Today, two personal items.
I was gladly surprised to see that a poem of mine, “My Brother Lives on the Other Side,” got selected as a finalist at the monthly Goodreads.com poetry contest. If it gets the most votes from readers, it will appear in the newsletter which apparently reaches millions. To be read is perhaps one of the greatest joys of a writer.
I can say I am promoting my own work. I can also say I am trying to reach out to others, perhaps show a perspective that others have not seen before, start a conversation.
One reader asked me what my poem means. I can only say what my poem hopes to mean.
This blog doesn’t have a lot of followers, admittedly. But should you read this – whether it leads you to vote for my poem now, or just happen to read the poem long after 1 December 2012 – I would love to hear from you. Tell me if the poem reached out to you or not. Start a conversation. (I used to just do that practically anywhere with anyone when I am on the road. I miss that. )
HERE is the link to the Goodreads.com Poetry Contest.
It is painful to know that things change no matter where you are. People you love succumb slowly to the ravages of aging. Eyes clouding over. Hearing fades. Sometimes the misfiring of brain cells make you see something that isn’t there, like a group of children who are not yours, not your children’s either, just children you don’t know. You tell them to go away. But they won’t. And those around you feel uneasy. There is nothing there but an empty living room, not a sound from a single child, not a shadow.
My mother, I wish I could hold you in my arms.
On 6 August 2012 I sent a set of poems to the online edition of the Middle East Monitor. I waited for a reply, then just forgot about it. Then recently, with Israeli forces bombarding the population of Gaza which has been under siege for many years, I remembered these poems. I checked the Middle East Monitor website and found all of them had been posted.
UPDATED 17 July 2013
The links have changed.
RENT A HORROR MOVIE
ISRAEL NEEDS SHOES
PLAYGROUND VERSUS BULLDOZER
MYTHS AND BLOODSTAINS
THE SIDE OF LOVE
The poems are in Alien to Any Skin. Early versions also appeared on Matangmanok.
My Brother Lives on the Other Side
“An anguished relative carried the body of Suhaib Hijazi, a 2 year old… I stood in the crowd watching, clearly a foreigner and pretty obviously an American, yet no one stopped to say to me, Why? Why… are your people supporting this atrocity? No one raised a fist in my face, or pointed an accusing finger in my direction…”
– Steve Sosebee (Palestine Children’s Relief Fund),
an American in Gaza, 21 November 2012
It takes time to wrap a child,
the nurse tells me, not knowing
how many times I may have practiced
with something that didn’t squirm
and made so much noise.
She stands waiting with me,
lengths of bleached fabric
in her wrinkled hands.
The doctor nods, I come
closer. He holds before my eyes
the first of my twin daughters
to come out of the calm
darkness of their mother’s flesh.
He counts each finger and each toe,
making sure I see them intact,
not severed by accident
as he cut into my wife’s skin.
I only see gray, white,
and red, including this child
who must be made to cry.
Her sister follows, barely
larger than my hand. It is pure
luck that they are born
here, protected by these
sterile walls. Safe.
Congratulations to poet Teo T. Antonio whose book, Distrungka, won at the 31st National Book Award for Filipino Poetry. My own book, Baha-bahagdang Karupukan, and the first book of good friend Emmanuel Q. Velasco (Dalawang Pulgada at Tubig), were among the finalists. The Universty of Santo Tomas Publishing House, publisher of all our books must be very pleased indeed.
THIS LINK has the full list of winners (hope the link works!).
In my early years of writing, I started to wonder when the next letter of acceptance or rejection might arrive. We had a dog, and often this creature would bark wildly at the postman – the arch enemy of dogs, apparently, followed by the newspaper man and the pandesal delivery boy. Those stories about a pet chewing one’s homework are only true if you had a dog like ours. This dog jumped for anything that got placed in the postbox or stuck between the topmost metal spikes of our gate. So I had to know when the postman arrived, usually around three in the afternoon. A chewed up letter is not easy to read, let alone retrieve.
These days I live on a semi-rural area where no postman comes around. We have to drive to a small shopping centre where they have postboxes. A bit of a trip, so I go once a week, usually on a Friday. Today, though, I felt something was calling me. I went, and sure enough there was something, posted all the way from… Switzerland?!?
I’d never received a parcel that had been posted from Switzerland. Odd, since as far as I know Modern Poetry in Translation is published in the UK. Here then, to share with friends and readers, my bit of excitement for the day!
“Operation Cast Lead” is not the Title of a Movie
After a night of gasping
I nurse the consequences
Somewhere else they are remembering
smoke that takes forever
to clear, the ringing in the ears,
the smell of burnt flesh
among personal belongings.
“Operation Cast Lead” on Wikipedia (as always, don’t place complete trust on one source, please)
14th November 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza Strip
Dear All. I am calling on all your support for the besieged people of the Gaza Strip.
Here in Gaza, more than 10 people have been killed so far in the Israeli operation named “Pillar of Defence” within the last 7 hours, including countless children such as 7-year-old child Ranan Arafat and an 11 month old baby. We’ve seen charred bodies of dead and injured children pouring in to Al Shifa hospital of Gaza City and the other depleted hospitals around the Gaza Strip. 50 airstrikes all over the Gaza Strip so far. Deafening explosions shook us all as bombs landed close to us in the streets near the Universities. Huge explosions are landing all around us in Gaza City now as I write, some entire families have been injured. We can also hear the shelling of Israeli Gunships. Announcement of possible Israeli land invasion very soon.
More than 330 children were killed in the last bloody operation like this in operation Cast Lead, killing over 1400 in total: the vast majority civilians. We are reporting from hospitals, streets and bombed areas. How many, terrified in there homes will have their lives shortened by tomorrow, or after the days of airstrikes, tank shellings and Gunship missiles Israel has announced. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. MOVE. ACT NOW TO STOP ANOTHER GAZA BLOODBATH. INACTION AROUND THE WORLD HAS LEAD US TO THIS POINT. ACT NOW.
For more information on how to contact International activists in Gaza now please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I finished the initial translation of the first of three sections from my first book of poetry, Beneath an Angry Star (Anvil, Manila 1992). It comes as a surprise to me that most of the poems still work – at least based on my own attempt at “pretending-to-be-reading-someone-else’s-work” – and that, translated into or from English, something new starts to quiver as if coming to life. There are a few from the original Filipino that just flounder in translation because the subject matter itself demands a particular knowledge of (dated) local popular culture.
Although I do this work on the side, I do have my own deadline to meet. I need to complete this work so I can get on with writing new poetry, and perhaps get back to attempting essays and stories which, in my experience, take more time and effort.
After I finish translating and editing the text, I intend to find a publisher or, failing that, put it out as an ebook on my own. I am declaring this to the world in case some good soul urges me to persevere, or even offers me a door. It does seem like a long and lonely road, otherwise.
A pebble that never gets thrown will never cause a ripple. hahahaha. A terrible inverse (or some other term perhaps?) of a poem by one of my heroes, Emmanuel Lacaba, called. . . ready for this? . . .
In puddles and rivers
Pebbles hit bull’s-eyes
Before targets are drawn.