Sea Fireflies of Mindoro

Sea Fireflies of Mindoro
for Veronica

That was the last time
We laughed like children.
Water warm as the tropical air,

It was impossible
To grow cold and wish to leave
That darkening, calm beach.

We took moments to see
The water held
No mere reflection
Of the silent bursting of stars.

Points of light gathered
Round our limbs.
Wave a hand and they grew more
Luminous. We were surrounded.

Stilled. Galaxies
Unfurled with the gentlest
Sway and curl
Of our fingertips.

Beating lights traced our skin
That would never again be this
Close to constellations,
This warm.


Veronica is a very good friend whom I’ve known for many years. We call her Barok – the name of a character from a comic book back home – or Veroche (yes, it sounds like that other word for a type of bug) which the late Fr. James O’Brien did not approve of (perhaps jokingly? I’ll never know). She has worked with various tribes and sectors of Philppine society that do not often grace the headlines.

This poem tries to recapture a time when we were young. We were among a group of friends who shared the legacy of Fr. O’B’s Tulong-Dunong Scholarship Program. We had graduated from various universities by that time, and decided to go on a group holiday. I can’t remember how many we were who went on this particular trip to Mindoro’s coast, those beaches that are hopefully still as enchanting, though not entirely free of danger: tsunami, earthquake, poisonous sea snakes, to name a few.

It is Barok’s birthday today. Maligayang Kaarawan, mabuting kaibigan!

This poem was first published in UNDER THE STORM: An Anthology of  Contemporary Philippine Poetry (Manila 2011). I hope to see this in a new collection tentatively called The Sound Before Water.

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

3 responses to “Sea Fireflies of Mindoro

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: