Category Archives: Mga Tula / Poetry

UPDATED: More Wax than Human Remains

Duterte Marcos

More Wax than Human Remains

The late dictator’s image rendered
in wax, displayed in a Quiapo-quality
glass box, is what his family would love
to drag down from the North

all the way to sweltering Manila.
Only those who have lived
through the darkness might ask:
How many candles could they carve

out of his non-human remains?
Will his greatest admirer simply
mow us down with curses and bullets,
deaf as he is to any protest?

-o-

 

 

The above is the first draft. Here is the new version which I hope is a bit of an improvement, thanks to the generous members of my secret online poetry discussion group, The Boathouse:

More Wax than Human

The late dictator’s image
rendered in wax, displayed
in a Quiapo-quality glass box,

what his family and most touched
admirer would love to haul
all the way from the North

down to sweltering Manila.
Only those who have lived
through the darkness might ask:

How many candles
could they carve out
of his non-human remains?

-o-

 

Related reading.

THE NARRATIVE has always been that the body in the glass coffin in Batac, Ilocos Norte, lying there since 1993, is yet to be buried because the state refuses burial. As a result, the body lies embalmed until God knows when. There is an irreverent twist to it, sacrilegious even, that appeals to most cultural norms barring the desecration of the dead. In short, the message is: The state is cruel to disallow proper burial.

I have had two opportunities to visit the crypt of Ferdinand Marcos. The tourist gazer is usually led to an inner chamber inside the mausoleum just beside the family’s “ancestral house.” I enclose that in quotation marks because the house is anything but old; it is a new building designed to have fake, exposed “paletadas” so as to conjure antiquity; this is also part of the narrative. This first visit had an Imeldific air to it—the sound of choral cantatas filled the chamber.

The second visit some years later was unexpectedly and surprisingly revealing. A close Marcos family friend escorted us to the crypt. There in the stillness of the chamber (no choral cantata this time), looking down on the finely chiseled body of the deposed president—you could clearly see the veins on his hands, or so I thought—the family friend whispered: This body is just a wax replica, the real corpse had already been buried underneath. End of the narrative.

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Eclectica Magazine publishes “Tekla at the Grand Parade”

I have far too many things on my mind these days, more troubles than joys. But one poem just got published by Eclectica Magazine, and so I’ll take that as a blessing.

Thank you to the kind editors for giving space for my work.

Please read the poem “Tekla at the Grand Parade” and the others featured by this long-running online journal.

tekla at the grand parade eclectica magazine image


I don’t need a greeting card for my dad

There are far too many celebrations used to justify spending on things one doesn’t need or really want, thanks to consumerism.
I don’t like celebrating Father’s Day. Not since my father passed away. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever did anyway even when he was around. It just wasn’t part of any family tradition, I guess. One can argue making such a day special can be seen as superficial. Each day should be celebrated with the ones we love, for, as with everything, all this is temporary. We’re all just passing. Yeah, others have said that before and probably in better ways.
The youth are often uninterested in what the generation before them lived through – what made them happy or sad, what they wished before they ended up with a particular job that wasn’t their first choice, what their favorite shirt was, and other details that seem inconsequential.
I only know a few things about my dad before I was born. He was a good soccer player and was offered a scholarship to keep playing. He had to refuse it so he could work and support his brothers and sisters. He joined the military. Imagine if he had chosen just for himself?
He passed away when I was on the other side of the world. My sisters put the cellphone close to him as he muttered various sounds no one could make out. I doubt he knew it was me on the other end.
I was with my wife and our twin daughters who were too small to have any memory of that day. We were at a function organized by parents of twins and multiples. There were farm animals in the stalls being petted by laughing children not far away from where we were sitting in the grass.
He never got to read the following poem (which I may have shared here or elsewhere before).

Paper Skin, Bone of Bamboo

These were all we needed:
an old pair of scissors,

two pieces of sturdy
but pliant bamboo, split
to the width of a finger
the span of my young arms,

newspapers, the gray skin
rubbing off on my palms,
a fistful of cold rice
to glue everything together.

Last was the longest string
I could steal from my mother
as she lay in restless sleep.
Then there had to be time.

All these things grew useless
without time. They waited
to be gathered, to be touched,
pieced together with patience.

They waited for father.
Those newspapers could have told me
scraps of stories, something
about his absences, nights

and days on end. Curfews, arrests,
insurgents, offensives,
puppet masters, empires.
Back then words mattered less

to me. All I wanted to see
was that kite defying claws
of TV aerials and rusty roofs,
the grasp of remaining trees.

From both our hands
that kite took off and saw
the sprawl of lives made intimate
by a common silence and struggle.

It took on the wind and sang.
Blurred all words on its skin.
Stillness in between mad search
for balance became its dance

to its very end.
Although those rare afternoons
never lasted long enough,
that kite was relentless, fierce

in its defiance of wind
and ground, everything
that dared to take away
all that fragility,

all that majesty.

-o-

from Alien to Any Skin, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2011.


The tap was left running – or “Oh, I got featured on the Ploughshares blog!”

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

my favourite jeans cropped


Hooks, Boundaries, Feathers

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. 🙂

 

 


Reading to an Imaginary Audience

I’ve been invited as feature poet at the Cape Town Central Library’s Poetry Circle this Saturday, 30 January 2016. They even put up an invitation on their Facebook page, which made me nervous.

Here is the LINK to the public announcement.

I told my online poetry critique group my fear of facing an audience that might not know me. Worse, what if nobody turned up? Well at least there’ll be refreshments. “More for me!!!!” (hahahaha). One kind member of the group said this:

Time for one of my favorite stories. I tell it all the time. People start nodding their heads finishing off the lines because they know it so well. But here goes anyway. I’ll probably tell it again.

It’s about Abbott and Costello, the famous comedy team. Bud Abbott cheated on his taxes and was in trouble with the IRS for owing back taxes. Lou Costello at this time was dead. So Abbott sent out a nationwide request to his loyal fans to help him out with donations. After all that trouble, he only got about 2 hundred dollars. A wise-ass reporter asked him to comment on his so-called fans donating so little. Mr. Abbott said, “It was damn nice of them.” So it’s damn nice of those 7 people or however many finally do show up.

Seriously, though. I do love reading my work out loud, particularly those that work better that way than just flat on a piece of paper. I know most people who read this little blog are not even in Cape Town – or South Africa, for that matter. So feel free to give me a shout and wish me luck. Yes, I’m nervous but I’m also very excited. I hope not to waste anyone’s time at the very least.

If you’ve ever read and like any of my poetry, it would be nice to hear which ones you think I should include for the reading. Makes the whole effort less solitary.

Thanks for accompanying me on this journey.


Aerodrome publishes “Wood and String” and “End of 2010: Another Science Fiction Year has Come and Gone”

It’s great to see two more poems appear on the fantastic site AERODROME. I wrote “Wood and String” after a video prompt from an international competition at Poetry International. It received honorable mention. Now it has its own page shared with another poem that has been around since… 2010. 🙂 I hope you enjoy both of them.

HERE IS THE LINK

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image from wikipedia

Thank you to the editors of Aerodrome!