Nang may magawa ang mga bitwin

Category: English

After Love

And on that day, you will see what the poets
have refused you—and the world, deprived
of rhetoric, for the first time, turns its truth
to you—dear lover, once pilgrim of the poetic—
you shall find the sky to be a sky, a cloud in this light
to be nothing but a cloud, and the treetop, sun-slivered,
now frills with the mundane—and though its leaves
will throb for you it will throb unlike a heart, will fall
unlike a heart, will break beneath you unlike a heart—
On that day, your own will rattle inside you
like leaves in the hollow chest of the wind—
do not be deceived. The world is still the world is still
the world. As it should be. Deny the metaphors
their solemn duty. All but love is ordinary.


“Blue Sonata”, John Ashbery

Long ago was the then beginning to seem like now
As now is but the setting out on a new but still
Undefined way. That now, the one once
Seen from far away, is our destiny
No matter what else may happen to us. It is
The present past of which our features,
Our opinions are made. We are half it and we
Care nothing about the rest of it. We
Can see far enough ahead for the rest of us to be
Implicit in the surroundings that twilight is.
We know that this part of the day comes every day
And we feel that, as it has its rights, so
We have our right to be ourselves in the measure
That we are in it and not some other day, or in
Some other place. The time suits us
Just as it fancies itself, but just so far
As we not give up that inch, breath
Of becoming before becoming may be seen,
Or come to seem all that it seems to mean now.

The things that were coming to be talked about
Have come and gone and are still remembered
As being recent. There is a grain of curiosity
At the base of some new thing, that unrolls
Its question mark like a new wave on the shore.
In coming to give, to give up what we had,
We have, we understand, gained, or been gained
By what was passing through, bright with the sheen
Of things recently forgotten and revived.
Each image fits into place, with the calm
Of not having too many, of having just enough.
We live in the sigh of our present.

If that was all there was to have
We could re-imagine the other half, deducing it
From the shape of what is seen, thus
Being inserted into its idea of how we
Ought to proceed. It would be tragic to fit
Into the space created by our not having arrived yet,
To utter the speech that belongs there,
For progress occurs through re-inventing
There words from a dim recollection of them,
In violating that space in such a way as
To leave it intact. Yet we do after all
Belong here, and have moved a considerable
Distance; our passing is a facade.
But our understanding of it is justified.


RIP John Ashbery (1927-2017)


I was thrown in it
as with every good story
in the middle of it all, the room already
awash with external light—
though there is no outside to speak of,
I do not know of it at that moment.

Unaware of how I got to where I am:
the bowl of peaches in the kitchen table
sitting just so, and you—not yet a thought
that it was not you
but a trick, and like the light,
it was only untrue after the fact—

you were a clear and vivid image—
strange, yes, but only in retrospect—
deprived of haze that consciousness lays upon it.
I believed it was your hands that held a peach.
The lips on its skin, surely yours.
It was the white of your teeth
bruising the fuzz, without a doubt.

Of course, none of it is real now—
now as the fact of your absence in the world here
takes precedence, as it always did,
in situations where it mattered,
although where it mattered is only a matter of law
and not a matter of reality, which law
can fabricate however one wants it to be,
for instance, in dreams and in poetry.

So it remains true after all:
What matters to the waking world
only stands true to those awake.

“Love”, Bob Hicok

Lev and Svetlana are science students at Moscow University.
They fall in love. World War II happens. Lev goes to war and is captured by the Germans. After the war, denounced by fellow Russians
who heard him speaking German, Lev is sentenced to death for treason,
his sentence commuted to ten years in the gulag. I am so far sorry
for Lev and Svetlana but not amazed. My amazement begins when Svetlana breaks into the gulag, not once but several times, to see and touch Lev.
I have lived for three weeks as a man who knows this thing was done,
have washed dishes and dug a trench trying to imagine her first step
after closing the door, the first step Svetlana took under the power
of the thought, I am going to sneak into the gulag. I felt I knew the world
and then found out it contained that first step and every next step
toward guns and dogs and the Arctic Circle, it made me so happy
that she did this that I dug a better trench and washed cleaner plates
and tried to think of a place on my wife’s body I’d never kissed.
I thought of such a place and kissed her there and explained
why kissing her there was the least I could do to show the world
I have a new and more generous understanding of life: I will get drunk
and throw knives at clouds but also kiss my wife’s darkest privacy
to demonstrate I am willing to convert reverence to deed.
After I told my wife the story of Lev and Svetlana, she went to the ground
and put her hands around a dead plant and screamed at it to try harder,
she looked foolish and I loved her even more and joined her in screaming
at death, it made me feel Russian and obstinate and eternal all good things
to feel, and where I kissed her isn’t necessarily where you’re thinking: maybe
miles into her ears and not with lips but words.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

“Vermeer’s ‘Woman Reading a Letter at an Open Window'”, Nick Lantz

“If I said yes, that would then suggest that that might be the only place where it might be done which would not be accurate, necessarily accurate. It might also not be accurate, but I’m disinclined to mislead anyone.”

— Donald Rumsfeld

I think it must always be the same
light in Vermeer’s paintings, here
a girl laughing at an officer’s joke,
a geographer pausing to look up
from his maps, a woman practicing
the lute, her fingers curled around
the neck, its body pressed to hers.

The light always falls from the left.
The window may have many panes
or few, the room bigger or smaller.

Vermeer’s light fools you. It comes
from a world outside the window,
outside the painting, a world greater
than the sleepy canals of Delft.

Here is my desk, the window to my
left, but where is the light Vermeer
saw? I look outside and see a hawk
swooping for rabbits in the yard,
the municipal mowers trimming
the median grass, a parking lot
that fills and empties like a lung.

My wife looks at these paintings
and says that many of the women
are pregnant. Here, she points,
the woman’s waist, how the dress
is unbelted? I grow impatient.
What about the light? I say. I want
to say that Vermeer has painted
these men and women only to give
the light something to fall against.
Instead we argue for hours about
whether the women are pregnant.

I want to believe in a room filled
with Vermeer’s light, the world
outside the room that glows so
warmly, the people who spend
all day gathered by the window.

When my wife and I reconcile,
we’re lying together on the couch
late at night. The blinds are drawn.
The only light comes from the TV.

Here is a woman reading a letter
by an open window. She’s nearing
the letter’s end—some news, good
or bad, from the impossible world
outside. Here are her small hands,
the curled paper, an overturned
bowl of fruit, the same light falling.

(from We Don’t Know We Don’t Know, Graywolf Press)

In lieu of an apology

Feeling more like a footprint in the snow
or a syllable hung to the privacy of air, I tell myself
that these are sufficient things
insofar as the ocean needs nothing
to be whole but itself, or the sky remains sky
even without the flock of geese, but nevertheless
their sharp formation wounding the blue,
nevertheless the stone when it violates a lake,
as if my foot on the mat and knocking on the door
is a violent act all together, as if the knuckle
is more dangerous than sharks, but which of the two
kill more people annually, how do I kiss you
without making a sound that my heart would hear,
how do I keep my head from eavesdropping
on the conversation between your tongue
and your teeth, and when you ask me
where all the snow goes when spring arrives
I’d shrug my shoulders and let a sigh
stand for an apology, which in this case
I hope would suffice.

In All Other Skies, This Cloud is a Lie

The sky kept uttering: today
is going to be a perfect day
to die, but insofar as this life is
concerned, we are not yet
there, but this lone cloud above
in its slow funeral procession
carrying the grief of a future rain
is going to prove itself to a city
not here, and when it arrives there,
it will speak only of truth
even if it kills him.

Death by Water

The thing about water is that it heals
always, and every time we hold our bodies
against its eternal mouth, it is asking us
to do the same. The boat with its passengers
sleeping with the fishes means that we are all part
of this thread we cannot fit through our mind-eye,
that to comprehend means to mend, that if memory
is a hole, forgiveness is a patch we use
to stitch our life together only to watch it
fall apart, like how the sky accepts the water,
pieces a cloud together, until it breaks
from its own weight into this rain that is only
as good as rain during the falling, but not the settling.
By that time it hits ground, we don’t call it rain anymore.


Finally gained some time to write, but as usual, nothing satisfactory ever comes out as of yet. That’s what revisions are for, I guess.


The Overtoun Bridge in Scotland saw an incredible series of events
for the past fifty years: more than fifty dogs have leapt to their deaths

on that same bridge, down to the stream which runs below it, which
alone in itself is an incredible statistic. But this mystery is only made

more interesting by specific details that run through all dog deaths
like a common thread: they all jumped at the same spot, the right-hand

side of the bridge, all dogs involved were breeds with long muzzles:
Collies, Labradors, and retrievers, their deaths occurring on clear,

sunny days. When Donna Cooper walked her collie Ben across the Overtoun,
the dog leapt over a parapet on the bridge and fell fifty feet to its death,

but Ben did not die immediately. He was rescued with a broken jaw,
a broken paw, and his back twisted by the fall. And while these injuries

did not kill him yet, the veterinarian decided it was not worth putting the dog
in that much pain. Donna and the family decided to let him go, after which

her son, Callum, asked questions about the dog, clearly upset from
the gravity of that kind of loss, that sudden kind of death which leaves

a lot of owners affected by that bridge to try to find out why their dogs
would want to die, a phenomenon most people call a heartbreaking mystery.


Day 28 of NaPoWriMo: Write a poem about bridges. Maybe a breakup poem that doesn’t exactly sound like a breakup poem.

You apologized for not loving me anymore

There’s nothing that needs
forgiving and everything
that needs forgetting.


Day 27 of NaPoWriMo: Write a hay(na)ku, which is a variation of the Japanese haiku: a tercet with one word for the first line, two words for the second, and three words for the third.

I tried writing a hay(na)ku, but eventually found myself writing a haiku instead.