Tag Archives: Alien to Any Skin

A paper child is born

1 February 2017. Or nearly. As I start writing this it is 23:33 in Cape Town. It is already dawn where I was born. I wonder what it’s like in the UK where my new paper child, Wings of Smoke, has just been born.
A few years ago two books of mine came out at the same time, Alien to Any Skin and Baha-bahagdang Karupukan. I’m still very fond of those books. They broke the more than 10 years of publication silence I underwent. I was terrified what would happen to them, as if they were flesh and blood of mine. So I wrote a poem where I gave them names, Karu and Skin. That poem later appeared in another book, Sound Before Water.
I can’t remember if I’ve posted it here before, but it seems appropriate to share it as Wings of Smoke is born.
May you all find loving homes and eager readers, my paper children, sooner rather than later.

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

-o-

silly-photos-of-jim-082-adjusted


Last Words, and a photograph that says something else

A few days ago I was sweeping the leaves that had fallen all over the front of the house. There were so many of them that I had gathered nearly ten heaps about a foot high each. They were mostly brown, but also green ones and yellow ones, and shades in between. I couldn’t count how many there were really unless I picked them up and separated each one at a time. I tried to take a few photos, perhaps just to remind me that I did some work in the yard that day. Then one photo came out completely different from the others. It came out red.

IMG_20160714_110243

These days the people in my country of birth wake up to news of those summarily executed and dumped in broad daylight. It is a nightmare existence. The rising number of victims continues because of words. Yes, words from the newly-elected president who won by plurality vote (meaning not a majority, but by less than 40% of the voting population in this case).
Words of hatred and destruction. Words that seek to erase the humanity in each person, in both victims and perpetrators. Words that carry a blindness that quickly spreads. And so with words I share this warning.

-o-

Last Words

Being exposed to the elements,
the point of this spear
has gone
almost the way
of dust.

It has no memory
of skin and blood.

It has no memory
who held it first, last.

It is just one of many,
an echo of defeat
or conquest.

All who wish to keep
their grip on the rest
will surrender to the weaver

of myths and songs.
The last words
will never flow
from the lips of an emperor.

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


Burying a Dictator

My country of birth has an incoming president who won by garnering less than 40% of the votes. It can be said that over 60% of the voting population did not choose him, and when he gains control of the country this many people will be watching his every move, hoping all their fears be proven wrong. More than a month away from being sworn in, he mouths the same things during his notorious campaign. The ghosts of those killed by the so-called Davao Death Squads (documented by international agency Human Rights Watch and the country’s own Commission on Human Rights) will continue to haunt him until justice is done.
One thing that seems to have forced even his own supporters to declare disagreement with him even this early has to do with the remains of the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. The incoming president apparently sees him as worthy of being buried at the Heroes’ Cemetery. The public – perhaps more aware of that dark part of the country’s history – has started various campaigns to fight this utter disrespect for the countless victims of Martial Law. One of the campaigns is on Change.org. Here is the LINK. Please consider signing it and then sharing the petition link.
In showing my support, I am posting this poem which appeared in my book ALIEN TO ANY SKIN (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2011). My poem is nothing compared to what the people of the Philippines suffered under the rule of the dictator, his family, and various cronies.
 

Tracks on Grasslands

It begins with that one step. A boot
on the slenderest blade
of grass. The faintest
crunch of bright green veins
nearly invisible to your eye.

But it happens. That breaking.

It happens again and again
as you move on, forcing down
other blades of grass,
leaving your tracks,
making a path of near
silent destruction
to somewhere
you think is yours
to claim.

And when you encounter
thicker grass that dare
to keep you out,
you make them sing
with that sharpened edge.

You do this in the dark.
You do this mostly in the dark.

October 2007
-o-


Leaving the Land: Geometry and Fear (poem from Alien to Any Skin) and some musings

Today my country of birth, the Philippines, celebrates Independence Day.

Google put this banner up, but being in South Africa it took me a while to work out that it was only visible when you log onto the Google Philippines search engine.

google ph independence day

As a kid, all I remember when that day came was being on holiday. My parents never took me to wherever there might be parades or state activities. I do remember the national flag being displayed on the most prominent window of each house. I have this vague memory that it was more a national decree to do that rather than something citizens just felt like doing. You remember things differently as a kid. Sometimes memory and imagination cross borders. And sometimes children see things as they are (or should be) much clearer than adults would.

Is my country of birth truly independent when it welcomes military forces from another country to wage war? When drones fly over, identifying targets? When the leaders of the land need to consult foreign powers for the country’s own “protection”? When foreign-owned mining companies put up bogus “local owners” just to resources and displace indigenous people?

When you leave the country where your feet first touched soil, you will never return as the same person. But you also do not have to leave in order to see things a different way. It could be as simple as tilting your head or closing your eyes for a moment while you listen to what’s around you. Sometimes you are drawn to something and cannot explain why. The lines on your palms mark the way you close your hand when you sleep or are at rest. How can anyone see them as anything more?

Here is a poem from ALIEN TO ANY SKIN, the first book that my current publisher, UST Publishing House released (back in 2011). I am still very fond of that book for it made me want to get back in to publishing. I can’t wait to see my forthcoming paper child, A THOUSAND EYES.

-o-

Geometry and Fear

i knew someone once
who could read lines

it was a gift she never wanted
to use, unless you begged her
for some glimmer of a future

she said faith should be enough
and seeing the doubt in my eyes
she had to allow geometry
to lead me out of the dark

you will leave your country
stare loneliness in the eye
bury the dead among the living
and resurrect them unwillingly

because your hands are your way
of seeing in the dark
and i laughed
a bitter laughter

that i had
never heard before

October – November 2007
-o-

window

I have a feeling I may have posted this poem before, but no matter. There must be a reason I do not yet understand why it resurfaced into memory. It must be the thick fog that had settled overnight where I now live – and it still has not lifted though it is nearly 11 in the morning.


Happiness: The Delight-Tree arrives in the post

Happiness the delight-tree low resThis arrived in the postbox this morning. I only found out today that Marjorie Evasco also has a poem in this UN anthology. So extra happy! And some very big names from SA as well as other parts of the world.

My own poem comes from my 2011 book ALIEN TO ANY SKIN published by University of Santo Tomas Publishing House.


The First Four Poems

Most of my friends are scattered in various parts of the world. Not a single one was able to attend when I read at Off the Wall on Monday night.

It would have been nice to see familiar faces. But that night I also made new friends, I hope. Thank you to those who came to listen, and for those who wished they could’ve been there, I’ve made a brief recording and put it up on Soundcloud. Tell me what you think. And thanks again for all the support. Soon I hope to announce the release of A THOUSAND EYES.

photo from The Guardian of a Lego man depicting what took place in Abu Gharib, Iraq


Off the Wall on 9 March 2015 – THE HAND THAT LEFT THE PUPPET GASPING

If all goes well, I’ll be reading at Off the Wall in Observatory’s A Touch of Madness bar and restaurant here in Cape Town. One of the poems I intend to read is “The Man Who Wished He was Lego” which appeared in Sixfold. I shared a link to that in an earlier post. But for those who missed it, HERE IT IS AGAIN.

I’m hoping not to make the audience fall asleep. Well, an audience would be nice to have in the first place. So if you are in Cape Town or plan to have a weird night on Monday, come on over. 🙂

I’m also going to read work included in the recently released NEW COIN POETRY bumper issue. If you ever read contemporary poetry, this journal has got to be on your list. Convince your local library to subscribe to NEW COIN POETRY (check them out on Facebook).

cover with hand

Hmmm wait, might as well post the poem here for lazy readers who cannot even click to a link. haha.

-o-

The Man Who Wished He was Lego

His hands would be yellow
and forever curved
into a semi-square “C.”
Designed only for quick
and easy snapping

of pieces meant
to fit. His shoes
would be the same color
as his pants with no zips
or buttons, no pockets

for slipping in notes
that could be shredded
in the wash. He would need
not worry about the shape
of his head, or haircuts

and thoughts for that matter.
And best of all, his chest
would be stiff and hollow,
far too small
for a heart.

-o-