Tag Archives: Alien to Any Skin

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-

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A few goat poems from ALIEN TO ANY SKIN

new-36

Amber Fort Goats

The first one I saw was close
to the hotel, standing on its hind legs,
udders dangling like a pair
of lifeless arms.

She was the neighbourhood’s
resident pruner of shrubs and trees,
chewing away at the reds and greens
of bougainvillae along a spiked fence.

Later as I took on the stone steps
up Amber Fort I saw more.
Long limbed and silent hooved,
nudging not a pebble as they trotted.

Free to roam the ruins, more at home
here than the lumbering elephants
forced to ferry tourists past arches,
brown as burnt french fries.

Perhaps in another life
they were princes,
courtiers, palace officials,
a conquering raj.

I must practice my curtsey, wag
an ear or attempt the humblest bleat.
I might have a turn one day sifting through
garbage, savouring petals of velvet red.

Dream again of being king.

  February 2010
-o-

Goat, Rope, Rock

There is a goat in front of a house surrounded by sand.
Its left foot is tied to a rope
attached to a chunk of rock.
The desert town of Jaisalmer grows dark.
It is possible there are other goats
like this one, tied similarly to a rock.
But this is the goat that will not surrender
gnawing at the rope even as darkness reigns.
It will not give up while rope
taunts the limits of teeth.  Even when I
am no longer by the window to witness
its freedom.

March 2010
-o-

The Camel, The Poodles, the Pygmy Goats

There was a flourish of canned music and a wild
bouncing around of the one lone spotlight,
but the curtains didn’t part.  We sat
on plastic chairs that grew
even more uncomfortable.

Suddenly a camel came charging through
the golden curtains, the trainer unable to keep up.
Perhaps sensing there was no desert night,
it reared.  Front hooves
the size of a child’s skull.

The frantic trainer called for help
and the beast was led away amid screams
backstage.  More waiting until two poodles
shuffled like mechanical toys to the centre
of the ring.  They did their routine: hoop-leaps,

Two-legged spinning in tutus.  With “Awww so cute”
and giggles we soon forgot the previous commotion.
They left the ring with a yelp
after the last doggie treat
disappeared down their throats.

And so we came to watch the last
animal act: Billy and His Kid.
Being pygmies, they quickly drew a sigh
from the audience.  Small is beautiful
even if barely trained to do more than cross a plank.

I suppose we’ve come a few more steps
away from the sight of roaring lions made to jump
through flaming hoops.  We didn’t see
a single whip, though next to the pouch
of treats was a black stick.

“Perhaps next year,” the ringmaster blared,
“our lion cubs will be old enough for the show!”
We couldn’t wait to leave.
But the kids gave us the look, a reminder
of how we pay for our mistakes.

-o-

Late Autumn, Early Winter

Hadeda ibises scythe the air
with their cries.  Not like crows
or vultures, but something closer
to a human voice caught
between a wail and a screech.

I cannot see them among the branches
of an invasive American pine tree
just twenty paces away
from where I struggle.

They watch me dig
this sandy soil
that slips back into the hole
almost as quickly as I try
to make it wider, deeper,
with a rusty shovel.
This is a grave
for a pet who is still
munching lucerne in the garage.

Not the first grave
I have dug.  And I know
it won’t be the last.
I lean the shovel
against the trickling wall of sand
to pause and measure.

Do I need to keep digging?
Is there room enough
for Marie?  Born with back legs
that were as limp as fallen branches,
she defied the pull of the earth
and used her front legs to run
almost as fast as any goat
for many years.

Now this.
Almost a week now
her legs have lost all strength.
The vet knows Marie’s genes
had struck the dreaded hour.
I have prepared a blanket
for her when he’s done.
The appointment is at 11:00.

It is late autumn, early winter,
then suddenly there is sunshine
on the damp grass
at level to my hips.  Dark clouds
broken as brief as a breath.
But it happens.

  May 2008
-o-

Happy Chinese New Year! Here’s my small way of bleating. 😛

I have been promised by my publisher that sooner rather than later the book will be available on digital format. Here’s hoping.

ALIEN TO ANY SKIN (UST Publishing House, 2011)


Day of Rage and a previously posted poem, “Rent a Horror Movie”

After seeing Jon Snow’s “Unseen Gaza,” many years ago, I wrote a poem called “Rent a Horror Movie.” It is full of rage, but one that is like a fist in the dark. HERE IS THE LINK TO THE POEM.

-o-

The following is taken from the BDS Movement.

Gaza Calling: All out on Saturday 9 August Day of Rage

Join the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Movement today. Demand Sanctions on Israel Now.

As we face the full might of Israel’s military arsenal, funded and supplied by the United States and European Union, we call on civil society and people of conscience throughout the world to pressure governments to sanction Israel and implement a comprehensive arms embargo immediately.

Take to the streets on Saturday 9 August with a united demand for sanctions on Israel.

From Gaza under invasion, bombardment, and continuing siege, the horror is beyond words.  Medical supplies are exhausted. The death toll has reached 1813 killed (398 children, 207 women, 74 elderly) and 9370 injured (2744 children, 1750 women, 343 elderly). Our hospitals, ambulances, and medical staff are all under attack while on duty. Doctors and paramedics are being killed while evacuating the dead. Our dead are not numbers and statistics to be recounted; they are loved ones, family and friends.

While we have to survive this onslaught, you certainly have the power to help end it the same way you helped overcome Apartheid and other crimes against humanity. Israel is only able to carry out this attack with the unwavering support of governments – this support must end.

This is our third massacre in six years. When not being slaughtered, we remain under siege, an illegal collective punishment of the entire population. Fishermen are shot and killed if they stray beyond a 3 km limit imposed unilaterally by Israel. Farmers are shot harvesting their crops within a border area imposed unilaterally by Israel.  Gaza has become the largest open-air prison, a concentration camp since 2006. This time, we want an end to this unprecedented crime against humanity committed with the complicity and support of your own governments!

We are not asking for charity. We are demanding solidarity, because we know that until Israel is isolated and sanctioned, these horrors will be repeated.

– See more at: http://www.bdsmovement.net/2014/gaza-calling-all-out-on-saturday-9-august-day-of-rage-12423#sthash.NW8glK7y.dpuf


Three Now Alive on DEAD SNAKES

dead snakes logo

Most places that accept poetry often have a note that they only accept unpublished material. A lot of my poems in previous books would love to find new readers in other homes and so it is a joy to find places like DEAD SNAKES.

Three poems from ALIEN TO ANY SKIN just got accepted there. Please visit DEAD SNAKES and leave a comment to show your support.

Enjoy!

 

 


Versions Old, Revised,…Final?

moth wings blurred up

 

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

-o-


My poem, “Glimpses,” a finalist at Goodreads.com

I was never the popular kid. At least my poems get noticed. Then again, after the judges have selected, this one becomes a popularity contest. Oh well… 🙂 Care to vote for this one?

Poll
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GOODREADS MARCH NEWSLETTER TOP FINALISTS’ POEMS — PLEASE SELECT ONE!

CLICK HERE TO READ THIS MONTH’S FINALISTS

* Voting is anonymous and choices are listed randomly.

Thanks, as always, to our judges, Meg Harris, Dan Simmons and Ruth Bavetta for selecting six finalists from this month’s group!


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-