not quite fiction, not quite poem, not quite anything more than a ramble?


seagulls glide between buildings and the mountain. rushing wind and the sea on the other side. around here it is always the mountain, a fallen mountain, that decides where things are. the clouds must move over it, around it, smash itself into the finest shreds of rain, turn almost into frozen air, and then desperately try to recollect itself like seafoam on sand. roads are sloped. one can never walk totally upright. cars must take sharper bends, closer to the edge of accidents. there is something humorous about this whole thing, something bitter and funny, not far from laughing at the unresponding dead about to be robbed by family and friends.

there’s a set of crooked teethmarks on the back of my train seat, where my right shoulder touches the leather as the cars jolt back to a start. although the train is packed, no one decides to sit next to me. perhaps they’re scared of the marks.

i look down on the bag beside me. its blackness has been mine for the past three months. someone else’s before that. someone long gone. as if crawling towards it in a sharp S is a vicious knifecut on the leather that’s been stitched up. caterpillars come to mind. poisonous centipedes. i am sitting next to death and no one wants to sit next to me.

someone two rows ahead has opened a packet of steak pie. the fine crackle of pastry and the stench of cheap meat. it is hard to think of anything else but that person’s hunger. i feel like walking towards whoever it is and throwing up to refill his packet.

the train pulls up to my station before i could force a burp.

i shouldn’t be writing to you in this state. something is about to burst and i wish it were somewhere else. somewhere far away with a name so foreign i couldn’t even pronounce it. but no. it is right here.

feet, i have grown to believe, have their own mind. they take over when your body goes restless. they take you through the motions of the day, right to the very end, without you noticing the scenes around you change. the pavement becomes a pale river. and you drift seeing grey. only grey.

my apartment door is open. three locks forced open. three locks. five if i had been inside when it had happened. i know this sequence now, too well. no need to worry. just routine. like flushing the toilet.

make as much noise as possible before you step in. give them enough time to run away in case they’re still rummaging inside. wait a few seconds. listen. if nothing stirs, proceed to your unfriendly neighbour’s door. they haven’t had a break in for five years, ever since they installed an armed response alarm service. and they’re used to you. try to be calm, at least for their sake. they could be having early supper. ask if you could use their phone. they should know this procedure by now once they step outside and see your door.

the cops rush in, like in the movies. kicking doors with their guns cocked. but it is too late, as always.

my things have gone – the ones the burglars thought were worth their trouble. clothes, shoes, pieces of handed down jewellery, some music. anything of some value has gone out my own door without me. for weeks i won’t really know which item has left me forever. only when i think of wearing an old shirt, or a funny hat, or a pair of socks with a floral pattern, at a time when i had almost forgotten about this incident, will it strike me. like someone behind a door in a dark room. that is the painful side of being broken in.

i know this now. and yet it is not this incident repeated more than a dozen times over the years that is bothering me.


not quite fiction, not quite poem, not quite anything more than a ramble? one of those surviving bits of writing i have been tempted to SELECT AND DELETE but never could.


About matangmanok

Jim Pascual Agustin writes and translates poetry. Sometimes he tries his hand at essays and stories. His latest book is BLOODRED DRAGONFLIES, published by Deep South in South Africa. Check out the official blog page for Bloodred Dragonflies. 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 poetry collection, WINGS OF SMOKE, worldwide in February 2017. San Anselmo Publications released HOW TO MAKE A SALAGUBANG HELICOPTER & OTHER POEMS in 2019 followed by CROCODILES IN BELFAST & OTHER POEMS in 2020 - both books can be purchased through their Facebook page. View all posts by matangmanok

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