May iniisip ka?
Ayaw kong sabihin. Baka magkatotoo.
Dahil makulit ka
Kilala kita. Oo, ikaw 'yun: Nagkasalubong na tayo minsan, sa LRT, sa Gotohan, sa kanto ng Aurora at Katipunan. Nagkatinginan tayo. Hindi mo ako kinausap, pero alam ko, nakilala mo rin ako. Kaya ka narito, di ba? Para sabihing, Oo, oo, ikaw nga 'yun. Naaalala kita.
We got to the shore before dawn. From the water's surface some hidden thing risked our sight, fascinated, enormous. Few noticed. I sat by the slope of a dune, its cheek firm, cold with weather. The creature sunk and faded, anointed by the gray water. Perhaps it saw me. There are sometimes these moments. Sight, then silence. The coarseness of sand on my palm, the glint of a body, wet and half-lit. The steady throb of two hearts, one heavier than the other. I am not alone, only human.
Juan dela Cruz Confesses to His Neighbor, the Dog Owner
This is how it happened: It was a quarter past six and your dog was sleeping. I killed it. Let's not make a story out of this. Now that I'm a murderer, let me unburden myself of the baggage of symbolism: this frayed hat, this crooked cane. I am Juan dela Cruz, killer of dogs. Years from now only you will remember, and even then you will remember only your grief. Maybe even just part of it. Perhaps it was dusk, you might say, or was it dawn? You will remember the heavy light graying the blood on the pavement. You will remember how you asked me, Why? I tell you, the world is a violent, violent place. Death happens and it happened. I am as human as any murderer can be, and I pray that you will find some comfort in the fact that I would have sobbed as you did, were it you who killed my dog, if I had one. Why? I am a man and I killed your dog. There is no story behind this. There is only the animal urge, the primal moment, and this confession, which saves no one. Not me, not your dog, not you or those like you who hunger for answers, but are met only with that howl, that gurgle, that cruel crescendo, that silence.
There are those who find comfort in repetition. And then there are those like me, who find no comfort in it but go on anyway, trial and error and error and error over and over until my fingers turn to slivers of meat and bone. Somewhere a slingshot held taut but targetless, a stone resigned to aimlessness, homing in on something not quite nameable. Perhaps this is what labor means, the common, endless turning, the emulation of seasons, a tree bearing fruit and a fruit falling to earth and rotting, then becoming a tree again. The world does not get tired even when it should, and there is little comfort in knowing that this is the way it's always been, this is the way it's supposed to be, this is the way it's supposed to be.
Why are you so far away, said she, said the song, said St. Christina the Astonishing as God blew ashes across her face, or was it the wind dragging the smell of burnt meat through her medieval town the way the smell of burnt meat drags through a medieval town. Like a Pentium-age barbecue wafting through a Pentium-age town, only this time there's no beef, no kid bursting bubble-wrap beneath the stairs, no anorexic coed flashing her tits as she would on Mardi gras, another day for some porn to be made. But this isn't a barbecue. This isn't suburban. There isn't your hazel-eyed junkie snorting coke by the shed. This is the Third World with its midgets crooning While My Guitar Gently Weeps, this is your tattooed bagman stepping on dog crap and walking on, this is knife-against-your-rib close quarter combat, compadre. No creme brulee for you, only overripe avocados swimming in cheap, expired condensada. This is the latent energy of four centuries worth of warlocks flailing inside your insanely beating heart. Hear them chanting. Hear their shrill kundimans expiring, their small bodies shivering by the cheek of a mountain. Kundiman is the word for the opposite of if ever, the if still dangling like some persistent tropical fruit. If never. Qualtagh is the word for the first person you meet when you step out your brownstone apartment in some other part of the world, only here it sounds like something someone would kill for, like a few wet bills crouched inside a faux leather wallet, like a rusty coin, like where the fuck are you on my tongue, why are you so far away wherever, what the fuck does it matter, it doesn't. In a church in Ankara the bells toll for a bearded God glaring down a six-year old in short pants. I'm not there. I'm here while ding-dong and the pastor clears his throat. Ding-dong and could I wipe the static from your lips. Ding-dong and Antiscians is the word for people on opposite sides of the equator, their shadows leaning north, leaning south, their fingertips bright, burning, basorexic.
June is water, the ruthlessness of monsoons, wild, wild winds. On and on the roads roll on, dust giving way to an imaginary chrome. I walk knowing the few things that last outlast even me. Sometimes I spot the carcass of a bird heavy with rain, a cat licking away grime from feather, feeding. Sometimes a fruit decayed from summer peeking from beneath a soft wound of leaves. Solemnly the world turns on its axis, the clouds yield and return, and over and over again the seasons give way to an almost sudden rust. The weather waits for no one. There must be a reason for this that we must live our lives looking up, thirsting, straining to find out.
Poetry with lilies can’t stop tanks. Neither can poetry with tanks. This much is true. Here is more or less how it happens. You sit at your desk to write a poem about lilies and a clip of 9mm’s is emptied into the chest of a mother in Zamboanga. Her name was Hamira. I sit at my desk to write a poem about tanks and a backhoe in Ampatuan crushes the spines of 57 -- I am trying to find another word for bodies. The task of poetry is to never run out of words. This is more or less how it happens: I find another word for bodies and Hamira remains dead. Her son was with her when she was shot. I didn’t catch his name. I don’t know if he died. Perhaps he placed lilies on his mother’s grave. Perhaps he was buried beside her. One word for lily is enough. There is enough beauty in flowers. I want to find beauty in sufffering. I want to fail.
We believed stories never died. Our songs were our dreams retold. Sometimes we woke up screaming. Our hearts would spill from our throats like jagged-edged pebbles. We thought silence was a virtue. When our children cried we fed them from our hands. Home was that place no one else claimed as their own. We chanted at our bamboo walls. We spilt the blood of goats and prayed only for rain. We hungered only when we slept. When we thirsted we knelt by the river. The water slipped through our fingers like a story, never ending. We believed something came after dying. We died. We fought back.