Category Archives: poetry

Brief Bio for an Anthology

I stare at it like the beginning of a flatline,
that dash next to my year of birth.
Two lines down, a paragraph with nothing
but blurry snapshots of a life
unwillingly summarised for imagined readers,
strangers, for posterity.

Then that uncontrollable laughter kicks in.
It is shrill, like the wailing of an ambulance,
and drowns out all dramatic gestures
I have conjured for myself
on that page. Delusions of grandeur
stripped naked on a stretcher.

Sometimes oneself can be the cruelest critic,
the first to hold the blade
against such tender skin.

June 2008
-o-

(from Alien to Any Skin, UST Publishing House, Manila 2011)

This poem came to mind when a good friend, SA poet Raphael d’Abdon shared his bionote poem with his friends on Facebook. I hope I haven’t posted this before here. The book where this poem first appeared, Alien to Any Skin, was published around August six years ago (if memory serves me right).

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Wings of Smoke gets reviewed on Eclectica Magazine

ECLETICA MAGAZINE wings of smoke

I’m always thankful for every reader who spends some time with my work – whether it’s a haiku attempt, an essay,  a story, a poem. Then there’s that completely different kind of high when someone not only reads a whole book, but writes a review to share what s/he feels about it.

Wings of Smoke received very warm reviews from Aerodrome and The FilAm. And now this one from Ecletica Magazine! Lovers of poetry will find Jennifer Finstrom’s review engaging and, I hope, make readers consider getting a copy of the book.


“Like a Log” on SoundCloud to mark UN Refugee Day

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I am bothered by news from back home. Internal displacement in Mindanao due to the fighting between government forces and the Maute group comes to mind. Disturbing news of the growing number of dead from the fighting as well as in the dire situation at refugee centers.

And then, of course, there is the ever-increasing number of people fleeing their own countries in desperation due to war. They try to cross treacherous seas, and, even if they survive, they are rarely met with open arms. They face borders.

Borders, before they become fences and walls, are imagined. Applied to people, they can easily be turned into tools of abuse, tools of turning one human being against another, tools of forgetting what happens when those armed and more powerful impose their will on the vulnerable.

Listening to the radio this morning, I learned it was Refugee Day.

I have never been a refugee. I’m an immigrant by choice – by luck. Even as all of us can be struck with a longing for our place of birth, the place where we took our first breath, tasted water, touched mud, got blinded by dust on a hot day, we can only imagine the struggles of refugees.

I’m sharing my poem, “Like a Log,” which first appeared in The Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology VI. I’ve also posted a voice recording on SoundCloud. The link is HERE.

 

Like a Log

 

“I’m not going to tell you another story,
my boy. You laugh too loud,” grandfather said
as I begged. His voice sounded
like it was coming from the village well

before it was blasted. The stories he told
came from a time when the sky
was not yet something to be feared.
His eyes, clouded with cataract,
only saw white shadows.

But he could sense when someone
was stirring awake. He began to fade
into the damp wood. I whispered to him,
“I am afraid of the dark and the sound
of water splashing against the sides

of the boat.” Grandfather held
my small hands and then patted
the tied up bundle mother left me
before they threw her overboard.

-o-


This Friday at Franschhoek

FLF2017

I’ll be participating on a panel discussion at the Franschhoek Literary Festival this Friday, 1430-1530, with highly respected poet Antjie Krog. We will be interviewed by Sue de Groot of the Sunday Times.

Here is a LINK TO THE PROGRAMME. The main website  of FLF2017 has links to author profiles as well.

Wish me luck. Not sure I’ll know anyone there. Or them me. Haha.

 


Canopic Jar features my poetry!

Fellow Onslaught Press author and amazing poet Rethabile Masilo, winner of the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, invited me to send work for consideration at Canopic Jar, an arts journal. I was delighted, but could only hope the other editors of the online journal would like my work. It turns out they did!

On Friday, 12 May 2017, Rethabile tagged me on Facebook to say that my work is on the “Featured Voices” section of Canopic Jar. But I couldn’t get online to post and share the news until now.

HERE is the LINK to Canopic Jar. Hope you enjoy and share the page with your friends, or anyone who you think might like such poetry.

Thank you, Rethabile! More power to Canopic Jar!

If you have the budget, dear reader, please consider buying my new book, Wings of Smoke! And for those who are in the Philippines, my most recent books published by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House are still available and can be ordered through the USTPH Facebook page.

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Zuma a Day Before April Fool’s

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photo of Mule feces from wikimedia

 

Zuma a Day Before April Fool’s

A snake may have no ears,
but it doesn’t mean it is deaf. Under that
scaly head, attached to its jaws,
is something akin to hearing. It snares
vibrations and low frequencies in the air.

Having no legs, it moves swifter
than we expect, drawing fear
beyond reason. A man is no snake.
To compare one with the other
is far from fair. Worse

for the one who cannot protest
a single injustice, who prefers
to crawl away from harm.
But this man, chosen by those
we trust, he makes a fool of us,

coiling in laughter as people
are struck before him, laughter
resonant as a tree hollowed out
by termites. Surely the ancestors
can see and hear the way he slithers?

-o-

RELATED ARTICLE FROM THE MAIL AND GUARDIAN


Date of Birth – originally posted on “days of stone”

Date of Birth

On the scorching final day of March
1969, multiple copies of a government document
were made to mark the birth of a child
just in time for afternoon siesta.

Though it bore his name,
chosen for him without asking
his consent, and the time
and date of his arrival, his weight,

the document said little else. Leaving him
to one day wonder whose hands
had pulled him out of his mother’s
flesh. Was that person careful

not to hurt him as she forced
open the child’s fists while counting
his fingers and toes? Did she listen
with her good ear as he took

his first breaths, listened as air
explored his lungs for the first time?
Was it a slow and intimate moment
or was the operating room

quickly wiped up and prepared
for the arrival of another child
before he could even test the limits
of his throat? Did she return

to see if he’d survived
his first hours? Or did she rush
home to her own?
Years later he would carry

a certified copy of that piece
of paper to prove his existence
to officials. But he himself
has no memory of being fished

out of a sea of watery darkness
to be held up in the humming
fluorescent light
and weighed.

-o-

This poem was written on 22 September 2016 (1324-1402) for the days of stone website of my good friend, Ryan Stone, who lives in Australia. One day I hope to finally meet my friend in person and thank him for reading my work and encouraging others to do the same.

If you are interested in my writing, my new book, Wings of Smoke, has just been released and available through various online retailers like Book Depository, Amazon and my publisher, The Onslaught Press. Readers in the Philippines may contact via Facebook my Manila-based publisher, UST Publishing House.

Writing starts largely as a solitary act. Any writing may as well be a leaf pressed by the elements between sand turned to stone if it is never read. Today I thank all those who have spent time with my words.

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