I will be rambling here. Take your anti-snooze medication. Or have a slice of calamansi (a small citrus fruit back home) next to a cut on your arm. A drop should work every few minutes.
Strange things happen when you go back to old rooms. Rooms you once saw as little more than temporary cages, rooms that bore more silences than voices, rooms that might even outlive you.
One of the first things I notice when I go back to an old room is the dust on the window sill. Up to the age of seven I had lived in a communal house with mostly wooden windows. The rain darkened the slats and the scent of warm earth clung to them. Outside the coconut palms might be dancing as the eye of a typhoon passes.
Then my family moved to a new house, a “subdivision” it was then called. Farmlands bought up by a “developer” and measured into squares lined with concrete. There I grew up in a small room that had two side by side glass windows.
The view? The neighbour’s high unfinished concrete wall. Rough gray blocks towered past our roof. I had to lie on the floor to see a gap of sky as narrow as my arms. That family would eventually sell the property, but those walls stood there for years like skeletons that never knew flesh.
Apologies for the long introduction.
I chanced upon some very early scribblings, originally written when I was fresh out of high school and in my first years of university. Back then I used little blue wire notebooks, ones that fit in your pocket. I could pull them out while stuck in heavy traffic, or when I got bored with the lectures.
I used a pen that was made in Korea (or so it said) which had ink that was far too sensitive to the tiniest drop of water. Not good when you live in a country that has rain and sun most days.
Many years later those scribblings had the luck (bad or good?) of being transferred on to flimsier materials that used ones and zeroes. As is now known, such materials are far more easily wiped clean than the pen and paper I originally used.
Hard drives have crashed on me through the years. But some pieces got saved by sheer luck (good or bad?). And so I will post them here bit by bit as I am able to translate them. It is a struggle, to say the least, lifting thoughts laid out in one language on to another. There is both a distancing and coming up close. Two telescopes facing each other. Or something stranger.
Sometimes the translation works. Sometimes you see the flaws in the original and are forced to remedy them. With these ones though, I shall try to keep as they were. They should be seen as dusty windows into past thoughts.
My notebooks are still intact, I hope, back home in my old room, in a top cupboard with a badly fitting door.
Nasasalat ko na
ang hibla ng taon
sa lumalapad na noo.
Nakakapa ko na
ang umaalsang buto
sa pisnging lumulusong.
Natitikman ko na
ang pait ng labing
Nalalanghap ko na
ang panis na hininga
mula sa bagang nilukob ng plema.
ng hagdan ko
Disi-otso pa lang ako.
This was written in 1986. Here is the translation attempt:
I can touch
threads of years
on my widening forehead.
I can sense
on plunging cheeks.
I can taste
I can gasp
from lungs filled with phlegm.
continue to multiply.
I am only eighteen.
The formatting I originally had is too difficult to show here. I posted the same poem at a discussion forum where you might be able to see how this was meant to be laid out. Here is the link.
One should be allowed to laugh at the past.