Categories
Poetry

It is snowing in your country

I am looking out the bus window playing
River by Joni Mitchell. It is snowing there,
you sent me pictures of cobblestoned streets,


of you and your lover, four degrees cold, you
say. Meanwhile the trees are green as ever here
in my country. The children chase the chickens


and the sun trails off behind them. A mother
is picking green mangoes from the trees and
the men are drinking rice wine by the road.

The river runs smoothly, slowly painting the dry
rocks, while the stray dogs are swimming with
the catfish. The farmers are resting in their huts

beside the sleeping water buffalos. But it don’t snow
here, Joni sings, it stays pretty green. What do I know
of winter? I ask the rice fields of my country,

of snow? I only know of birds and trees and wishful
thinking. I know only of cold. I wish it snows here.
I wish you are here. In the prairies beside me lying

in the lush dry grass, laughing, and it is summer.

Categories
Poetry

Cartography

For Andrew

1.

Say that there?s nothing left to plot
And everything has sprawled itself a horizon on a map,
From this time to this place, to this place to this time.
And our sympathies are the revelations that cross
The sections of whole hours and meridians.

Miles away, the Chico river flows in danger.
Its perpetuity threatened into a flooding.
We mourn the drowning of
the same river over and over.
Which will soon be merely a pooling of earth and water on a map.

How did we manage to navigate at a time
When lines on a map were merely rivers and Nara trees?
And the end and edge of property were limited by our ancestor?s sight?
The thought of boundaries were as permissible as osmosis
Of folklore and elder foresight.

The lines resolve in the city?s comfort.
You lie in bed, plotting Biliran
While attempting to arrest its flooding on a map.
Dreaming maps save us from dissolution.
Hoping for the uncharted left in the wake of Yolanda.

There?s something our maps have left to imagination.
A period of suspension where, here,
in the intermediary of thought and plot,
A bare life exists before the solidus:
Only potential, only possibilities, only hope away from home.

Outside, the hibiscus finally blooms.
I cut its flowers that we have anticipated
into their unfurling from bud to crimson then bud again.
We watch their fragile waning,
Relieving themselves of home and place.

Constantly in cusp, merely this bud.

2.

What begs for clarity
Is the fickle distance between
The outline of space and presence.
The widening margin.
The fog of a shadow.

What is swallowed by horizon?
Where do cliffs turn to edges?
When do edges begin roads?

I will take you to the city I grew up in
I will take you to the old stone market.
I will have you smell sights I once got lost in childhood.
There, the rowdy meat vendor.
There, the sunflowers inside bright plastic bins.
There, hangs the everlasting.
And soon the roads float these flowers down
A hill.

I will teach you to negotiate in my space.
I will teach you to haggle for thrifted clothes.
You will speak in between languages of yours and mine.
You will taste the sweetness of rice wine.
There, the old haunt of journalists.
There, the rumors of the city whispered in between the shots of gin.
You will learn the pains of old folks.
And mourn for the felling of the last pine.

Dearest,
These maps can?t reveal
the simultaneity of senses
from this singular view
On top of a mountain.

Categories
Poetry

Amihan

The city only heals if it rains.
Calm, still, quiet: an afterthought.
Lights will illuminate the battered

skins of roads, pedestrian stripes
losing its mundaneness, praying
for the last sole to press on

its body. The vehicles are the first
to go, then stores, leaving empty
rooms, empty floors, empty buildings,

unreachable from the water. It must
be that the city only heals if the rain
a lover of the sky bathes its bed,

the temporary freckled blanket
overlooking the stars, a cemetery
of cemented highways, bridges,

canals busy with their own dying.
Somewhere far away from here,
In Apo, its tongue cleansing

fallen leaves, the city must be
healing in peace, an abandoned
joy, lips aghast in shower, touching

the palms of the wind as if freely
devoid of all those that forget why
the city is a city. It will hum now

as the sky?s ash canvas slowly blinds,
creases in black, watching passersby
curse, hairs drenched from the cold

spring of heaven, and one by one
they?re gone. The next time it pours,
hear in silence the city?s breathing.

Categories
Poetry

The placenta of evening stars

After Jim Morrison

Children are born navigators.
The have crossed torrid wetlands,
Slept in tombs full of water,
Made love with the dark
Before they open eyes and see
The mutiny of mundane days,
Waiting for the dying
Of their own innocence.        
They seek manhood,
Enlightenment in a gun, as if
To bury the young years
Of questionings ? what small
Desires do they attempt to know,
Maybe taste, to escape the sin
Of ignorance? After all,
To kill childhood is a ritual
Of cities mired of many unnamed
Deaths, countless for memory
To be exhumed. After all,
Children grow up to become
Men who go out on ships
And carry the womb of their mothers,
Shields from the dangerous initiations
Of a world unknown to sailors,
The beating heart of a lost jungle
Undiscovered, wilderness untamed.
To watch the placenta of evening stars,
Children of men would want
To drift off back to seas
They first knew of home.
Only now, the water has dried out
For them to swim, feel in relief
Lapping waves growing old
Trying to reach heaven, lest touch.

Categories
Poetry

A Philosophy of Water

I. Myth

In the beginning was the sea
and there was nothing to contain it.

How the spirit soars with each crest
slough crest and cowers with the slough

crest slough is the moment I always
sail for, the rise as terrible

as the plunge, terrible
because primal, this urge

to taste the spray and keep it
in the tongue, salty with wonder.

I imagine the ancestors like this,
the patriarch standing on the outrigger,

the great mother letting loose her hair
against the wind while nursing her child,

another young one hiding behind
her skirt. What other horizons

they were pursuing, I could not know.
What they found was the shore.

II. Passage through the Samar Sea

This is no Sea of Galilee where He surely will be
to admonish faithlessness. We are told
He would sleep through it all,
waking only at the height of the storm
to calm the sea giving in
to the wind?s teasing.
He could make them obey,
had no need to contain them.
Or He could come from
the shore, walking on water.
Even as we get to the deeper
trenches where ships pass
and boats almost flounder,
we are still on the surface
of things.

II. Epicurus amused

Rocked by the waves,
the young boy has buried
his face on his sister?s lap.
In the slate sheen, only the seabirds
swoop and play.

III. Epictetus above the waves

Where everything goes awry so soon ?
one of the back outriggers broke keep the engine
running balance the boat get that pole
in here use that bench instead fasten it
keep calm ? some unburden themselves
in words. The old woman sits
clutching her rosary, a few
sleep undisturbed, others keep watch
on the sea. Let them be.
In your cabin, it is only the stern back
of your head that is visible through
the slats, while you sit silent
with the weight of every one
of them. Scrape of rock or
surge of water, sea or shore,
it doesn?t matter. Nothing here
is yours to lose.

IV. The Captain

We learned by memory the anatomy
of waves, the structure of whirlwinds.
Ours is a philosophy of water,
its weight inevitable, intimating
mortality. Yet this is also how births
come to pass, a sheath of water
breaking, the way it could
if in the next plunge we sink
into our proper depths.
To put shore as a limit
to sea is a conceit
of discovery. Scrape of rock
or surge of water, there is
no shaking off fear. The wisdom
of the seas proclaim it is
the rudder, itself the only way
to steer.