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Month: November, 2014

Keeping Things Whole, Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

***

RIP, Mark Strand.

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An Excuse for a Late Birthday Greeting Disguised as a Poem

The thing I hate the most about distance
is that you need to count it. I am not bad at math,
but I grew to dislike it the bigger numbers get
or the more complicated the equations become.
It doesn’t mean I would not try. I thumb California
on a map, my pinky resting where Manila is,
my fingers a scale of how much I miss you.
At least this time, I don’t have to use numbers.
But then I think of time zones, of bodies
getting out of bed and retiring to them
like a never-ending global wave, the sun
flipping the page of humanity’s story
one day at a time, and I don’t know who to curse
for this, for being ahead or left behind by eons,
and why in order to know what you are doing
today, I have to mentally unwind the hands
of the clock, pull it back x number of hours
until I know that here, while it is your birthday,
you are sleeping there, missing home
wherever it is for you. All I want is to greet you
a belated happy birthday, but this is an excuse
disguised as a poem. My dear friend, I wish you
happiness, and I wish that wherever you go,
when you see another person wiping a window
or walking his dog in the park, I hope you wish them
happiness as well, and I wish that everyone
in every part of this world with their hearts
swelling from this incalculable, mysterious force,
would look up to different skies and wish
for the same kind of happiness, the true kind,
infinite and deep as the ocean between our fingers.

***

For Elle, because her birthday moves across time zones, and it happened here before it did in California.

Other Lives and Dimensions and Finally a Love Poem, Bob Hicok

My left hand will live longer than my right. The rivers
of my palms tell me so.
Never argue with rivers. Never expect your lives to finish
at the same time. I think

praying, I think clapping is how hands mourn. I think
staying up and waiting
for paintings to sigh is science. In another dimension this
is exactly what’s happening,

it’s what they write grants about: the chromodynamics
of mournful Whistlers,
the audible sorrow and beta decay of “Old Battersea Bridge.”
I like the idea of different

theres and elsewheres, an Idaho known for bluegrass,
a Bronx where people talk
like violets smell. Perhaps I am somewhere patient, somehow
kind, perhaps in the nook

of a cousin universe I’ve never defiled or betrayed
anyone. Here I have
two hands and they are vanishing, the hollow of your back
to rest my cheek against,

your voice and little else but my assiduous fear to cherish.
My hands are webbed
like the wind-torn work of a spider, like they squeezed
something in the womb

but couldn’t hang on. One of those other worlds
or a life I felt
passing through mine, or the ocean inside my mother’s belly
she had to scream out.

Here when I say “I never want to be without you,”
somewhere else I am saying
“I never want to be without you again.” And when I touch you
in each of the places we meet

in all of the lives we are, it’s with hands that are dying
and resurrected.
When I don’t touch you it’s a mistake in any life,
in each place and forever.

The City of Manila Writes a Letter to Abner Dormiendo

I’ve withstood enough storms to know how it feels
for her to leave you like that. I have three airports
several major roads, and countless highways on my spine,
every single one of them leading away from here.
What’s going to stop her from deserting your heart
like the aftermath of a police raid? Who’s going to see
the lamplight swinging violently, your words like cigarettes
burning abandoned on the ashtray of your throat?
I am a metropolitan mess, with robbers and murderers
coursing through my veins like poison, monuments crumbling
on the sight of a civilization slowly turning into ruin.
But you, a man with faith big enough for your chest,
with a hunger bigger than all my beggars groveling
in the darkest of my alleys—you are young. Your legs are strong.
You have a heart the size of Batanes, not nearly as storm-proof,
but resilient enough to remain loving. Aren’t you so lucky
to be alive? To be able to leave or stay
at your liking? You lucky, lucky man. Don’t let the world
turn you into stone. Your flesh is not of concrete,
and your soul is not a city.

Makalipas

Marahil hindi isang tula na naman tungkol sa bagyo
ang kailangan ng mundo. Pero heto, tumutula pa rin ako.
Nais kong humingi ng tawad ngayon pa lang. Sabihin na nating

wala ako noong dumagsa ang bahang nilamon—
marahil hindi nilamon ang tamang salita. Maraming maaaring
ipanghalili. Paano ba magsasalita akong hindi nakaranas?

Paano naman makapagsasalita itong mga nakaranas?
Sabihin na nating ganito: may pamilya: dalawang lalaki,
isang babae, sanggol. Paano pagkakasyahin

ang apat na buhay sa isang tula? Paano ito gagawan
ng talinghaga nang hindi nagmimistulang
nananamantala? Kung sabihin kong kumalas

ang sanggol sa braso ng ina nang may kung anong alon
ang dumagsa sa kanila, kumalas na parang huling dahon
sa tangkay ng natutuyong akasya, nasaan ang hustisya?

Hayaan mo na, sabi ng aking gunita. Ang alin?
Na heto pa, kung kailan sinabi ng isang lalaki sa kaniyang
nakababatang kapatid na huwag kang bibitaw, saka naman

dumagsa ang isa pang alon, siya naman ang napapiglas
ng hawak sa kable. Karahasan ba kung tawagin ko itong
balintuna? Sa totoo lang, ayoko na. Ayoko nang magsalita.

Pero tignan mo, nabubuo na ang isang tula.
Isa na namang tula tungkol sa bagyong nanalasa.
Nais kong humingi ng tawad sa mga hindi ko nawika,

ngunit wala na rin akong magagawa. Nalalaglag lang
ang mga salita sa aking bibig. Animo’y dahong tuyo,
nadudurog sa pagdatal sa aking mga palad,

sinusubukan kong buuin muli, kahit sa isang tula.
Pero paanong sa tuwing kukuyumin nadudurog siya
sa kaniyang karupukan, naghahalo ang mga piraso

sa lupang binasa ng nagdaang ulan. Wala na rin akong magagawa
kundi mapabuntong-hininga, iwika sa sarili: hayaan mo na.

Descent, Ocean Vuong

Gian Giacomo Caprotti. to Leonardo Da Vinci

The money gone, I followed you
to the edge of love—only to find the city
sinking. Streets lit with dawn’s blue
ashes. But it was the flecks of amber
slipping between the chimneys
that had us running. Dim alleys leading
to nowhere—or water. Then
the Piazza San Marco opening
the Mediterranean. That sudden
brightness. Pigeons crumbling
from the angels’ rusted shoulders
in the hour before Venice vanished
beneath the crowd. Hour of birdsong
falling like pebbles on the promenade.
And the year’s first widow chanting a new
god’s name into the sea. Her body a stitch
in the shore. Brief inventor, make me
new again. For the heart fails not in its breaking
but the tightening. For the sun came on.
The plaza erupted in panels of blood.
And you were still my king. And I, still—
your king.