On the Pew

Inside a church in South Cotabato, Philippines. Photo by Grace M. Leung

On the Pew

I prayed that the church roof
would crumble.  But it didn’t.
The balloon bumped its way
to a tilted corner and stayed.

My upturned face met the puzzled eyes
of adults who had to stop
their gossipings.
I was certain the balloon

Wouldn’t come down with me
watching.  So I sat on the pew
and began counting
the other children who held on

to the strings of their toys.

-o-

This is an ancient poem, written on 22 August 1990 from 1211-1222 pm on the second floor of the Rizal Library in my old university.  Details that are immaterial, I know.  This one holds a special place in my memory.

As a kid I remember being dragged to church with the promise of a balloon or a helpless bird dyed red or green and placed in a cage handwoven from thin strips of bamboo.  I had to behave of course.

There were pews that had cushions while others were plain wood polished by the butts of countless believers.  You sweated worse on the cushioned ones, and some folks would sweat so heavily that they would have damp imprints of their butts on their pants or skirts when they finally stepped out of the church.

Those birds now haunt me in other ways I still have to stare down.

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About matangmanok

Jim Pascual Agustin writes and translates poetry. Sometimes he tries his hand at essays and stories. In 2011 the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House in Manila released BAHA-BAHAGDANG KARUPUKAN (poems in Filipino) and ALIEN TO ANY SKIN (poems in English). The same publisher released his most recent poetry collections SOUND BEFORE WATER and KALMOT NG PUSA SA TAGILIRAN. In 2015 a new poetry collection in English, A THOUSAND EYES was released. His first collection of short stories in Filipino, SANGA SA BASANG LUPA, was released in 2016. UK publisher The Onslaught Press launches his latest poetry collection, WINGS OF SMOKE, worldwide in February 2017. View all posts by matangmanok

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