Introduction

(To My Generation)

Because I’ve already pondered
my past writing’s more aptly compared
to shitting – than birthing –
I can say that this is not just in jest.
Because I myself, and I believe it true:
I like my verses flushed in the toilet.

Because the poem, right, it starts crawling,
Sees then stands, listens and toughens,
Ages, comes with memory and with sharp accuracy.
And if for you, that’s still poetry
(Excuse me, pardon, this Latin of mine):
Allow me to lull and raise my shit to age.

Because treacherous are the times creating

the muddled metaphor,

And the poem should create the poet.

1996

[trans. Kerima Tariman]
10 April 2018

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Before Sending Me Off

Permit me to let you bid my farewell
You’ve already lit my wick
So stare, and allow me
to wave at you with my flaming colors
Only then you can give me away
I will not resist the wave
Once in a while, the wind will carry me
Towards the side, and you can
Already push me away
If my insides are ablaze
Just stare at the departing
Tail of the skyrocket and
Think that tonight
The light and the line
Will happily combine.

[trans. Bago Mo Ako Ipalaot, Luna Sicat Cleto]
10 April 2018
 

Waves

with Paolo Tiausas and Kat Rodriguez

I.

Take this line and throw it into the void we call remembering
how have you been? Becoming strangers with each meeting
I see the same lines on your face, the curve of swollen lips
but rewritten enough to forget if that kiss was my penmanship
spelling doubt. Chaste and reverent like hands that knew only
to touch the unremarkable lines of my jaw, cupping it lonely
only because that’s all it can offer without permission.

Last night, you hung up the line after an admission I never
meant to give. What comes next is the tracing of the highs
and lows of where you last spoke: this shoulder, this thigh,
this wrist, this throat. You lied next to the night lamp we got
the day you moved in. Take it when you leave and the rest
I will leave in the same darkness you’ve found me: a nest
of keys and pairless earrings, a soft carpet, lines we sever

even those we don’t remember. Love me. I guess this house
is only meant for one. Otherwise, there’s always a fire to douse.

II.

Look yourself in the eye and ask when was the last time you
were honest. How many times have you denied April
as the cruelest? This is not a joke. Why can’t you take things
seriously whenever I say yes. You always gaze dearly
elsewhere: on the same floor we walk on, the same sky. Why
when I’ve always just been right in front of you. Don’t look
away from your sins. How honest are your arms nestled
against each other against me despite circumstance.
You are only honest when you sleep and the lines of your
mouth curve into a whisper of my name.

                                                                                    Swear with your hand
on the book. Multiple stab wounds. There is nothing but
contempt. I’m not another pillow you take into your arms
and throw away at the slightest tear, but the one you shove
Into a face until there is no breath. Be honest. How could you
take what we have and reduce it to a single line you wouldn’t
even admit to without batting an eyelash. Pursing your lips.
Here you are lying next to me without even saying a word.
What have we done? Pull me against your trembling chest
and let our hearts sync their beat. No pretensions. We admit
our innocence went missing the moment you looked
at me in the eye. You were at your most honest. But I tried
to look away. And so here we are. Looking at the ceiling
Half-awake, confessing all these crimes. We commit.

III.

This is the last time I’m telling you I love you. What for,

          if another attempt will be drowned by the crashing noise

                      of the sea between us. Believe me when I say I’m doing this

                                  for you. Otherwise, you can turn the other cheek like always.

 

                                  Harbor anger while you are away. Or worse, forget me

                       like thousands of unattended sandcastles only to be ruined

           by wayward children. That’s what happens when words get

drowned by erratic waves. So just swallow your line

 

and wait for someone to fish you out. Some compliment,

           some admiration, another I love you. Someone else but me.

                      There’s no baiting me to be your lifeline. This is the last

                                  time I am telling you lines hoping that you’ll stay instead.

 

Manila / Nara
April 27, 2017

[header from Fall Out Boy – M A N I A]

No Place for a Poet

There’s no place for a poet
in this house, said the elderly
to the child who desires weaving words.

Put away, put away the poems.
You will understand as you grow old,
they said.

The child did not utter a word,
fell silent, retreated, on one hand
maybe they were also right:

probably it would be better to grow fed
even if not happy. Rhyme and meter do not matter
to a growling stomach.

The child entered the room,
and saw thousands of papers scattered,
all that crafted happiness,

all those pieces not even worth a nickel,
but like loose change accumulated every time
the muse visits. The child gathered all the works,

and started to shred all emotions,
memories, dreams, ideas, tears, secrets
written at every moment.

One by one, devoured the poems.
Savored. Chewed. All day
feasted on all the words.

27 March 2018
Ikoma-shi, Nara
after “Walang Lugar ang Makata”

Claustrophobia

your body greets me well
and every part a label to open

yet how open depends on how close
we can shut everything for our selves

our mouths for secrets, our pores
for sweat, our hands for the sheets

our eyes to keep the searing white
light from escaping the aftermath

14 February 2016
Quezon City, Philippines

Sana may katawan
akong mahahagkan
ngayong gabi,

katawan lang,
hindi na kailangan
ng puso

sapagkat matagal na itong
pinaglipasan, pinabigat,
at pinalayas ng taglagas.

Sana malagas na rin
ang lahat ng damit ko
parang mga dahong

nililisan ang nangangayayat
kong kaluluwa. Sa lagaslas
nitong hininga, patuloy

na hinihiling
na hindi na ikaw
ang laman

ng bawat halinghing, panaginip.
Iba na lamang. Wala na lamang.
Bakasakaling tuluyan na

akong maging manhid, baliw,
lango sa hamog
ng iyong mga salitang

kinailangan kong marinig
nang paulit-ulit
sa aking pag-iisa:

nakakabalisa ka, nakakatakot,
nakakabalisa ka, nakakatakot,
nakakabalisa ka, nakakatakot

mula sa Projection (2017)
5 Agosto 2017
Ikoma-shi, Nara