Monthly Archives: March 2014

The nicest words

My poem has little chance of winning in a popularity contest, but when you get readers who say something like this, then I feel the poem has already won. Thank you, Murray.

End of life; beginning of life. I went for the beginning, ‘Glimpses’, not because I think beginnings are better, but because the shock of birth and the fragility of the neonate were so delicately handled. Handled, that is, with an economy of words not in the other poems. Second vote would have gone to ‘That long quiet’. Those two poems stand head and shoulders above the rest, and I say that, whatever the outcome of the popular vote.


soil to ground

My poem, “Glimpses,” a finalist at

I was never the popular kid. At least my poems get noticed. Then again, after the judges have selected, this one becomes a popularity contest. Oh well… 🙂 Care to vote for this one?




* Voting is anonymous and choices are listed randomly.

Thanks, as always, to our judges, Meg Harris, Dan Simmons and Ruth Bavetta for selecting six finalists from this month’s group!


I meant to post this bit of news a while back.

VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA: a Storm of Filipino Poets has been released! One of my poems which first appeared in Sound Before Water is included in this fantastic anthology. Copies may be ordered at and soon via other online retailers.

Dear Shelley

The following post may be upsetting. I hope it is.

I found a photo off Facebook with the following text:


In this photo, a female trophy hunter sits smirking on top of the giraffe she blasted to death with a rifle as it ate from a tree.

With these kinds of “hunts,” wealthy individuals are usually driven to the spot by guides who know where the animals are. The clients then shoot and kill the animals, often while sitting in the Land Rover that brought them.

Even more unconscionable, some safaris are “canned hunts,” in which captive animals raised this purpose, are placed inside a fenced-in enclosure for the “hunter” to shoot.


Here’s the hunting company’s description of this event:

“We took Shelley out this morning with the thoughts of maybe getting a giraffe. We found this big bull feeding in the trees, and Shelley put 2 good shots in him before he went down. Big mature bull. We have it all here, and we want to share it with YOU”.

If you’d like to share your thoughts with the company that runs these “hunts” for a select and wealthy clientele (other clients include Ted Nugent and family) you can reach them via their website here:

Photo credit –


Here is the photo:


In response to the sadness evident in Shelley’s eyes, I wrote to her:


Dear Shelley, I forgive you. You must have been very hungry and cold. Please send me all the photos your admiring friends will take as you take huge bites of that animal. I would like to know if you enjoyed every piece of it, including its tail and ass. Please could you also tell us who your friends are. There are more animals in need of being shot by your kind. Will you also teach them the correct way of firing a gun? The tiny hole where the bullet flies out of should be pointed at each shooter’s head. Teamwork and perfect choreography is needed. God loves you.


Then I thought maybe I should find out if she has friends with the same tragic look. So I went to the website of the company that helped her deal with the sadness. And this is what I found:

Limpopo Dangerous Game

Want to help them all? Please click the above photo and it should take you to the website of the company where you can express what you feel about the group hugs they managed to capture on camera. Some of them are even on video.


To Remember

anti-war protest rally in London image from wikipedia

To remember is an attempt to piece together what can never be one again. The time, the place, the scent of flesh once beating. Today marks the invasion of Iraq. It seems the rest of the world has forgotten.

The following poems appear in my book Alien to Any Skin (UST Publishing House, 2011). Should I thank GW Bush for writing them?

Just This One

Art. 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she
has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures
of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
The Fourth Geneva Convention

When someone says “Think about the bigger picture,”
I hide. My life has the legs of an ant. I find the resilience
of pebbles more inviting. They smooth themselves on riverbeds,
current rushing over their backs, pushing them to cling
with other pebbles or grains of sand pounded to near nothingness.

There are so many of them, too many to count. Each one
has something the others do not possess. Perhaps the thinnest streak
of brown, the sligthest indentation, the faintest crack.
Even when they are broken they are never the same. Caress
the jagged edge of this one with your index finger. Just this one.

July 2008

The Day the Dead Tree Fell

years of fear
have come to this

roots unearthed
longer than the arms of men
pointing skyward

the drone
of foreign planes

a hollow in the ground
deep enough
for a coffin

the silence
of loaded guns

all those fine veins
where something
used to flow

November 2008 – August 2010

for the leader of invading forces

When you put your shoes on this morning,
do you remember which foot came first?

Does someone tell you when your collar gets stuck inside your shirt?
Do you let that person touch you?

What colours make your eyes stop searching?
Are those the ones you like or the ones you hate?

How many people have you met that had an extra finger
and wasn’t shy about it?

Have you ever held a firefly in your palms?
Was it warm? Were you alone?

When you close your eyes,
whose face lingers?

What was the first word you learned to write?
Did you use a pencil or a crayon or a borrowed pen?

If you had a dog, would you name it
after the person who blew up your house?

Is there something on my forehead
that only you can read?

Can you tell if someone is lying
or just scared?

Will my name be on a piece of paper?
Spelled correctly?

August 2008

Going Retro: The Victorious Army of Gobbledygooks Penetrates the City

“Why do they hate us? We’re setting them free!”
A foot soldier

They were expecting
sweaty hugs and kisses
from dark veiled women
and their adoring children.

Ears cocked, they anticipated the struggle
of the local band in playing
their beloved anthem,
as if it were not foreign.

But only hollow,
sporadic shouting of men
who gathered from nowhere
welcomed the forces.

The army was laden
with a quick,
calculated victory,
craving for popular jubilation.

Instead, this caricature of a show
put on by these nowhere men.
Stick figures in the desert sun,
sure of only one thing:

Tear down the giant statue
designed originally
by a previous generation
of gobbledygooks.

This show had been triangulated
for the world to see
moment by breathless moment
on their most trusted TV.

And then what? An awkward silence
as the statue grates to a stop,
refusing to crash down. A monologue broken
by coughing in the background, off camera.

Days later when the local population
finally came out with their voices raised,
the victorious gobbledygooks felt
strangely welcome, unable to decipher

Joy and ecstasy from utter hatred.
It is only now with proper translation
years later that we have
a clear understanding of gang rape.

December 2008

Ukraine and the Holy Triumvirate

Ever since I read one of his books, William Blum has continued to astonish me. In his latest post he makes it possible to see clearly and simply what has been happening in Ukraine.

Read and wake up.


Seven Poems at OUR OWN VOICE 42, March 2014

I never gave much thought about borders and national identities twenty years ago. It seemed pretty clear to me back then that where you were born defined who you are and how you viewed the rest of the world. It was a simple way of identifying who was “the enemy” and who was on your side. It was narrow-minded and simply wrong.

Now I see that the concept of nationality can and has been used by those in power to turn us into pawns against each other. It is no more than an idea that is easy to throw around because it is in our nature to recognize and accept more readily what is around us as the norm, and that what is outside of that limited experience is something to be wary of.

Yesterday I heard that dreaded word again in a news report: xenophobia. That discussion will have to wait another day. For now I would like to share some news.

I intend to share a number of poems over the course of this month (March 2014) as my way of celebrating the books that have been generously put out by various publishers through the years. Some days I may provide links to poetry published online and other days I will just post the poems here. I have my own personal reason for this. Maybe I’ll explain that at the end of the month.

The first installment comes out today. It is from an e-zine that features poetry from the “Filipino diaspora” – a concept which to me feels like a cousin of “nationality” to a certain extent. I am and I am not. The grains of sand between my toes do not have passports…

The poetry e-zine Our Own Voice has featured my work a second time. Four of the seven poems are from Sound Before Water, one (with an English translation) from Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran, and the last two are from manuscripts in progress. (NOTE: as of this writing there is a layout problem with the first poem, “Air from Another Moment,” which I hope could be fixed by the end of today.)

I encourage you to leave a comment on the e-zine’s website. Even to say how you hate my poems and why. 🙂

Our Own Voice March 2014