On the bus roof
I hauled myself
Among the locals,
Saddled with boxes, sacks,
Small articles
Of faithful living,
Schoolboys flippant
And raucous,
Their mirth
Points of light
Hurtled toward the stars.

I held on the cargo rail
With gripping suspense
As the bus lurched drunkenly
On the zigzag,
Throttled back and forth
Like a horse.
We ducked our heads
Off bent branches,
Fiesta buntings
Decking the road.

Two or three times
I would get hit.
The leaves lashed my face
As though some ritual
Of benediction.

In a wider, open space
On the wayside,
Red and yellow
Bloom of fire trees
Smothered the air.
The crickets
Commenced their song
And I kept to myself
All these vanishing
And emerging graces.

Basilan, Philippines

Published in Philippines Free Press (7 January 1995)


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