A friend asks if I’ve been writing

& I laugh, a small, muffled laugh,
unsure if thinking about writing

counts as writing. Emptiness
is part of the process, I think.

Silence, a more sensible response
than words. Between grad school

requirements, a hundred students,
& a crumbling world, how does

something so airless & immaterial
find its way to demand space? Read More

Tumbang Preso

     “House panel OKs
     bill lowering age
     of criminal liability”
     – Phil. News Agency, Enero 2019

Minsan pagkatapos ang tagisan
sa aming kuwentuhan sa tindahan
ni Aling Bebang, napatanong ako
kung saan kaya dumidiretso
itong mga presong
pinatutumba raw namin
sa tuwing umaasinta
ng sintang lata
gamit ang mga tsinelas na binili
sa Divisoria.

Anubayang tanong mo, pambobo,
sagot ng kalaro kong si Ernesto.
E ‘di siyempre bumabalandra sa kalsada,
dagdag niyang animo’y isang eksperto.
Sabay takbo sa malayong-malayo,
sabay sigaw sa’min na mga kalaro:
Mahuli sa court, bansot at supot!
Sabay harurot, silang mahaharot,
habang ako ay
naiwang
nakapulupot.

Hindi siguro nila nabalitaan
ang bagong panuntunan sa laro ngayon:
kung yung batang blondie nga
sa lata ng Alaska, preso nang
ipinatutumba, papaano pa kaya
kami raw na ang mga alas at lakas lang
ay mang-alas at mang-
alaska?

Atras, kalas, o baklas na?

Sa Mga Hantatawo

Wala nalipay ang hardiniro kay gipangkitkit na
sa mga hantatawo ang mga dahon. Ang kalunhaw
sa iyang mga tanom kaniadto, karon, nangalawos na.

Kining mga hantatawo, dili dayon makita, nahisagol,
nakighiusa sa tanaman. Busa, iya kining gisusi –
ug sa wala madugay – iya silang gitapok: kon wala

gipanglubong ilang lawas sa yuta, gipang-itsa kini
sa dagat, gipakaon sa mga isda. Apan, di ba sayod
ang hardiniro nga kini sila posible mahimong

mga alibangbang? Kay sa way puas nga pagkatun-as
sa liboan ka dahon sa mga tanom, di pod ba sila
ang makapamuwak niini? Dinhi sa hardin,

padayong gipamatay sa hardiniro ang mga ‘peste’
hangtod wala nay hantatawo nga makita ug kon
tuod mao kini ang gitanom niyang ‘kabag-ohan’,

nganong magbalik-balik man ang mga hantatawo
sa iyang hardin ug kitkiton iyang mga tanom?

No Loitering Allowed

At eight in the morning, the elevator is a silent battle ring.
There is no victory, only a bullet in the form of luck
that we use to shoot at barely a spot inside a box.
It will lead to another, with corners still to be fought for.
A purpose is all that a contender needs to qualify,
but if the weight of your empty stomach causes it
to overload, find another one to push off the ground.

Careful is not the word for it—calculated, maybe.
Not out of practice, only habit. The former feels
too willing, so we go with the latter. The habit
of tangoing near the curb to avoid the edge
of rainbow-patterned parasols and the smoke
that wants to play patintero with every passerby.

If someone only saw the joke you can easily make
about the mayor who gets driven in a car to work,
driving off street vendors from the side of the street,
we wouldn’t be arguing this much on Facebook.
We were locked at home for so long that we forgot
how we once danced with each other on a sidewalk,
with our different hungers and similar paths back home.

The window seat of a UV express raises a voyeur
among the innocents. An apocalypse of highways
plays on the movie screen from a north-bound view.
All the gore of elbows and knuckles are theatrics
of the present from the past fifteen seconds ago,
before the lock clicked and sealed everyone’s fate.
Enjoy the show. Tomorrow’s plot might be different.

People stand outside, in front of a row of skyscrapers.
Their eyes find an excuse to flutter shut at the sight
of signs that tell them they can’t stay. It’s easy
when the wind blows harder in this block
than anywhere else, and the smokey apparitions
made out of oil, gas, and coal can hide bodies.

Nobody knows who, but a man made a rule
that a spot in the city is earned before it is chosen.
It will call you to occupy a role, never a place.
And if you try to look for it beyond the curfew,
he will put you in a dog cage at the side of the road.

But on dirty staircases of closed laundry shops
and abandoned banks, littered are traces
of ashes from cigarettes and the burnt outs
who leave them behind. A reminder
of a space well owned into the night,
like warm metal railings sticky with handprints,
sinking planters and slanted lamp posts.

What these marks spell out is a song,
and to touch what others have touched
in this city is enough to hear the whispers it sings,
vibrating beneath the ground we all walk in.
The masseur hums it as she closes the salon,
and a man who delivers mineral water
puts it down to nod along to the melody that says
a city unmade for its people underestimates them,
because function is a gift from the flesh.

Makinang de Pedal

Malaking gulong,
maliit na gulong
dapat pabulong
galit na dagundong

Bakal ay kinakalawang
palad na magaspang
ngalay na balakang
lubog sa utang

Makinang de pedal
modistang sinasakal
kaluluwang isinakdal
masa ang nagluwal

Ganid na higante
pasan ng mga pesante
malabong mga lente
“Kailan tayo aabante?”