2

From A Gecko’s View

From A Gecko’s View

Why do sirens have to blast off
From the security cars
Of people of high station?
They say it is to clear off obstacles
In passage to get them quick
To their stately business,
To make known that this honorable
Minister from Japan or Indonesia
Or Singapore is here
And must receive royal protection.
But can they not pass
Through the road, pass through our lives
In absolute anonymity
Like an ordinary citizen, toad,
Or firefly? Like they are no different
From the street sweeper who collects
Leaves and memories, the cyclo driver
That survived the Khmer Rouge,
Or herons that catch fish on the swamp
Full of mindfulness, water buffaloes
Sunning in the mud and heading
Home before dark.
There is happiness in obscurity
And a turtle makes loads of that
As it crawls back to the sea.
I’d say, power best kept
Without artifice and fanfare
Is power pure and born of nature.

23 June 2003
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

2

Bisita

Bisita

Dito sa mumunting sulok ng bundok
Pinakikiramdaman ko ang halos delubyong
Silakbo ng ulan, sa kalaliman ng gabi,
Habang nakabaluktot sa kumot at kahoy na sahig.
Panakanakang hinahabol ng alaala ang naglalahong
Mga tagpo sa kadadaang panaginip.
Ngunit kinakaladkad upang ilibing ng ragasa
Sa lupa nang walang kalaban-laban.
Ang ganitong hampas ng ulan na wari’y ibig
Punitin at wasakin ang lahat ng bagay at buhay
Ay tinatanggap ko na lang nang may lalim
Ng pananampalataya, ipinapapasok sa templo
Ng kapayapaan upang hanapin ang sarili
Niyang paghupa. Samantala, tinititigan ko
Ang kadiliman at malaya kong binabaybay
Ang samutsaring daigdig katulad ng pira-pirasong
Salamin na naglalaman ng liwanag at dilim,
Uniberso at teksto, burak at pag-ibig.
Nagsisimula at magtatapos ayon sa diskurso
Ng natural at spiritwal anumang pagdating, maging
Buntong-hininga naging ulan sa ibang lupain.

Setyembre 20, 2007
Koh Kong, Cambodia

3

2 Poems for Mother

Monday, 21 June 2010

It’s my mother’s 70th birthday today. And I thought of a small personal way of celebrating it by posting finally two poems of her written several years back. The first one titled, A Monday with Mother, was included in the bunch of poems that earned me a slot at the 18th National Writers Workshop in 1990 with the University of the Philippines (the workshop that somehow sealed my fate to become a “suffering” poet). The second poem, Yokoshigure, took its being in a foreign clearing, here in Cambodia where I have been living for the last 10 years.

A Monday with Mother

Absence such as this from work
May present a load of sunshine
Now domestic on leaves,
Potted plants trapped in city drabness.

A puppy hushed now from an overnight
Sadness, kept away from dark hands
Gleaming with wire and knives;
My mother for life at grip
With all cares and distress.

I am at home writing letters
To people from unfamiliar territories
While mother sweeps away
What must not be kept,
Washing and cooking around
The small space of her world.

No speeches, grandiloquent or otherwise,
Frequent this house as now
We’re walled by our steep nightmares.
My mother could not touch
My silences anymore,
Being no longer her fine boy
Tumbling under the sun.
I have embraced her life,
I have weeded out
Her thorny concerns, having lived
All this fatal time heavy,
Earthy, and blank like water.

1989
Quezon City, Philippines

Yokoshigure

Now I am detained by a driving rain, yokoshigure,
I gathered from Saiichi Maruya’s story,
Rain in the Wind, besides the smattering of Maori
Poems I have picked up in a library this morning of June.
From there I have taken this late lunch
In a backpackers’ hangout, my head spinning
From so much, all too much words I have been
Taking in like the rush of trains
All these past days, weeks, months.
If someone could suffocate from a surfeit of words
I could have long been dead
And had wandered off to a remote cold mountain
To live without books, live in blue silence.

But for now I have to get on with this rain,
Yokoshigure, through the phantom
Of Phnom Penh streets of shop houses,
The water swelling too soon to bring everything
To a sluggish motion- words,
Windows, bread, flower, hands, smoke.

I am longing to be relieved of this passage
As I gaze vacantly into the dark sky,
Wondering as well how mother keeps her time today,
Her birthday, in Cagayan de Oro with father
And my brother’s young family, as she thinks about us,
Her sons and daughters, and our disparate circumstances,
The reality of losing what was once
Gathered and nurtured, how distance
Can be immeasurable and powerful in defining
Our lives like the manner I go:
I walk away in a driving rain.

21 June 2003
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

0

New Road

New Road

From a dream through a sudden waking
I now run through an amorphous ground.
I board a cab heading for
The airport, harboring regrets,
Hearing out the dark sky
For a template rhythm of breath.

Beyond two in the morning
The stretch of streetlights
Would only illumine at gasps
Rain-filled skin of memory
I’m struggling to recover,
An inventory of things
I have done thus far;
A cat trapped inside a hamper,
Some failures to act sublime
Among beleaguered weepers.

In a sudden turn of the road
That has long been familiar
As my own sins and redemptions,
I’m surprised to know
Of a new direction like an unexpected
Bulletin of dislocations.
This concrete conveyor of lives,
Has pitched for a fresh clearing,
A paradigm to the break of meanings.

Published in Philippines Free Press (15 February 1997)

2

Taste of Longing

Taste of Longing

Here the rain has a taste
Of sweet longing.
Its coming is natural
As skin touches another skin.
It runs through cornfield,
Forest of rubber that stands
Neat like an expression
Of a sober life,
The hills and blue mountain
Looking like open palms
Receiving host of thunderous
Beauty, invading pain.
Oh, but the children’s rain dance
And laughter dying out
Into inebriated thoughts
Would cleanse the sadness
That may settle therein.

Here the rain has a taste
Of sweet longing.

Bukidnon, Philippines

2

Gosammer Composition

Gossamer Composition

You could well be the counterpart of Yasujiro Ozu’s
Elderly couple in Tokyo Story, gazing at the sea
On a breakwater.

The soft twilight impinging on your memories
Of sons and daughters leaves vacant
The sound of years in each corner of your life.

They have long grown to the grind
Of living, now wrapped up in their own struggles.
Now you feel the desolation gnawing

At the root of things,
The severity of finding yourselves
In the harshest terms of solitude after all.

Your last moment together has become
A tabloid spectacle, razor-edged sorrow
Cutting your face as you hold

Your husband lifeless in your arms
On the curb of the boulevard,
Both of you delicate and grey,

Your pedestrian clothes carried loose
By the thin bones bagged by furrowed skin.
At his side is the guitar

Miraculously left whole from the swipe
Of a thoughtless car. He must have had played earlier
To reaffirm his undying love or to serenade

The world with the beauty of your faith-
Bittersweet song, bittersweet tears
For a black & white exit.

(Calligraphy by Machao Niizuma: Joy, Anger, Sadness, Happiness)

0

The Gift of Flying

Thursday, 10 June 2010

It’s been like eons that I have been without dreams of flying. I used to have them around my pre-Cambodia personal diaspora, somewhere in the vicinity of the ‘90s when I was still putting out poem after poem of quotidian existence in Manila and my work-related travels around the country. The almost daily grind of taking the EDSA road with its chaotic, nondescript, and pedestrian edifices and structures bursting on the seams, the unsightly flyovers and metro-railway structures that could give you the sensation of getting constricted to the core of your heart, such rawness and soreness of the megacity’s detritus which includes, well, the mighty strivings of the spirits and the hearts, all palpable and throbbing deep into your consciousness.

 And through all this affair of getting by in the midst of sounds and furies, I was still able to claim some decent respite in the form of wonderful dreams, particularly of flying. I would find myself walking on a dark deserted road, breaking into a run and taking off at a sudden leap, ascending and ascending to greater heights until I was way off the treetops and moving through the expanse of oceans and unknown cities. Almost always I did this phenomenon at will and sometimes my efforts were in vain. But this surreal run to my solitary life is a most welcome episode. I want for a longest time to carry this gift of flying.

That is why when I got back this gift last night, I woke up suffused with quiet joy and tranquility. After so long a time, after so long a journey through the mad ravings of the heart.

Postscript…

Well, this quaint Cambodian frog is having its own shot at other-wordly musings while plastered on the wall of my house. Stoned or dreaming seemingly. But hey maybe it’s mulling over what Robert Pirsig philosophizes: “Cultivate peace of mind which does not separate one’s surroundings. When that is done successfully then everything else follows naturally.”

Koh Kong, Cambodia