
Riding the Greyhound from San Francisco ---
And, again, in the odd light of an old man's eye
Photographed in New Mexico.
When it happens a strong grip takes over
In the body: the head becomes light.
The hairs stand on end, the pores open
And currents run down to the palms and feet:
Aware at this moment of a new knowledge
That makes the old truths untrue.
Still, each time this happens,
The clarity lasts only seconds:
Before full possession can take place
Something changes the air, reworks the body:
The mind is dislodges, recalled
To an accustomed disorder.



They have come out to dance --- the mango flames!
And their song has brought perfect bodies --- watch:

How out of the bodies burst doves that bite
And dismember the air, casting it into laughing water,

How arcs of golden bone drum against the hollow trees
And fishes fly swiftly out of their shallows,

How they become winged creatures that soar above the harvest
Before the monsoon rains come running with muddy feet,

And see how behind the bamboo dark young couples make love,
Their long-haired night a woman moved by tongues.



It was the piss on the snow
On a sidewalk in New York
That brought up the thought of a moon
In his childhood: in a cloudless sky,
A clean sphere like a huge new lamp
Under which, for the first time, the boy saw the dog-eater.

It was said in the barrio of San Miguel that the man Jose
Ate dog's meat each day of the week
And the village dogs could tell it from his scent,
That eating dog's meat occasionally was all right
But to do it every day makes you smell like a dog yourself.
But they say that Jose knew that too and he was a man
Who knew who he was and what he was doing.

On the moon-lit night he saw the dog-eater
He heard the barking and howling, first from a distance
Softly, then rising in volume like an accompaniment
To something coming that was dangerous to someone ---
Though not to the boy who eagerly waited.

He saw him from the window of his house:
A small dark man in a dark shirt who walked
Easily, as if oblivious to the noise and commotion
That followed him, as all the dogs in all the houses
(All houses in the boy's village kept dogs
And the boy's house had three) came out
To complain, barking and following the dog-eater
Though they dared not come close enough to do him any harm.

The dog-eater, the light of the moon on his white hair
And on his thin clothes, walked by with his head tilted
To the ground. He never lifted his head
Even when somebody called out his name
And said something the boy did not understand.
He kept his eyes to the gravel road, walking
Until his body disappeared at the bend.

When the dog-eater was gone, the boy looked up:
He saw again the bright moon in the cloudless sky.
He stared at its huge and pervasive presence ---
Its color like the color that many years later
He would see on a patch of snow
On a sidewalk in New York.



Stepping out of my apartment building,
One early morning, I meet a poem
Being walked around the block by its master.

I follow them.

At the corner, the poem stops and bends its hind legs.
Something drops to the pavement.
Another poem?

I quicken my steps.

But before I can reach the fallen object
The poem master notices it.
He turns back and takes out a poem scooper.

In one sweep he scoops up the new poem.

He sees me coming and hurriedly
Slips the scooped poem into a pouch,
Then wipes the pavement clean.

Keeping an eye on his poems, the poem master
                moves away.

Later, at the newsstand, I pick up the paper
And learn what this is all about:
A new ordinance passed, banning poems from
                littering the streets ---

To promote public hygiene and better relations
                among the citizens.



We are conscripted by the moonlight as
Witnesses to its fine postulate on the kinship

Between our human skin and this earthly sand:
It calls out to other lights of the mind.

We see a starry night's outstretched hand
In the quick outline of a gesture, of a lover's.

We get punchy in the sudden joy of this freedom
From the closed-teeth watching of ourselves.

And now we look at the glitter of a wave approach:
One more light to join us, to bear witness.



I walk some hundred paces from the old house
where I was raised, where many are absent now,

and the ricefields sweep into view: here where
during home leaves I'm drawn to watch on evenings

such as this, when the moon is fat and much given
to the free spending of its rich cache of light

which transmutes all things: it changes me now,
like someone restored to the newness of his life.

Note the wind's shuffle in the crown of tall coconut
trees; the broad patches of moon-flecked water ---

freshly-sowed with seedlings; the grass huts of
croppers, windows framed by the flicker of kerosene

lamps: an unearthly calm pervades all that is seen.
Beauty unreserved holds down a country's suffering.

Disclosed in this high-pitched hour: a long-held
secret displaced by ambition and need, a country

boy's pained enchantment with his hometown lands
that remains intact in a lifetime of wanderings.

As I looked again, embraced by depths of an old
loneliness, I'm permanently returned to this world,

to the meanings it has saved for me. If I die now,
in the grasp of childhood fields, I'll miss nothing.

River, thank you for sharing these.  I really enjoyed all of them.  

Some parts I especially liked:

from Hometown: "On this piece of ancestor land, My pulses slowed, I am at peace. I have no wish but this place -- To remain here in a stopped time"

from Sunday With the Smiths: "I watch from a point just above my head in space, Beside the blue spruce alive with needles of light. We quietly pray, & the bees come to us for the wayward wine on our lips."    and also  "bring a small quake rushing Towards the end of my fingers. I pray that something gentle & old, involving all of us, should often come true"

ALL of At Camp Lookout:  "strengthened and fulfilled, I go -- carrying that other peaceful within me --"

from Alignment: "Aware at this moment of a new knowledge that makes the old truths untrue.  Still, each time this happens, The clarity lasts only seconds: Before full possession can take place Something changes the air, reworks the body: The mind is dislodged, recalled to an accustomed disorder."

from Oil Flame-Fandango:  "and dismember the air, casting it into laughing water."

from The Dog-Eater:  "it was the piss on the snow on a sidewalk in New York that brought up the thought of a moon"  what an opening line!  

The Ordinance deserves its own thread.  It is my favorite.  "At the corner, the poem stops and bends its hind legs.  Something drops to the pavement.  Another poem?"  LOL!!! Just, yes.  Big Grin

from Depths of Fields:  "Beauty unreserved holds down a country's suffering"  

Again, thank you for sharing!   Smile
The Soufflé isn’t the soufflé; the soufflé is the recipe. --Clara 
(09-20-2016, 04:51 PM)RiverNotch Wrote:  Scribe's note 1: How do you indent? I think the indents I used below were a bit too much.

You seem to be using [=8] to space out. You can use smaller ones like [=4] and [=2] and even [=1] or any combination.
Also: There needs to be a space after the square right bracket. Like this:  [=4] word   and not like this  [=4]word

When everything is done after an hour
[=8]we all sit down for dinner,
Having earlier begun our wine
[=8]& fruit.
"A fine day for a barbecue party,"
[=8]Kathleen says,
& We pause & Bob says grace.
[=8]I sit sharply aware: I feel & see
Us all, as if apart: I watch from a
[=8]point just above my head in space,
Beside the blue spruce alive with needles
[=8]of light.
We quietly pray, & the bees come to us for
[=8]the wayward wine on our lips.
That's one way to change it, but that's pretty laborious unless you use the "replace" function on your text editor;
then it's easy. Sometimes, if you're just pasting it in from your text editor, it gets the spacing confused. Be sure
you're using actual spaces and not tabs, it doesn't seem to like tabs from some sources.

I'd ask billy, he knows a bit more than me about the spacing as I always use the old-fashioned [=x] because it's easy
for me to do search and replace on the whole damn thing.

P.S. Really do enjoy these. Nice clean stuff, simple and direct... and as profound as life. Smile
almost terse
The Ordinance is my favourite so far - love it!

(09-21-2016, 10:25 AM)just mercedes Wrote:  The Ordinance is my favourite so far - love it!

The final two couplets of Depth of Field. Wonderful.
Myrna Peña-Reyes


The goat that used to bleat in our yard ---
her throat slit, her hide burned
and scraped by neighbors
for the feast of San Juan.

At the water pump in the sun
they wrenched coiled colors
out of the wound, and bared the ribs
of the ivory goat on the ground ---
from a distance they were hanging
pearl necklaces on their arms.

When they held her neck
did she make a sound?
It was screaming, I thought,
when I covered my ears
and heard myself.

The fires burst under the pots
and dogs fought
over singed hair and blood.

Later, from far away,
friends called my name, singing
with guitars to the sea.


(Who Lost His Father in the War)

He had been dead a week
When you found him
On a mountain ledge;
The flies buzzed louder

When you piled dry boughs on them
And shooed away the scavenging lizard
Who glared at you
Before it crawled away.

You pushed a bloated arm
Into the flames that crackled
Over his body ---

And remembered the fireflies
He had caught in a glass jar
For a proud boy
To carry around at night.



Haltingly I undo the knots
around your parcel that came this morning.
A small box should require little labor,
but you've always been thorough,
tying things tight and well.
The twine lengthens,
curls beside the box.
I see your fingers bind and pull,
snapping the knots into place
(once your belt slapped sharply against my skin).
You hoped the package would hold its shape
across 10,000 miles of ocean.

It's not a bride's superstition
that leaves the scissors in the drawer.
Unraveling what you've done with love
I practice more than patience
a kind of thoroughness
I couldn't see before.
I shall not let it pass.
My father, this undoing is
what binds us.



I remember Mother lying
in the room forbidden to children.
We could stand at the door
but not go in. No matter.
Outside, fields and trees stretched our days.

One afternoon restless with the rain
I stood at her door.
She smiled, then beckoned.
Under the gauze on her breast
a red sunflower burst and bled.
Her other arm stiffened
like the black branch of a tree.
I ran as she called my name.

I stayed away that night
when they gathered in her room
and called the children near.
They said there was nothing to fear.
But as I listened in the dark
that red flower opening beside me
bled and burst
the black bark on its tree.


For Bill

Ten thousand miles west
the moon rolls out of a warm sea,
grazes the palm fronds,
then catches up with the stars
where it hangs silver clear.
The streets fill up with children.

To be your bride
I came where summer is a season
that burns itself too soon.
Now, I start to feel
the winds blow colder each winter.

When I talk this way
I cannot be your Ruth.
I was a child too long
ten thousand miles away.
Will you understand it when I say
that there, forever,
I could be your Penelope?



Through brush and over boulders
we followed the sound of water
hidden in the trees.
The natives we met on the narrow trails
carrying chickens and bananas
to sell in the city answered,
"The waterfall? --- not too far,
after the next hill."
We walked to the hill, and the next,
and the next.

You were annoyed.
You had said you would find it easily,
having gone there often in your youth.

We stopped counting the hours,
kilometers we walked uphill and down,
forward and back, pursuing that sound.
We couldn't just follow the river ---
there were boulders, thickets, cliffs,
and we, no longer young.

Winded and sweaty, we rested.
Such trickery --- was it near,
did we hear the roar of the falls,
or just the sound of water
squeezing through boulders,
pounding rocks into pebbles,
grinding gravel into sand?

But it was late.
We had to go home.
We listened
to the river singing,
the river singing stone.



On her sick bed Grandmother talked
about her lost bracelet,
the diamond ring borrowed
by a forgetful cousin,
her rice lands taken
by the travelling casino
she had followed from town to town.

"Enough, enough," her daughter answered,
"You can't take anything with you,"
then left her to a servant
who gossiped away the days
with the maids next door.

So it went for years ---
Grandmother, with eyes thick as stone,
saw nothing else
but what had been,
complained she was alone too long.

One morning when she failed to ring
they found her too quiet
in her cold and shriveled skin.

Now, twenty years later,
hardened by deafness,
my aunt remembers those jewels, the land.
I listen.
Anything is better
than memory silenced
in a frightened hand.



10,000 miles and 50 years away from home
his is a small room
in a kababayan's house,
a place for young immigrants,
not O.T.'s like him ---
Their college English
puts his accent down.

His friends
long settled in dim hotels near Chinatown
grow distant. "Get rid of that dog,
salamabits, he's too old," they say,
old men who'd stopped saving long ago
for that trip home.
They have no need
for smart-mouth doctors or nurses
who have it easier
than their railroad-hopping,
apple-picking years.

It's for his old dog no hotel would take
he stays with strangers,
pays higher rent ---
for some things he'd left behind,
though he and his landlord's family
have less to talk about.
They tell him
Manila has hot dogs and high-rise homes,
escalators in large department stores,
jeepneys and buses on crowded streets.

There were horse-drawn calesas
and streetcars in '33.
He remembers the province,
rice fields, and birds
bringing a cool dawn,
long beaches and warm seas
where dogs and children shake the water,
the family he left ---
who would be there?

Asleep, stretched close against his body,
his dog whimpers, dreams running,
paws quivering in stride.
Fenced in by city yard 
jumping's what he did best,
but that, too, has grown less.
Sleeping and dreaming mark their days.
Somewhere the old dog runs,
taking them closer to home.



The newsboy-cigarette vendor,
peanut-popcorn-popsickle man
thrust their goods under our faces.
Too tired to talk,
we try to turn away.

It seems the loading
will never end.

Shouted commands
the grunts of stevedores
chains and pulleys
moving crates of Coca-cola
cerveza negra kerosene cans
rank sacks of copra;
the mournful bleating of carabaos
hoisted by their horns
onto the open cargo deck.

We turn to the children
diving for coins
we throw into the heaving sea.
One gives all to his little brother
who watches from a pier
naked and missing a hand.

It seems the loading
will never end.



How much longer?
For over a year we've wondered how the pup
we found freezing in an alley
(Bantay, we named him, the Watcher
who terrorized the newsboy
but not the postman who saw through
his hundred and fifty pound bluff,
"all bark," he laughed), at fifteen
is older than our years combined.
Now, we watch over him.

But for those numb nerves in his back
and hip bones out of their sockets,
he looks forward to supper and treats,
tracks movement and sound,
craning his neck from the floor
on his foam rubber pad with the fake fur cover
lined with absorbent Peach-Sheet and chucks
we replace over and over.

Sometimes, coming home from jobs,
we feel resentment rise
when he gestures anxiously
with front paws and head, sighing loudly
from his soiled bed.

And so once more we turn him over,
freshen up his acrid body
with Baby Wipes and rinse-free shampoo,
rub him dry with paper towels,
re-line his pad with new absorbents,
then ease him back on his good side
and bring him water.
He thanks us with his clouded eyes,
and we see the dog
who would bark at contrails,
who slept by the bedroom door
we kept open on hot August nights,
who jumped into bed with us
when the thunders stormed;
who did shake hands, salute, sit up pretty,
snuggle, roll over,
dead dog.

Nursemaids for God-knows-how-much-longer
we put off the final decision;
each time he has us trained
to find our way with grace
to that same end.

Great stuff, RN.
Is there a poetic tradition in Tagalog or is English the language for most Filipino poetry?
~ I think I just quoted myself - Achebe

"Nursemaids for God-knows-how-much-longer
we put off the final decision;
each time he has us trained
to find our way with grace
to that same end."

these are wonderful poems
almost terse
To reiterate that edit in the first post, I tried {=4} in the contents, and all I got was wonksy stuff. Am I doing something wrong?
My favorites of the stuff I first posted are The Dog-Eater and The Ordinance, while of the stuff I later posted, San Juan and The River Singing Stone. But there is plenty, plenty, plenty more to go.
@Achebe: The poetic tradition in Filipino (though Filipino is for the most part structured like Tagalog, it does incorporate a lot more words and junk, being the main thrust of the whole national language program the former president Quezon initiated, so that our official language is more appropriately called Filipino, Tagalog referring only to the language of the region --- or at least that's why my teacher in Filipino literature told me) is much older than that in English, but I don't see many poetry collections in either Filipino or English. One of the complaints of Dr. Abad in the book is that some peeps think the pinnacle of English literature in the Philippines is the short story, and even though the anthology is a great way of proving otherwise, searching through bookstores leave me only dry wells, the places are either too expensive or commercialized. And as for Filipino poetry -- I'm a bit of a bad egg concerning our national language, as I seem to be more comfortable thinking and speaking in English, even as I was raised to speak in Filipino! Maybe it's because of all that cable television I watched as a wee lad ------ but here's two notes: most bookstores here have specific sections catering to Filipiniana, so whatever the case, Filipino literature is much harder to come by here than English; and the anthology I got came from my University (may have even been sponsored by it), so as much as it is representative of English poetry made by Filipinos, and even English literature as an organ of the nation's identity, it's not really representative of popular taste. I did have a look through my University's press service the other day, and they had a bunch more poetry collections in there, although their titles were English, so I assumed --- they were modern, and at that time I was looking for the prequel to this book, A Native Clearing, and only that book, having only a student's "salary", which contains English poetry written by Filipinos from the 1900s to the 1950s (thus I think containing Jose Garcia Villa, whom I feel like you've already heard of).
(09-23-2016, 10:37 PM)RiverNotch Wrote:  To reiterate that edit in the first post, I tried {=4} in the contents, and all I got was wonksy stuff. Am I doing something wrong?

Short answer to this as I've got to go somewhere will read rest later.
It's [=4] not {=4}
And it only works with 1,2,4,8 so if you want six you need to do a 2 and a 4.
And the other weird thing is it needs a space between it and the word.
Right:  [=4] word     Wrong:  [=4]word
Kinda pathetic, but it does work.
almost terse
Ah, the spaces. Let's see.

Cesar T. Mellar, Jr.


Daylight is gone and the nightwind
screams in my heart,
howls to the trees of fire.

November is so active in this town
of corpses. The candles sing
as in churches in April or on wedding days.
I have covered my typewriter,
nailed my mind on the doorway of darkness
to be alone while I embrace you.

How colder than the rains you are
now dawn is bleeding
and funeral tongues are scraping candletallows
on the moveless grass.



This field will never brown, neither will it
        ever grow arid,
Nor cease to be fragrant, nor in the dawn
When the sky is orange,
Cease to glory in the bursting light
And let the birds come wheeling in the air.
Do I care for more? This field is love enough
        for me.
It yields me everything.
A plate of rice, a bowl of coconut milk;
Some fresh vegetables, and fish from its watery bosom
More than what my body's basket can hold.
And for my soul, you ask?
Each dusk, by the flickering candlelight,
In my bamboo chair, I sing with Tagore.


Cesar Ruiz Aquino


It seemed from the dead that I rose
To retrieve my body
As an executioner would
His rope.

I looked at you, drowned
But for the lidded gaze,
The bright birds roosting
Beneath your limbs.

It is thus that our eyes would meet.
Always I'd look at you, long gone, and day
Hoods my face like moonlight.



What shall I do if she suddenly asks
Me for verses? Leave it to the weather?
Describe the available moon --- whether
Waxing or waning? Alas, the Muse basks
In her absence! Invisibility
Of invisibilities! all is in
Visibility --- the ability
To begin only is amiss --- no sin
In itself except that by Hera she
Is so mine to write, O so meant to be
The word I cannot word, the nightmarish
Love of love of love by which I perish ---
What shall I do if she asks me for verses?
Aye, how shall Death be if I cannot write?



East, all memory and all the yearning
Lost. But how dawn performs the glory,
Overnight perhaps pondered the bone
Valley, where love and paradise grow.

Vouchsafed the word, the heart for story
Early seized God's incredible morning,
Looting the universe of the horned moon,
Of the owl's hooting, of the worm's glow ---

O Love, upon these passwords that borrow
Virtue from lovers, grant it a starry
Evening to beat, forever and a sun-
Lit day, when even winters are burning.

Love, for a day, be the tetragrammaton ---
Open only the vanished places, blow
Vendavals and let the last one tarry
Even as the sands and there's no turning.



Forests and rivers by her dreamed
Breast, the fire of secret moons
Whose limbs heal the very words
Whence they flow, and when at rest
Bank, all imponderable finitude, the foaming
Tide of stars. The mirror long-kept!
The windfall of her sleep stirs the beasts
And I leap in rage across the void.
How can I touch her when she has fled
Inside me?
Like a lost tribe in marches of love
And terror I have wandered,
Grown old alone.



I dreamt the sun no longer just rose and set.
It nudged the moon, playful at the whiteness.
It zigzagged, spiraled, yoyoed. Played possum
When God stirred at midday, at the brightness.

It went sideways below the horizon
Creating an endless sunrise and sunset, a sun
That played hide-and-seek, peek-a-boo
With shadows. And the fish jumped and the birds.

It played hooky, drifted away and wandered
As if in search of its origin, farther and farther
Till it twinkled and I heard the river
Ambushed by the universe that had fled within.

I heard your shout from the other side of the world
And you sounded younger. I heard the mermaids.
The grass. The hand. Picasso's three musicians ---
But the star was coming home in a dawn in which

Sun moves towards us, not round.
How can the sun do this? Wake as I might
The miracle held out. I heard the cock crow
You awash in sleep, incredible in the light.

(09-27-2016, 05:57 PM)RiverNotch Wrote:  Ah, the spaces. Let's see.

Yeah, you got it.

And... are these great lines or what?:

Looting the universe of the horned moon,
Of the owl's hooting, of the worm's glow ---


I dreamt the sun no longer just rose and set.
It nudged the moon, playful at the whiteness.
almost terse
Jason Montana

For Sylvia Mayuga

In a mountain barrio far from the Palace, I sit
By the window open to a wide morning shining
Like a baby's eyes. I watch Red fighters play ball
With civilian youth. I hear a medical officer
And kids singing in a battered school house.
There is a welcome trace of a typhoon in gutmo trees.
Rice field and rooftop warm to a sun in a Red area,
And I think of Sylvia of the hundred questions.
Who asks: in the stage of the defensive, what have
The people gained from gunfire, hamlettings, executions?
Who asks if the people aren't tired of the civil war,
Their hopes crippled by the deaths of loved ones
In a house divided. When do we drop our weapons and walk
The ways of peace? And begin to restyle our lives?
She recites a poem filled with dazzling whiteness
Of our people's greatness. Flowers, beads and icons
Crushing tanks and toppling a dictator. Force of sheer
Spirit stunning the world and shaming the pride of guns.
She suggests we own the imperfections and weaknesses
Of victory and pursue creative models of non-violence:
Of metanoia and aggiornamento, glasnost and perestroika.

Comrade, pardon the rough language of our urgency
And anger and the silliness of our revolution.
But churchman and monarch have built grandstands
And temples on the plains of EDSA. They would have us
Stay in the strip of earth where the world is vast,
And glory in a moment when a whole future has begun.
Better not to mention what you have seen in a corner.
Consider that I'm preparing for a literacy class
This afternoon. Consider that the village folk shall
Discuss land rent reduction and cooperatives tonight,
While the militia guards against fascist intruders.
Consider that the enemy launched bloody operations
Here only last month. Comrade, I place your poem,
Fluent and haunting, in the bright pages of my mind.
But I say that to be human in the armed struggle
Isn't a koan anymore. O, I could be wrong! But
The peasants refuse to be padi fish in dark creels.
Consider the view from my window. In any tiny piece
Of earth, transfiguration is not resurrection.



In this circle of holiness comrades create
We celebrate you: Word of woman and Cadre
In the people's name we claim you once again.
For the healing of our brokenness, you are.
For the creation of new humanness, you are.
Somehow in a grand mystery are we redeemed
And received into greater life: Weakness to
Your courage --- that we might be strong.
After the singing of our poets, and silence;
After the witnessing to your joys and sorrows,
A lighted candle and your picture are passed
Around. Your light consumes the darkness.
And grief communes with a sea of fulfillment

        I gather your Beloved
        Space of word moment of flesh
        And here is all I have
        Mementos and scents of intimacies
        Memory of a thousand faces
        Presence in the eyes of our son
        Gestalt of shadows
        Death in disguise
        The rest of you homeless
        As clouds and flow of rivers
        To my touch O come
        Trace me poor in spirit
        Filled with a naked self
        And the certitude of stars

Every event of you that I have known
Returns to make you whole again.
Your death is merely a distant mountain,
Imposing but harmless. I am well, Beloved,
Ready to pursue the good work of the people,
To help finish this war we hate so,
That all might have life, and abundantly,
Free as the wind and just as the rain.
There are new tasks and forces and strange
Arrangements without you among us. Still
Are there flowers and poems and people.
And all our martyrs are carefully honored.
I love the sky that breathed you last.
I love the earth that drank your blood.

Who can stay mementos of wind and surf,
The rustle of leaves and sparkle of burns
We once noticed? so many flowers and clouds
Touched, and ideas we designed together?
In so much music and silence do you live.
I meet comrades and acquaintances who
Would share a word to complete your story
And there you are. You snap like a twig
At every turn I take in the people's war,
And stir like freshness from old love letters,
Like flash of insight from common patterns.
I remember how Deity travels, rising
From sunlight or birdsong, and moving on.
My heart opens that you may stop and rest.


Fernando Afable


Though a poet can choose his words,
he cannot choose his language.
        For R. B.

When we were in Dumaguete
for the workshop of '62,
tired of combing interminable
beaches of white sand,
one night you arranged with
the pianist-pimp of the North
Pole (the only bar
in that cane-sugar town)
to meet the native Dumaguete
whores. Through the dark
we trundled down, tipsy
but half-afraid what if
our pianist-pimp was also
a rogue? We would have
lost our petty cash
in this southern port
where only visiting critics
and poets spoke English.
He was, though he haggled
a stiff price for the girls,
an honest man, it seems ---
somewhere, the calesa halted
deep in the night, long
after the asphalt streets
run out. The ramshackle
two-storey whorehouse
seemed too rank a place
for a proper loss of virtue,
but just turned twenty
macho poets can try:
outside the pimp waited
with horse and whip for cash.
Since then, we have blushed
at other minor farces,
our friends abandoned verse
to keep their novels in suspense,
and we have seen our lines
thin out in air:
but how can we obscure those
damas de noches?
Drunk, and trying to screw
the woman from Dumaguete
you could hardly see,
your shout rattled the paper
"a language problem!" You couldn't
get what you wanted because
she was too innocent, or wise,
or didn't understand English
or whatever language virgin
poets try on the world
weary women of the south.
Too late to be apprentices. We are old.


To Patricia, March 21

Outside the snow
Falls incomprehensibly
On a day of spring
By the calendar. We wish
For winter, home,
Who fancy relief
From tropical rain,
The fidelity of lead
To tree all year, dust
Blighting the vision ---
Faith in the crystalline snow
To cure the ills we feel
One season bestows.
Yet should chance winds
Blow blizzards that-a-way,
Winter were not enough.
After the novelty of
White-mantled islands,
Those far latitudes
Would sigh for spring.


(Paso Alto, California)

Headlights push El Camino
north and south through the night,
where, faithful to their maps,
they find their destinations
like sleepwalkers returning
without hazard, to their homes.

Cruising El Camino tonight
to fill up time, or your mind,
which is empty as the night sky,
you smile because you know
you can't get lost if you're sure
you don't know where you're going.

Before you find out, dawn
breaks like a surprise and
the night lies abandoned
with your wife, far north.
You are tempted to drive on,
the road grows on you like

a tapeworm, but your stomach
squirms for dinner, resentful.
You call home collect; your wife
fills the phone booth with tears.
Almost drowning, how can you explain
an empty mind drove you to Mexico?

And you turn back, abashed,
homing in your home, gaunt,
yet prodigal with your speed.
Sleepless, your wife is haggard
when she takes you in, saying
"you left the lights on."



After the ice storm,
though the world glowed

as if with a half life
under a fluorescent moon,

and though the new year
had just stepped forth,

it was clear to my dog
out for a walk tonight

the year ahead was just
another year of the dog.

So puzzled! that the earth
lay under seamless glass

and was so rudely purged
of smells and squirrels.

Is the heaven of dogs
a maze of odors, leading

to sex and buried bones?
Does it have suburbs

where voices (yours and mine)
call them by their names?

As for my own --- my heaven ---
it's such a fragile place

only doubt sustains it.
I was looking ahead

for the dull patch
of least slippery ground

when a silver maple
crackled like dry flint

to shed its bark of ice.
I saw it craze

into shards of moonlight
and fall. Then came

a wind so ether-sweet
I turned the other cheek.



Tagalog crackles on the intercom
In Cook County Hospital, Chicago.
In the night shift, patients overhear
Strange accents, a miniature Manila.

One Filipino nurse survived the night
A psycho went on a killing spree
And slit sex other throats; by playing dead
She lived to put Manila on the map.

"Tagalog on the intercom, in Cook County!"
New immigrants exclaim. "Only at night
When Filipinos work the graveyard shift;
At dawn they return to their highrises."

Rotunda, cine, calle, mas o menos ---
The fluid Spanish cognates filter through
To mix with other Pre-Hispanic syllables:
Ang buhay dito ay parang pangarap.

But here, on charter tickets headed home,
We speak our common public language, English.
Two sisters, speaking the clear, nasal sounds
Of children educated in America,

Implore their father to take off his hat,
The calabash he left Manila in
Twenty years ago. "Forgive," he says,
"And have another round of diet free."

"And have another round," that ease of idiom
We learn from friends, or late night movies.
"Forgive," uttered with hesitance, a true
Tagalog sentiment blurred by translation?

"The hat is only for landing, you know I never
Would dare like this to walk the streets of L.A."
"But papa, you're so conspicuous here ---
You're not a farmer on the wrong flight."

I listen to the passengers converse about
The bargains of Hong Kong --- of fine perfumes
And solar watches digitizing time ---
The presents they would rather not declare;

And hear, behind their English, other measures.
Landing, we shall shed this second language
And slip into our first, original tongue,
Haltingly, like speech after a long silence.

Descending from the stratosphere
Of Pan American, we finally touch ground.
We brace against the torque of engines in reverse
And spill out to encounter Customs.

"You often become an American," are words
So often heard they've lost their edge, like faces
Embraced so close they seem a part of us
This homesick chartered visit home.



These days, Teiresias, find me in the doldrums.
This started out as my last meander,
A final junket before going home,
But here, becalmed on this moonscape of lahar,
I ask if seers are tricksters in disguise
Who should be taken with a grain of salt.
To walk inland, to the most remote precincts,
The sitio interior, where my battered oar

Would meet the curious glances, Teiresias,
And be mistaken for a winnowing fan,
And on that virgin soil to plant my oar
Then tack towards the sunset, westward, home,

To sweet Penelope and her waiting loom...
I thought it had such mythic overtones,
The right elixir for a mid-life crisis.
"Yes! Odysseus has been here. The shabby oar
He planted like a banner in our sitio
So absorbed our luthier: he packed his bags

And left his wife and kids to find the tree
That yields such parallel lines of grain
To make a fretboard for a new guitar..."
Such consequences of my enterprise,
So unexpected, so absurd, and yet
So fitting, I should have argued, Teiresias,

When, after landfall in this orient pearl,
Outriggered dugouts met me wading in,
And like an undertow that tugged me seaward,
My self-effacing goddess, Athena, whispered,
"What country flaunts the longest shoreline
Yet has the least amount of hectares?"

In my haste to walkabout, I missed her drift.
I headed North. Always the natives told
Of people just a few days march away,
Shy swiddeners hemmed in by mountains
Beyond the reedy swamps of a central plain.
And so I walked and heard the same story:

A few more rosy fingers of dawns, beyond
Those switchbacks, after those distant ridges,
Across that valley, past that smoky mountain...
I've walked, Teiresias, past this central plain,
Across a neck of land, to swelling ground,
Then greener mountains, peak on peak, and met
Those mountain men, walking down, to trade
Some starchy tubers for a bag of salt.

I persevered; but found, deep inland,
Some thing or other sea-born, finely wrought,
Like lustrous combs of mother-of-pearl
Fashioned to keep a young woman's hair.

Some say the journey, not the arrival, matters,
Yet I have wished, like a boy sent off to war,
That I could learn to be away from home at home.
I long for home, among other places,
But am cursed with the shark's wanderlust,
And cannot pause for long, lest I retire.

I'm weary shooting the breeze with barrio captains.
If truth be told, they'd say too much rice wine
Has fried my brains. "I'm just an academic,"
I say, "trolling around for grants, another thesis.
I'm here to look for quarky allophones.
This Grecian oar's a footnote from another trip."


Albert B. Casuga

Poems on the Death of Gen. Antonio Luna y Novicio, Soldier

In 1897, Gen. Antonio Luna was exiled to Madrid. He had just denounced the Katipunan and some friends like Rizal, Alejandrino, et al. out of anger. His Spanish captors told him --- during the reign of terror that followed the discovery of the KKK --- he was betrayed by his compatriots. A year later, after studying military science in exile, he came back to the country to volunteer his services to the Revolution against the Americans. He was subsequently appointed Director of War. His obsession of creating a disciplined army and his desire to make up for his disavowal of the KKK brought him untold frustration and consequently his death. On June 5, 1899, that fateful day of his assassination, Luna rode towards Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, responding to a summons purportedly coming from President Aguinaldo. He was accompanied by Col. Paco Roman, Maj. Simeon Villa, and some 25 cavalrymen. Upon coming across a broken bridge on his way, the impatient general left his retinue behind and kept his date.

He is that fallen lance that
    lies as hurled.
        --- Robert Frost, A Soldier

1. Confessions Before a Broken Bridge

It is my grief pursues a habit of death,
The weight of a mountain rides me down.
But blood must be avenged --- if blood it is
Would still the violence knotted in my gut.
If men should die at all, they must be pure:
The crag that breaks for them will be.
But these rocks, this grass, this brackish cove,
They shall not take me. I shall not even die.
Earth vomits the gall of its memories.
I am a memory bitter to the bite.
    Forgive me.

2. The Exile

It was cold out there, Pepe, hermano querido.
Madrid, Barcelona, Catalan --- Manila ---
How could they ever be any different,
My anguish knew no country but death.
Your fall at sparrow's time was as much as mine,
The bullet from my gun.
It is our passion devours us.
    Ourselves our war.

The Revolution was a bastard son, Rizal.
Denying it, I found myself becoming one.
Was it this fury we dreaded most?
Or was it the son we refused to father?
When born, we disdained to patronize?
Was it because it had its mother's features?
Revolutions are by paps of ignorance mothered.

3. Luna Shall Overcome!

        His vile temper felled him.
                --- D. Esquivel

No, Señor Presidente, it is not in our habit
To be spat upon while offering our haunches
For rending and outrage! Faith must end
Beyond the whore's bed and that cuckolded Bay!
If Dewey had fooled us once, let us,
I demand of this assembly, be the wrath of God
And cut the Yanqui balls asunder!

What? Are they still yapping at Malolos?
Caloocan has fallen! Calumpit imperiled!
Send for Janolino to shore La Loma up.
Torres Bugallon is dead. What?
Pedrong Kastila is sore in bed?
What sort of harlot had he?

It is your kind, Tomas Mascardo,
Deserves to be caponed!
The Macabebes have sold out to the Yanqui,
And here you are sucking nipples
For your breakfast!

Paralysis. It must be this plagues our war.
Like castrated chicken the Cabinet asks
For Yanqui armistice! Has Mabini gone limp, too,
In his head? We should never surrender
Our birthright to die free and unafraid!

Remember this, Buencamino! I could have
Crushed your manhood bit by ugly bit
For begging your troops turn to maricones!
What? And leave them lap the Yanqui stool?
O you small, weak men better born as rats!
Tell Shurmann, tell Mabini ---
Luna shall overcome!

4. Deathwish Kept: June 5, 1899

        There was one, Diego Esquivel,
        Who witnessed the carnage.
                --- Julio Villamor

Some afternoon dread becomes this heat
That singes the Convento where he fell.
On this branch should his rended arms be at,
On that flagstone should his plucked eyes tell
How blindly stared the blinded rage,
How soundlessly shut the windows there.
Was it some passion play on a barren stage?
Was it some cruel theatre of its audience bare?

Here, touch the crack slithers on this tree:
Your fingers should trace a slosh of brain,
Cold drip of sap now blood on cold machete.
The afternoon's dread is an afternoon's pain
Dulled the laughter caught in the horseman's throat.
Was it man slain there, or was it heart done in?
Was it vengeance sated, or was it deathwish kept?
Was it fallen man cried helplessly: Assassins!

Or was it slayers fell where slain had spat:

5. The Habit of Mountains: A Dirge

"It was his grief pursued the habit of mountains:
It moved the world with quietness.
    Quietness moved them.
No dearer madness there is than which he died for:
A will to perish in time and manner he chose."

"It could not have been any kinder than this falling,
A manner of bargaining one's way
Into a choice between a kind of dying and feeling dead ---
No option for us who learn, too early perhaps,
That death prorogues a dream of fancy
Or a prayer of willing our pain to stay
The ramrod poised to rend our days descending
Foglike upon us decreeing silence for our bed."

6. To Find Sons Become Spittle: an Epitaph

        But can courage redeem stupidity?
                --- Nick Joaquin

There is a manner of returning to the root
Explains the virtue of a hole,
Its quietness the petering circle.
The canon of the cipher indicts us all.
And you, rocking yourself to an eddy,
Drown the deathwish: O that grief
On sons' faces could tell you all.
"Will courage be visited upon my children?

It is this cut whittles the tree down,
Not of consumption but of fright
That bereaving is one's splintering
Of children's bones. Death then is our betrayal."

They are sons gaping as grandfathers die
Shape the gloom of the breaking circle.
They who knew the frenzy of the bloodcry
Must never return to find sons become spittle.


If y'all's haven't noticed yet, I do add to the first post every time I post, it bears the contents -- and also, it contains a few scribe's notes, the most recently posted I think is kinda important.
RN, I couldn’t help but shed a bitter tear on Watchers and Trainers
I’m all sentimental about suffering children and dying dogs.
But it’s a beautiful poem

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