Monthly Archives: May 2009

Train of Thought


Today I received a copy of Train of Thought, an anthology of poems put together to record a unique literary exercise.

Here is a quote from an article, Get on board the ‘Train of Thought’ posted a good few months ago.


The “Tulaan sa Tren” project, which began in August to promote poetry to Light Rail Transit commuters, will soon reach school teachers, libraries and creative writing institutions after it was captured in book and CD form.

“Through the book, you can savor the poems for heavier reading,” said Andrea Pasion-Flores, executive director of project proponent National Book Development Board (NBDB).

“Tulaan,” she said, was such a success that it had gained attention from The New Yorker online, which said playing poetry on the trains gave the publishing industry a well-deserved boost.

By immortalizing the project, Flores said they will create a more lasting impression by distributing the materials to the academe.


My poem “Train Ride” was included.  This other article from Bulawan Online lists all the other pieces in the anthology.  According to the bibliography this poem of mine was also included in another book, One Hundred Love Poems: Philippine Love Poetry Since 1905, edited by Dr. Gemino H. Abad.  I wonder if I’ll ever see that book.

Unfortunately Train of Thought which comes with an accompanying audio CD of the readings that were played through the PA systems of various train stations is not for sale to the reading public.  Hmmm.  There must be a profitable business venture somehow lurking here.  Yeah right.

The True Cost of Chevron

An Alternative Annual Report

Chevron’s 2008 annual report is a glossy celebration of the company’s most profitable year in its history.

What Chevron’s annual report does not tell its shareholders is the true cost paid for those financial returns, or the global movement gaining voice and strength against Chevron’s abuses.

Thus, we, the communities and their allies who bear the consequences of Chevron’s operations, have prepared an alternative annual report of Chevron entitled “The True Cost of Chevron.” We will release the report at a press conference on May 26 and a day later at Chevron’s Annual Shareholder Meeting in San Ramon, California on May 27.

Never before has one report brought together the information, stories, and struggles of communities from Angola, Burma, Canada, Chad, Cameroon, Ecuador, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines and across the United States directly impacted by, and in struggle against, Chevron’s operations.

Click here to download this report

Morales gives lands to Bolivian peasants


Bolivian President Evo Morales has presented title deeds to workers of the land of its previous owner, ex-president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.

The house and lands were expropriated from de Lozada’s estate on the grounds that they could serve the greater good of the people.

“There are still some landowners here or there who only use their lands to relax, or have a party or a cook out for a weekend and they would come here and never work,” Morales told his audience.

Throughout the mountainous region of Los Yungas, Afro-Bolivians and indigenous Bolivians danced and played traditional instruments in celebration of the land given back.

“Mission accomplished, brothers and sisters,” said President Morales after presenting the property titles. “Now you are owners and not slaves of the lands as you were before.”

In all, Morales presented some 283 property title deeds to local residents.

Visibly moved local resident Alejandro Iriondo is grateful for the land. “I say to and pray to the president, thank God that our ancestors put him there (as president),” said Iriondo. “He has come to give us our land back.”

Letter from My Sister Followed by a Mad Dance

detail from Caravaggio's Crucifixion of St. Peter

I asked my sister for this, this letter
that lays bare the last days of my father.
Our father.  For then I was in a distant land,
the furthest side of the world,
where no one I knew had ever been.

Two years after he died
I came for a brief visit,
introduced my young family
to the grass that grows
above my father’s bones.

One evening, laughter, hysterical
laughter, filled the living room I grew up in
as my sisters tickled my twin daughters.
Those moments drove away the stale darkness
that hung unspoken.  In all the days I was there

No one shared a word about his passing.
Not to me, at least, but to my wife
from another land.  I was spared
the details of grieving.  And that
silence clung, a hungry beast.

Until finally this letter.  Not really a dagger
for the beast, but fodder.  My god,
you do have a sick sense of humour.
Hiding the key from my father
when he was no longer himself,

At the mercy of chemicals,
underpaid nurses.  His body
like a puppet tied by a prankster
to a rattling exhaust pipe.
You cut us down to size, god.

So I gave you a small “g” here,
for now.  Until I wake up from this
endless grief, see this pathetic rant,
and somehow repent.  Or curse some more.
Whichever wins.  You always do.

Go ahead.  Do your mad dance.
I can stare forever at your antics,
silent as a lump of meat
before a fire,
before a feast.


Rounding Up The Dogs of the Children Who Died of Sadness

dog ghost

Monsters came one day, dressed
in stiff uniforms.  They were fed
largely on red meat and so had grown
like giants compared to the islanders.

They scarred the land as they drove,
engines growling like hungry beasts,
churning sand and dust into the terrified
eyes of the children.  Those little

Brown arms grew powerless at the sight
of fists clutching the collars of their pets.
Never before had they seen such dark
nightmares.  The monsters had come

To gather all the dogs of the island.
They were taken amid screams and cries,
hearts cracking like husked coconuts
flung against a jagged rock.


Almost 1,000 pets were rounded up and gassed, using the exhaust fumes from American military vehicles. “They put the dogs in a furnace where the people worked,” says Lizette Tallatte, now in her 60s, “ … and when their dogs were taken away in front of them, our children screamed and cried.”

“Diego Garcia: Paradise Cleansed” by John Pilger, October 4, 2004

Midnight Shifts

Our cigarettes become aborted babies
in an ashen, glassy womb.  The TV

Newscaster talks to our napes
about the latest developments in eastern

Europe and the rest of the warring
civilized world.  Our ears

Are keen to every slap
of playing cards.  Our eyes are sharp

But see nothing beyond
the moving curtain of smog

Around us.  Mosquitoes have
their own ways of passing

Time while fulfilling their urges
as we keep the itch

That they leave,
tiny bulges that won’t

Turn into babies.


This was written in June 1990 and was published in the May 1991 issue of The Asian Literary Journal.  I wonder what my friends who live in eastern Europe think of this.  The accompanying painting is by Van Gogh.  He didn’t know I was going to use it.  But I suppose this is his way of reaching back from the grave.  (Canned laughter please)

GUD Magazine Issue 4 Now Available as PDF

Issue 4 of GUD Magazine (Greatest Uncommon Denominator) is now available as a PDF if you can’t wait for the print edition.

The first review, from, mentions my poem “Ghosts of Sweaty Air”

UPDATE: I just found out there is a second review which also mentions my poem — Isaac Espriu’s Place!

Swine flu: investigate and regulate

Evidence is emerging that traces swine flu to giant factory pig farms that are dirty, dangerous, and inhumane.

How To Lie to the Innocent

Imagine yourself in your own home surrounded by family and friends, say in celebration of your daughter’s birthday.  A stranger walks in, someone who doesn’t know you, let alone care how long you’ve lived in that house.  The stranger tells you the world will be a better place if you leave your home.

What he wants to do, the details of which are irrelevant, he says, will be completed in little time.  Meanwhile he hands you and your family a bag of provisions and says you will be able to return when what they have to do is completed.  You look outside and you see there is a line of vehicles ready to take you away.  As you leave, thinking you are doing a noble thing for all peoples of the world – you have been told it was so – an army enters your house.

In the days, weeks, months, and eventually years that follow you eventually find out the truth.  You will never see your home again, the home where your ancestors had lived for centuries.

It is a familiar story of displacement.  Tweak a few details, add some blood and gore, and you might get an idea of forced exile all over the world.  Exile or extermination, those are the only choices.

This one story is slightly different though. It involves a small community of 167 people who had lived in relative peace and with little knowledge of the world beyond their shores.   The other side, the strangers, is represented by the military personnel from the US Government, then given the interesting “responsibility” to see to the good of that part of the Pacific soon after the Second World War .

Bikini Atoll, part of the small Marshall Islands Republic, was evacuated of its inhabitants so the United States government could freely conduct numerous nuclear testings from 1946 to 1958.  The original inhabitants were relocated to one of the uninhabited atolls and were given provisions to last for a few weeks.

Historical records show that there was available information indicating the high probability that the people in surrounding atolls, including the one on which the exiled people had been placed, could be directly affected by fallout from the tests.  The US government went ahead with them anyway.

There are tons of websites and a few books about what was done to the atolls and how the inhabitants were treated afterwards.

Goats on deck of test ship, waiting to be irradiated by the Able test of Operation Crossroads.  Source: Delgado, James P., Ghost Fleet: the Sunken Ships of Bikini Atoll, University of Hawaii Press, 1989, p 25.

Goats on deck of test ship, waiting to be irradiated by the Able test of Operation Crossroads. Source: Delgado, James P., Ghost Fleet: the Sunken Ships of Bikini Atoll, University of Hawaii Press, 1989, p 25.

And yet I had hardly any knowledge of these testings until I came across a news report on 12 December 2008.  The US government had just rejected further claims by the people of Bikini Atoll.

It reads:  “The US has refused a request by the Marshall Islands to use grant money to compensate victims of the American nuclear weapons testing programme in the western Pacific atoll nation, officials said.

“The US tested 67 nuclear weapons at Bikini and Enewetak atolls from 1946 to 1958 and a Nuclear Claims Tribunal was set up by the two governments to compensate those displaced or suffering health problems due to the tests.”

Source 1

Source 2


I was struck by a photo that accompanied the article: a boy on crutches being checked by a presumably American military doctor.  The boy had blotches of white all over his limbs, likely radiation burns, and his hair was obviously falling off his young head.

I am fascinated by images.  So I decided to find archival footage of the nuclear testings that the US had conducted at Bikini Atoll.  There are countless, it turns out, and easily accessible at by typing “Bikini Atoll” or “Atomic Bomb.”

My eyes were filled with horror.

Again and again I saw different angles, different bombs, different names of each bomb or “operation.” A new trend had been started, that of giving names to certified tools of destruction.  Operation Crossroads was the first one.  Through the years there would be more.  A series of insane spectacles of destructive powers.

Film making has been put to great use since it was first invented, first as a tool to document the real world and later as a tool of fabrication.  From merely recording what is in front of the camera, film has become a tool to tell a story.  And stories can sometimes cover up what is real.  A series of semi-related shots here, a voice over slapped on, some music, and presto – you have a nifty piece of propaganda.

Here is a link to one such film, a romanticized view of a people tricked into giving up their homeland.

The voice over declares “The islanders are a nomadic group and are pleased that the Yanks are going to add a little variety to their lives…  And here you hear them sing a Marshallese version of ‘You are My Sunshine’…”

Even with such blatant lies, one can have a glimpse of the reality that is being twisted.

The islanders’ supposed show of agreement is evidently choreographed.  Totally unbelievable is their response if you listen to how the “translator” is told to explain to them while the American military representative speaks as if to a four year-old.

The US government has a long history of violating the lives of innocent people.  This one continues to haunt them, as it should.  It should.


An early version of this article appears here.