My country of birth just had major national elections. I wasn’t there to participate, to feel all the excitement, the dread, the many and varied hopes that gushed out of people I know and many I will never meet. So it feels almost selfish that I share this bit of personal news. Someone felt my work was worthy of being read and gave me some room to express myself.
I don’t really know what to say most times when asked highly personal questions. Nichole L. Reber threw some really tough ones and I hope I didn’t sound like a tap left running until the bucket overflowed. Please visit the Ploughshares blog and maybe try to leave a message here or there if you have any feedback – complaints, curses, blessings, or whatever reaction you may have.
Mostly I really just want to thank each reader who has given my work a chance. Maraming salalamat, sa inyong lahat. Nichole, I hope I didn’t disappoint with my long-winded answers.
EDIT… In the interview a particular poem was mentioned, “Ghosts of Sweaty Air,” which was originally published in GUD Magazine. The GUD website allows you to read the first few lines. The whole poem is in my book Alien to Any Skin. If you’re interested and nice (hahaha), then leave a note here, I’ll shoot the poem to you.
HERE IS THE LINK TO THE PLOUGHSHARES BLOG
This post will only be up for the last weekend of January 2016. Congratulations if you managed to read it. The poems are what I intend to read at the Central Library in Cape Town to as yet an unknown number of people (perhaps just the librarian and myself!). If you like any of the poems at all, it would be nice to get some feedback. The reading is at 2pm South African time.
Thanks to all my friends who are in various parts of the world and cannot attend.
UPDATE. 4 February 2016.
I’ve deleted the file. But for those who missed the reading or would like to read the said poems, you may contact me here and I’ll gladly share with you.
Thanks to all those who made the effort to listen to my poetry. I had fun and met some new friends. I’m not gonna lie, I like reading to an audience. Something I really miss since I moved to South Africa. It doesn’t matter whether it is at a formal venue or just with a group of friends. I remember those crazy days back at university with people I may not always agree with but who were nonetheless open to hearing what I had to say. Then years later at various poetry reading venues – small smokey pubs, or at launches and some academic gathering. Or a handful of friends who manage to find time despite work commitments.
I guess I can come out of my shell and look around here where I am now. Making new connections is never easy, but that’s the only way one keeps growing.
Hmmm. I’m not drunk. Just blabbering like I had a few bottles. Sleep deprivation does pretty much the same thing to me. 🙂
In January 2011 my two books were born: Baha-bahagdang Karupukan and Alien to Any Skin. I was elated to have those two books published (both by UST Publishing House) for it had been a long gap since the last collection (Salimbayan, 1994). Soon after I wrote the first draft of the following poem. This one eventually joined a new set of poems that would become Sound Before Water (UST Publishing House, 2013), a much slimmer volume than the previous two which contain poetry from over 15 years. In a forthcoming review of this new collection this poem gets mentioned for the oddity of its title. I am posting this version – the one that is now in the book, as if being in book form makes it final! – perhaps as an invitation to adopt my paper children and make room for them in a new home.
It pains me not to be in the same country where these paper children are born. All I can do from where I am is tell as many people online how much I wish and hope the best for them. I will post a link to the review once it is available. For now, I share this with you.
How to Sell a Child Door to Door
for Karu and Skin, my paper children
tell them this child has no parent
and can only bring joy
to its new home
bring light and promise
into the room
as it silently sits
in their hands
even as the world burns
outside the window
tell them everything
they want to hear
that might make them smile
anything just to get
this child’s little foot
in the door
do not bat an eyelid
should the child
gasp at fragments
of moth wings
by the kettle
no one invites sorrow
into their lives
The Breath of Sparrows
for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
So it has arrived, the news
of your departure. Last night
I dreamt I was in the house
of my mentor, as a frequent guest
who took a desk by the window.
A towering tree with red
and yellow flowers as big as hands,
the breeze slipping between each
petal finger. I went to his room
to ask the name of that tree.
He lay on his bed, resting
with eyes closed but aware
of the birds weighing down
the branches, leaves caressing
the roof. The breath of sparrows
like his own. There was no need to name
the tree, no need to name anything
at all at that moment. I bid him thanks
before leaving, my footsteps drowning
in sparrow wings.
My new book of poetry in Filipino, Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), is finally out! Readers in the Philippines should easily find the book at National Book Store and Fully-Booked, Solidaridad Bookshop and maybe a few others.
The fantastic introduction from Benilda S. Santos alone is worth reading, aside from the poems. 🙂
The cover is designed by John Marin Flores. I hope you find it disturbing.