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
-o-

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
-o-

Questions
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
-o-

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
-o-

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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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