poetry and other works

Merlie M. Alunan worked for her Masters Degree in English at Silliman University in Dumaguete City, majoring in Creative Writing and studying under Edilberto K. Tiempo. She was a writing fellow of the Silliman University National Summer Writers Workshop and the UP Creative Writing Center. Most of the poems collected in this blogsite are from her first book collection, Hearthstone, Sacred Tree. The other works have also been published in local newspapers and other publications.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rosas de Piedra

for Simone

When we heard word
A great silence
Walked into our world

Now in the wind
It thickens, it spells
Stillness in the waters
On the hillsides
The white spears of grasses
Quiver, stillborn grief
Hardens on our locked tongues
Our tears unshed
Are roses of stone
Inside our skulls

We shall grow
Continents of silence
Around your name, or else
My daughter
How shall we bear--
Without you in the sunlight
The rest of our days?

*

Fallen in battle in the mountains of Santa Catalina, Negros Oriental, 1987 A.D., a hill warrior talks to his daughter, three years old, from the trail where his bones lie unburied


Sure I had them in my backpack,
the piyaya, just as i had promised,
and the baye-baye from 'Nay Asyon.
She was asking about
the grandchild she'd never seen.
Also a comb for your mother.

The road from Siaton blew up.
Crossing the valley to our hut
to see you for the last time,
I left no footprints anyone could find.
So many things I couldn't
bring with me-- my gun, my boots,
left behind forever in the hidden trail.
Unseen, I watched your mother
waiting while you slept,
combing her hair by the gaslight
with slow patient fingers.
If they ever come
and cut your mother's hair
and bind her to bed,
run and hide.
Whatever you see, do not cry.
You will grow up, little one,
bearer of this vicious bond--


anger of your daughters,
revenge of your sons.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Storm

Fumespun fury well-told
Upon a turn of the windvane's tail
You can't escape by magic
Or the clever exercise of wit,
Deft designs the mind contrives
To trim the terror down to size
your teeth can bite down hard
Fighting the invasive chill.


The outcast passion wasting
The land, flogging the feeble trees
Runs a course in your own bloodtides.
When it comes harrowing the light
Or shredding the shrouds of light,
Bare your head to its carress.
Naked in its eloquence embrace
Yield all to the ravaging kiss.


September 9, 1988

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Writing the National Literature (Why Warays Must Continue Writing in Waray)

More than a hundred years after Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, and Francisco Baltazar’s Florante at Laura, how goes Philippine Literature? Racked as ever by schisms and controversies, and infected, no doubt, by the sociopolitical and economic ills plaguing the country.

Writers continue to grapple with certain pervading issues. To write in English or Filipino? Or to write in any of the 100 or so languages spoken across the islands, some of them by populations so small, they could only be found in an island one could cover on foot in, say, half a day, or in small remote towns of a few hundred houses.

The Myth of Isang Bansa, Isang Wika

Imaginably, we might have been overwhelmed a hundred years ago by our poly-lingual situation. Only Filipino and English, we ruled, to hasten national unity. Thus the anomaly of Isang bansa, isang diwa, isang bansa, isang wika became the catchword of the last fifty years. Cebuano, Warays, Ilonggos, Ilocanos, Pangasinenses, Pampangos, have not taken kindly to this rule. But resistance, by and large, have been weak. We have not had language wars, and so far, Filipino has over-run the airwaves north to south, east to west via radio, television and print without protest.

The dominance of English and Filipino has already been systematized in academe and in government. All the languages of the country have already been reduced to minority status—it remains for media to complete the rout. One might well ask, however, But aren’t all our other languages alive and well despite the dominance of English and Tagalog (or Filipino, if one is so minded to call it). Cebuanos continue to speak Cebuano, the Warays have not stopped using Waray, and occasionally Ilocano and Hiligaynon make it to some national ad on TV? You go to the places where these languages are spoken, to the market places, especially, and you will find these languages being used in the thick of the commerce. Doesn’t this prove that our languages are alive. Oh yes, but barely.

All that’s left of most of our languages are in these lively market scenes. Most of the songs and stories told in these languages are forgotten, or vaguely remembered or spoken about glibly or in tones of reverence though no one knows much about them anymore. Or if they are remembered at all, not much thought is being given to them. They have lost their value in the face of more immediate and popular attractions. After all, no self-respecting fan of River Maya or Parokya ni Edgar or Eminem or Sting would be caught dead singing Ahay, Kalisod except for a joke. Or for sentimentalism, in memory of a piece of anachronism for which one can no longer find any use in the contemporary lifestyle.

Economics of Scale

The economics of scale govern publications in general, whether of books or newspapers. It’s the argument very often used to boost English and Filipino—these are the national lingua franca, read and understood by majority in the countryside and used in academe, from the elementary level to graduate school. English and Filipino threaten to engulf all other literary productions in the country, north to south, east to west, as scholars, book writers and publishers undertake sporadic retrieval and translation of extant literature in the Philippine languages.

Language is one of the most sensitive issues in Philippine Literature today. What does Philippine Literature consist of? After almost a hundred years of concentration on English and Filipino, we are now saying what we should have said at the very start of our nationhood—Philippine Literature consists of all that have ever been thought and written by all Filipinos, no matter what language he/she uses.

The bodies of literature from the languages of our country comprise the entire body of our national literary heritage. Literature embodies our national memory. That explains the reverence we pay to the novels of Jose Rizal. These novels distil the memory of our people at that point in our history. In the process of devaluing the languages spoken in our countryside we are also devaluing the memories captured in these languages.

Writing the National Literature

In what language should the national literature be written? And who is to write it? Any language spoken by the people, anywhere in this country should be part of the national literature. Any Filipino, no matter what language he uses, may write the national literature. One among us, using the language closest to our soul, will write the piece that will reflect the spirit of our race.

If the work happens to be in English or Filipino, well and good. If the work happens to be written in Ilocano or Cebuano, or Hiligaynon, it is no less for being so. We are obliged as Filipinos to know as much of our country as possible, including learning as many of the languages spoken from end to end of our archipelago, without prejudice. That is part of the “rich cultural heritage” we are so proud to talk about.

Language displays the rhythms, the tones, the attitudes of our people. In the variations of our languages are refracted the diversity of our nature as a people. This diversity is part of who we are and what we are, and we cannot be unified until we embrace it as a distinct part of our nationhood. We can only fully appreciate the genius of our race if we begin sharing the collective memory of our people with understanding and pride. Jose Rizal wrote the sad annals of our awakening to national consciousness. So far his two books, the Noli and the Fili form the foundation of our collective memory.

But there are many more pages to discover, in the many tongues spoken across our seven thousand islands. To discover the national soul which is our common birthright, we have to read beyond Rizal. More than that, we have to continue collecting that memory, writing in the languages by which we live our day to day experiences. That is why Warays must continue writing in Waray, in the tradition began by their ancestors, continued by such lovers of the language as Iluminado Lucente, Eduardo Macabenta Sr., Pablo Rebadulla, Francisco Aurillo, Casiano Tinchera, Vicente de Veyra, and many others.

To continue writing in Waray is to contribute to the growth of the National Literature.

Old Man at Midday

Through a slit in the slats of the wood
By the kitchen stove from where I stood,
He looked no more than a thumb's length tall.
He would not see or hear me if I call.
Among the limp shrubs stunted with the heat he merged,
A scarecrow dressed in rags, dragging
His feet. I seemed to hear as he passed
The gravel crunching, the hiss of dead grass
He bent, perhaps to right a twig, or gather
An old man's poor booty in summer--
Wood to raise as evening's humble fire.
I would never see from where I stood
What fixed his eyes past the sapling grove,
But oh, why in my gut this sudden cold?



May 30, 1988

Young Man in a Jeepney

Trapped in a conspiracy
of chance we sit close inside
this sardine can on wheels
horning the gasfume streets

of this dust-tired afternoon.
How your shoulders
strain your shirt; a stray wind cools
your sweat in my skin.

"This heat," I mutter,
"melts the very bones,"
saying this as i feel
inside me awakening

sweet April, fragrant May
unfolding flower fingers
on her lap. If she dares
she might pass her coll palms

on your moist brow. My own hands
competent and perfectly mundane
clutch my little burdens
close against my chest.

"I declare," a woman nods back,
her grimace mirroring
our transient common woe,
"this heat does dry us all."

Do you hear her?
On our faces ravished
with their aging hope,
Do you see the rogue crack

Like mortar on a weathered wall?
At the stop you get off--
anchovy bodies come untrapped,
shaken loose in the space

you emptied, your frail warmth
is stuck in your wake, a trace
above the indomitable dust,
the iron smell of gas fumes.

I do not watch you turn
the corner to the sudden dusk.
But i smile to savor
my sin in secret.




My 28, 1988

Thursday, September 14, 2006

My Mother

Your womb described my earliest space--
Terse measure in pulses of our one blood,
The flow and turning of my fetal days.

I took from you more than shape of chin,
Span of bone, a cast of shadow in the eyes,
Accents of your speech, tone of tour skin.

It was your law whipped my conscience
Recalcitrant as hair loose in a wild wind
To strict conformity and terrible obedience.

Your unrepentant fears cower inside me
Shivering their dread of birth, danger
Ancient as the grave's wait for its fee.

It is your shelter I had yearned to fly,
Startling to the doom written in the blood,
The statement of our common destiny.

Watching you now inside this shrunken room,
Your skin a loose bag over your brittle bones,
I think how flight would only bring me home.

News for My Father

There's news abroad, a rumor to be sure,
bred, one supposes, from the Ancient Grudge
we bear against Existence, that in some
remote future, every father, regardless
of his estate, may order, in accordance
with a Model Plan, sons turned to perfection,
scions bright to carry on with exemplary vigor
the patriarchal glories, and daughters,too,
who, despite his just deserving, shall yield
a rare harvest of virtues-- wit and grace
to bear fine witness to his name, blessings
to last him to the end of his precious days.

Revision of the Master Plan is
certainly overdue, and most welcome to us
poor heirs to disproportion,
born scant of measure
to procure a father's pleasure,
or his notion of success.
But alas, notorious Existence
takes millennia to revise
what's fixed inAncient Rule
which grants Perfection only to Angels,
and condemns us poor Mortals
to the chancy povidence
of Love and Forgiveness to ease the burdens
of our humble state.

So then tell me, old man
with your tongue of wrath
and your heart of ice:
how should I live?

We Kept a Jarful of Keys

We kept a jarful of keys
on a forgotten shelf
in the house.
What doors they opened,
or what they kept forever locked,
before they came by accident
or chance into our little jar,
we never learned.
"Let them stay there,"
you said, your eyes on mine
saying, take all I have.
Since I had let you in
to share my little feast
and you'd not wish to leave,
I nodded, "Yes, there let them stay."


We hadn't reckoned how
the years would wear love thin.
And now your pained eyes
search my face for all
I shouldn't have taken, and I,
I ache for all I should have kept.
We hammer the doors of silence,
bruising with words we could not speak.
How did we ever think
we had no need of keys?

Sort of a Love Poem

Alongside each other they lir
Each one keeping to its side--
The ponderous land, the abysmal sea.

In the mountains, clarity and light,
Grey silence of silt, implacable downdrfit
Sucking in skeletons of whale

Perhaps on a September evening,
The sea in a playful mood may curl
Upon the shore its wavelets of lace;

The somber land beguile would murmur
In a voice heavy with rocks and trees,
"Stay, stay a while, a little longer,"

But the sea, tossing its frothy curls,
Would gather its weedy skirts and rush away,
Sighing and leaving to fade on the sand

Its bangles of coral, cowrie and kelp.
A story, my friend, without proper end.
And yet, I'm very glad we've met.

To a Poet Caught in the Will of the Sea

... tell nothing
in the flush of your fear
speak no word that the sea may hear

trust to it no name call no one
enemy or friend utter not one sigh
to snag on a reef

or curl round the coral keep
furl song in your throat tales of fire
laughter and ice cram in your

brimful eyes confess nothing
in the crest of your fear
lock up your tongue

that when it chill fingers
reach deep to pluck out your heart
make no sound not one prayer

vault your voice
telling the wind nothing nothing
to the very end nothing...

Conspiracy

Oh dear Ana, what a clatter
it made-- the sun going down
beyond the hill, rumble of red
and screaming gold-- we dared not
look back, racing fast as we could
the rain to our door.

Tonight friendlylike,
the wind shall whistle,
tease the dark leaves, beg
to come in, while we
(safe behind our doors)
may dream of it streaming
green summer sap under our skin
scraped by raw coral shards,
sands, the barks of trees.
A safe wind turned to our will,
tame to the prickly mind
seeded with grss,
briar and burr, taste
of plundred gardens tingling
on our wakeful tongues, the slugs
wounded under our feet.

Our windows would hang tight
though the wind may sing
through all the long night.
But oh sweet Ana,
what of the morning
when the sun shall rise
rattling at our door
its sabres of light?
How shall we fare,
dear Ana, would you know?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Two Poems for VNS

I. THE RELUCTANT WARLOCK

"Shaman, oh Shaman,
Oh what shall I do?
My dear son refuses
The broths that I brew."

"Squeeze him and tease him
And give him a kiss
And you'll find dear witch,
He'll do as you please."

"Shaman, oh Shaman,
Oh what a big shame!
My old pot he's broken,
He's doused out the flame!

"My bats he has driven,
My spiders he's crushed!
He's poured off my potions,
My phials he's bashed!"

"Well, slap him and kick him,
And tweak at his nose,
And pound him and pinche him,
And learn him who's boss!"

"Oh shaman, sweet shaman,
Now what have I done,
Kicking and pinching
My own lovely son?

"He mumbles and grumble,
He squiggles and sighs,
He squibbles and scribbles
And tries to look wise.

"His language sounds strange,
His eyes they look wild,
Oh Shaman, dear brother,
Would he ever change?"

"Poor wretched witch,
You may talk till you're blue
But I fear your sweet son
Will never be like you.

"He seems quite beyond help
By all witchcraft's art--
You must learn dear sister,
That soon you must part.

"Your son he has taken
To rhyming and verse.
His heart won't be won
By your wiles or your tears.

"But take heart, dear sister,
Do take heed and pray,
He'll make as good a rhymester
As this shaman you see!"



II. TO A YOUNG MAN ASPIRING FOR WIZARDRY

tektite
serpent's jawbone
lizard's tail monkey's paw
curse of an aging snake,
frog's croak
distilled in dew
sign omens
gypsy spells--

my friend, this
cluttered landscape
you inhabit
teaches you nothing.

this is all
you need to know:

this old moon
this new moon
that waxes and wanes
waxes and wanes
in the seascape
of your own blood

when it sings
as tide sings
in the strand
hush your croaking frog
your clicking lizards

and listen
oh listen

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Poet travelling over water

befriend the wind
let it ride easy
in the hollows
of your bones
open your bosom
for wind to go through
storm rising
fron the abyss
could pitch your
on the rocks
blow the skull apart
for darkness and sun
coldness and heat
to flow in without staying


salt-caked and split
your tongue will breed
secret words
of the wind's singing

now then
will the wind
command the billows
to bear you
the tide to lay your bones
under the moon
to bleach wothout rancor
without bliss everything forgiven
your name that wind spells
on water the syllables

so very kindly
very gently leave
where it will

Late wind, leaf and moonlight

Tonight I spread thin moonlight
on a young leaf and leave it
at your door.

It may be that while you sleep
Wind will blow it away
Leaving no trace.

The wind's a fickle bastard, though.
It may forget, and then the leaf
Will stay. Waking.

You may find on your doorstep,
Sunlight, the moon gone,
And a leaf fading--

To the fire, to the fire with it,
Lest the late wind returns
To haunt your sleep.

Medusa

You hideous fatal monster
I have fled you long enough,
scared of your sleepless snakes
writhing without end, your stare
stone-cold, mortal and afraid,
fleeing your bones endless craving
for a song's magic rage.

Medusa, how should I know
I would be driven instead,
back to your lair,
clasping to my bosom,
my sharpest fear--love or doom,
how could I tell?
But yes, you old crone,
I will sing your beauties yet
your dark lays of guilt,
of joy or despair.
Medusa, fatal sister, I will.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Yana

The night bird swept
over the rooftop shrieking.
I rushed out. I saw it
turning its wing feathers.
It gleamed in the moonlight.
"What news?What news?"
I called out as I lost it
among the trees.

Today your father called,
"We got her! A girl!"
"I know", I told him.
"I got news."

Across the miles of skies and sea
between his island and mine,
I heard him chuckling.
He might be thinking, Intuition,
all mothers's boast. I wanted to say,
Night bird told me, but only said,
" O yes, I got news."

Months before i see you,
Months before i hold you close,
to smell your newness.
Over the days you will sleep,
cry, feed, grow, learn the shapes
]of your first words about this
tired old world--child, it will be
to our ears new again with your lisping.

When I look at last into your eyes
maybe you'll smile, who knows?
Night birds don't say much i guess,
but they don't lie, do they?

haiku

stone i hold briefly
in my hand and gratefully
return to the sea.



in this far country
the crows speak the same language
that they do in mine.

Amina Among the Angels

Ormoc,
July 29, 1994,
Three years after the Flood.

Not by your old name I address you,
no, not by the one you went by
when living in the midst,
Mamang, name that kept you bound
to cradle, washtub, sink stove and still
your back bent and all your singing
caked into silence, your dreaming crushed
like fishbones in the traffic of daily need.

Your own name, then. Amina.
Cold letters etched on stone in Ormoc's
graveyard hill, the syllables gliding still
all music and glod upon the tongue of memory.
Amina. Back here, no news you'd like to hear,
or that you wouldn't know: One day at noon,
in a year of war and famine, of volcanoes bursting
and earthquakes shaking the ground we stood on,
floodwaters broke the mountains.
Our city drowned in an hour's rampage.

But you've gone ahead to this hill earlier,
three years, you weren't there to witness
what we had to do among the leavings of the water,
mud, rubble, debris, countless bodies
littering the streets-- your husband among them, a son, his wife, their children--how in a panic,
we pried and scraped and shoveled from the ooze
what had once been beloved, crammed them
coffinless without ritual without tears
into the maw of earth beside you up on that hill.
Amina, what have the angels to say
of that gross outrage?

You must know I keep my own name,
times, I feel myself free
to chosse the words of my singing, though
in my own woman's voice, cracked
with too much laughter, or anger, or tears,
who's to listen, I don't know,
admitting as I do no traffics with angels.
I htink of your beauty fading and this,
what's left for a daughter to touch-- your namestone
mute among the grass greensinging,
your name i raise to the wind like a prayer.

If you hear it among
the lift and fall of angel wings,
oh please send word somehow.
Please let me know, have they given you back
your voice?Safe among the angels,
what can a woman sing?

Duwa-duwa, Wititk-Witik sa Hangin

Sa bata pa ta, ato ang kalibotan sa dula.
Tanang matang sa dula.
Ginokdanay. Bulan-bulan. Siatom. Tatsi.
Luto-luto. Pusil-pusil. Tagol-tago. Munyika. Yoyo.
Gikan sa pagsidlit sa adlaw ngadto sa pagsawop.
Bisa’g sa atong damgo nagduwa lang gihapon ta.

Sa kita nagkahamtong, magaduwa lang gihapon ta.
Basketball, football, tennis, ug unsa pa diha.
Sa nagkagulang na, mausab ang atong pagaduwaan,
unya usahay di ta kahibawo kun tinuoray ba gyud
ang atong mga gipangbuhat o duwa-duwa ba hinuon.

Tungod sa kalisod sa kinabuhi, tungod sa mga kakuyaw,
kasakit, kabalaka sa mga panghitabo sa inadlaw-adlaw,
makalimot na tang mokatawa. Di na ta kahibawo makighagwa.
Sa atong kaugalingon ug sa atong mga minahal.
Moaslom ang atong pagbati, masakit ta.
Ang makatambal niana usahay, duwa.
Di nato hikalimtan nga naay gamayng bata
nikuyog gikan sa atong kagahapon, ug karon
nagpahipi luyo sa mga kunot sa atong nawong,
nagtago ilawom sa atong mga uban.
Kining bataana mangita gyud ug lingaw,
Ug kun malingaw siya, malingaw sad ta.

Ang arte usa ka paagi sa pagduwa.
Tihol-tihol, ambak-ambak,
Kuris-kuris sa papel, witik-witik sa hangin,
Duwa-duwa ni Kiti ug ni Merlie.

To Play, To Shoot the Wind by Merlie Alunan (translation)
When we were children, our world revolved in play.
All kinds of games.
We played chase.
From first light to last light we played.
We played even in our dreams.
We never stop playing even as grew older,
The games changed.
And sometimes we cannot tell
When were doing serious things
Or we’re just playing.
Life is hard. We face all kinds of fears,
all kinds of pains, so many things to worry about
every minute of the day.
So we forget to play.
We forget to pleasure ourselves,
even those we love.
Love sours. We become sick.
Sometimes the best cure is play.
We must never forget the little child
Who traveled the years with us, who now
Is hidden behind our lined faces,
Secreted under the white hairs on our head.
That child needs to play,
And when that child is happy
You’ll be happy too.
Art, too, is a kind of play.
The leap of the dance.
A whistled song.
Lines on paper.
Shooting the wind.
Kiti and Merlie, at play.

Bringing the Dolls

For Anya
Two dolls in rags and tatters,
one missing an arm and a leg,
the other blind in one eye—I grabbed them from her arms,
“No,” I said, “they cannot come.”

Each tight baggage
I had packed
only for the barest need:
no room for sentiment or memory
to clutter with loose ends
my stern resolve. I reasoned,
even a child must learn
she cannot take what must be left behind.

And so the boat turned seaward,
a smart wind blowing dry
the stealthy tears I could not wipe.
Then I saw—rags, tatters and all—
there among the neat trim packs,
the dolls I ruled to leave behind.

Her silence should have warned me
she knew her burdens
as I knew mine:
her clean white years unlived—
and paid my price.
She battened on a truth
she knew I too must own:
when what’s at stake
is loyalty or love,
hers are the true rights.
Her own faiths she must keep, not I.

Ondoy Wynn

Unsa kaha to nga nangakimaw man ming tanan
dihang mitungha ka? Nangabakikaw among linihokan,
sayop sa kumpas bisa’g sa mga naandan namong buluhaton.
Mura mi’g nakalimot og hai’y tuo namong kamot o wala.
Nagkayabo-yabo lagi ang init tubig, nangangtod ang linung-ag,
nangapagod ang sinugba. Si Tatay Tonyo nimo
nagkatusok-tusok sa alpiler sa imong lampin.

Ug nangabuhong mi sa imong kahumot,
alimyon sa uhay nga nagkahinog sa tutok nga adlaw inalisngaw sa yuta sa gabing
bag-ong panglin,
ang kaamyon sa tagoangkan sa imong Nanay June.
Baling pangatawa namo, uy!
Kalit nakalimtan ang among mga bun-og, opaw,
piay, rayuma, pangag, punggod, pirat, pati na
ang among buhok nga sinagolan na gyu’g lanot.
Mura kaha mi’g nangabanhaw, nahimong ambongan.
Naalahig sad intawon mi sa imong kabag-o.

Apan way aninipot nga mikidlap sa imong pagsangpot.
Hingudtohon na man gud, hayag na kaayo,
nag-alipaso ang hangin. Hulyo, nag-angat pa lang
ang tingbitay sa iro. Ulan-ulan pa gani, naghulas ang yuta, kamig ang kaadlawon.
Ang abokado sa nataran ni Lola Juliet, nanglamurok, puera buyag. Di pa hinuon
angay pupuon.

Way duda nga ikaw gipaabot.
Ipanghimakak man gani ni unya sa mga tamsi,
unggoy, kabog nga kawatan og saging,
ug sa mga gangis nga tabian kaayo, ayaw gyu’g tuo. Motakilid ug motakilid sa
makadaghan ang kalibotan,
ang imong inahan di gyud makalimot sa imong pulso
nga unang ningpitik duyog sa iyang kasingkasing.
Gidamgo ka namong tanan sa mga gihaysa among kaunoran.
Sa lim-aw sa hayag ug sa ngitngit
nga bulan, karon, ug hangtod sa kahangtoran
ang imong tawag alingawngaw
pagadunggon kanunay sa among kadugoan.

Ang bongalos nga aninipot, pasagdi lang una sila.
Inigmata nimo unya, panahon nga mangitngit na,
basin manungha ra na sila, tagak nga mga bituon,
makab-ot ra sa imong kamot ug mga mata.
Hadlaon ka nila, Ondoy, sa ilang mga siga.


Little Wynn by Merlie M. Alunan(translation)
Why we got all clumsy upon your arrival.
Bungled up everything, our most daily chores,
couldn’t tell our right hand from the left,
scalded ourselves with the hot water,
burnt the rice, the broiled fish turned to charcoal,
your Tatay Tonio, poor fellow,
impaled on your diaper pins.


Oh child, how your fragrance drenched us,
scent of grain ripening in the noon sun,
fragrance of the earth in fresh-dug yams,
perfume of her womb, your mother June’s.
Oooy, our laughter laded the wind
We forgot our bruises, balding pates, the limp
in our steps, the rheumatism, lost teeth, squint eyes,
even the abaca strands in our hair.
We seemed handsomer again, reborn,
Freshened by your newness.


No fireflies flashed when you came though.
It was midday, the sky too bright.
The wind was blowing warm, July at the threshold,
the dog days impending. Random rain, the earth
damp and nippy at dawn. Lola Juliet’s avocados
were fattening on the trees. Still too young to harvest.


Oh you were much awaited.
If the birds, the monkeys, the bats who steal bananas,
and the gossipy crickets say we lie,
don’t believe a word they say.
The earth may turn and turn countless times over,
your mother will always remember your pulse beat
that throbbed first to the rhythm of her heartbeat.
We had dreamed you in every shred of our flesh.
In the pool of light, in the black of the moon,
your faintest call, now and ever after will echo
in the deepest runnels of our veins.


Don’t mind those faithless fireflies now.
Later when it’s dark and you awaken,
they might come then—chips of a star fallen
your hands may reach for, and your eyes.
They will beguile you, child, with their light.

Agda

Dinhi ang utlanan sa Cantubo'g Cantil-i
Sa inyo manggahan, sa amoa, lubi.

Ondoy, idaplin nang kabalaka.
Tabok sa sapa, lig-onang huna-huna.

Waksiang kataha, naay kabaw,
Guyura, palunanga sa lam-aw.

Kanang mga punong namungingi,
Naghulat ra na sa taong mokugi.

Sak-a. Koprason an lubing
Igo na gyud sa kalahing.

Motugot lagi si Nanay, si Tatay,
Labaw pa gyud si Inday-