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Category: Tula/Poetry

“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)

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Hibakujumoku

“Hibakujumoku (also called survivor tree or A-bombed tree in English) is a Japanese term for a tree that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.”

Huwag akalaing ang aming pagtubo’y
Isang talinghaga ng inyong pag-asa
Na lumalago rin sa sugatang puso’t
Nagpapakatayog sa gitna ng dusa.
Pagmasdan sa halip ang aming katawang
Ginahis ng bomba’t hinagkis ng init—
Nagdilig sa ami’y abo’t karahasan;
Ang pataba nami’y ang apoy ng galit.
Tingnan kami, tao, at inyong tantuing
Di kami pag-asa; kami’y pagkalipol,
Kami nga ang bunga ng diwang malagim,
Inihasik ninyo’t ngayo’y sumisibol

At sisibol kami’t kami’y maiiwan
Hanggang sa dumating ang bagong digmaan.

*

Isang soneto bilang paggunita sa mga pangyayari sa Hiroshima at Nagasaki.

“Sa Paghihintay”, Charles Bonoan Tuvilla

“Who looks outside, dreams.
Who looks inside, awakens.”
— Carl Jung

Bumabangon nang muli ang mga upuan.
Gaya ng mga tuyong dahon ng ipil, nagkalat
ang mga turista, akbay ang kayumanggi nilang

nobya. Binubulabog na ng mga banyagang
tugtugin ang siesta ng alon at bato, habang abala
sa pamimingwit ng suki ang mga waiter, pain

ang serbesa’t bagong-hangong talaba. Dinudungisan
ng mga magkasintahan ang orisonte sa aking tapat,
kanina lamang ay isang bughaw na telon, hitik

sa mga pisngi ng ulap. “Baka gusto ninyong pumasok,
Boss,” mungkahi ng serbidora. “Mukhang uulan.”
Hindi ko ito napansin. Halos apat na oras na rin.

Matagal ko nang hindi nakakasalamuha ang tabing-
dagat. Lalo pa’t walang buhangin dito: plastik
at kongkreto ang nasa talampakan ng breakwater.

Kinakalawang ang hanggahan, ang sampayan
ng mga di-matuyong agam-agam. Isa-isang hinila
ng guwardiya ang ilang upuan, pagsang-ayon sa hinagpis

ng hangin. Apat na oras. At nang rumagasa na nga
ang mga supling ng maghapong pagtitimpi ng ulap,
niyakag nila ang mga tao tungo sa mga gawa-gawang

bubong ng paligid; mga daliri ng niyog, ang braso
ng poste, ang mga di-inaasahang silong sa mga biglaang
dalaw ng ulan. May nagbukas ng payong, naglunsad sa karera

ng sanlibong alabok. Ilan na ba silang naligaw lamang
sa gubat ng ambon? “Pasok na, Boss,” himok ng guwardiyang
nakakapote ng itim. “Matagal pa ’yan.” Sa loob,

pagkapikit ng pinto, parang tumila na sa labas: kita
ang pagdadalamhati, ngunit hindi marinig ang paghikbi.
Maraming nakiramay, silang nakasilong, nagluluksa

sa walang-tilang ulan, tila naghihintay na lumampas ang karo
ng di-kilalang bangkay. Maya-maya, ang paghuhukay
ng takipsilim; Maya-maya, ang libing ng maraming hindi-pagdating.

(Mula sa Sa Ilalim ng Pilik, Librong LIRA, 2015)

Sa Ating Paglakad

“At kung ang isang lalake ay sumiping sa kapuwa lalake, na gaya ng pagsiping sa babae, ay kapuwa sila nagkasala ng karumaldumal: sila’y papatayin na walang pagsala: mabububo ang kanilang dugo sa kanila.” — Leviticus 20:13

Nang ating nilakad ang kantong makitid
Habang sa bisig ko, ika’y nakakapit,
May mumunting batong sa ati’y pumatid
Na aking inusog patungo sa gilid.

Nang nakalabas na’t lumuwang sa wakas
Ang nilalakaran, sa ati’y tumambad:
Tinging matatalim, tinging nanunumbat
Sa pagsinta nating mali raw at huwad.

Kahit sa malayo, ramdam sa katawan,
Mga mata nilang binalot ng suklam,
Wari’y mga batong pinakakawalan
At ibinabaon sa ating kalamnan.

Nakita marahil na ako’y nangamba
Sa ipinupukol ng sanlaksang mata.
Pagkapit sa aki’y hinigpitan mo pa:
“Tayo’y umiibig. Ba’t mag-aalala?”

At naramdaman ko ang iyong pagtitig:
Matang sumisisid sa pusod ng galit.
At tila ba batong hinagis sa tubig,
Naglaho ang takot sa iyong pag-ibig.

*

I’ve been trying to write Filipino poems with acceptable rhymes and meters (all part of an assignment in this workshop I’m part of). This poem is not one of those assignments, but a prompt I’ve been wanting to write for a long time; and for some reason, I felt that the form caters to the sentiment.

Dream

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!

“Song”, Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Listen: there was a goat’s head hanging by ropes in a tree.
All night it hung there and sang. And those who heard it
Felt a hurt in their hearts and thought they were hearing
The song of a night bird. They sat up in their beds, and then
They lay back down again. In the night wind, the goat’s head
Swayed back and forth, and from far off it shone faintly
The way the moonlight shone on the train track miles away
Beside which the goat’s headless body lay. Some boys
Had hacked its head off. It was harder work than they had imagined.
The goat cried like a man and struggled hard. But they
Finished the job. They hung the bleeding head by the school
And then ran off into the darkness that seems to hide everything.
The head hung in the tree. The body lay by the tracks.
The head called to the body. The body to the head.
They missed each other. The missing grew large between them,
Until it pulled the heart right out of the body, until
The drawn heart flew toward the head, flew as a bird flies
Back to its cage and the familiar perch from which it trills.
Then the heart sang in the head, softly at first and then louder,
Sang long and low until the morning light came up over
The school and over the tree, and then the singing stopped….
The goat had belonged to a small girl. She named
The goat Broken Thorn Sweet Blackberry, named it after
The night’s bush of stars, because the goat’s silky hair
Was dark as well water, because it had eyes like wild fruit.
The girl lived near a high railroad track. At night
She heard the trains passing, the sweet sound of the train’s horn
Pouring softly over her bed, and each morning she woke
To give the bleating goat his pail of warm milk. She sang
Him songs about girls with ropes and cooks in boats.
She brushed him with a stiff brush. She dreamed daily
That he grew bigger, and he did. She thought her dreaming
Made it so. But one night the girl didn’t hear the train’s horn,
And the next morning she woke to an empty yard. The goat
Was gone. Everything looked strange. It was as if a storm
Had passed through while she slept, wind and stones, rain
Stripping the branches of fruit. She knew that someone
Had stolen the goat and that he had come to harm. She called
To him. All morning and into the afternoon, she called
And called. She walked and walked. In her chest a bad feeling
Like the feeling of the stones gouging the soft undersides
Of her bare feet. Then somebody found the goat’s body
By the high tracks, the flies already filling their soft bottles
At the goat’s torn neck. Then somebody found the head
Hanging in a tree by the school. They hurried to take
These things away so that the girl would not see them.
They hurried to raise money to buy the girl another goat.
They hurried to find the boys who had done this, to hear
Them say it was a joke, a joke, it was nothing but a joke….
But listen: here is the point. The boys thought to have
Their fun and be done with it. It was harder work than they
Had imagined, this silly sacrifice, but they finished the job,
Whistling as they washed their large hands in the dark.
What they didn’t know was that the goat’s head was already
Singing behind them in the tree. What they didn’t know
Was that the goat’s head would go on singing, just for them,
Long after the ropes were down, and that they would learn to listen,
Pail after pail, stroke after patient stroke. They would
Wake in the night thinking they heard the wind in the trees
Or a night bird, but their hearts beating harder. There
Would be a whistle, a hum, a high murmur, and, at last, a song,
The low song a lost boy sings remembering his mother’s call.
Not a cruel song, no, no, not cruel at all. This song
Is sweet. It is sweet. The heart dies of this sweetness.

(RIP, 1951-2016)

“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)

Buwan ng mga Akdang Pinoy 22: “Clairvoyance” ni Carlomar Arcangel Daoana

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Ang sining ng pagtula ay isang sining ng pagsasahubog ng mga di-(pa-)mapangalanang mga danas, ng pagpapaliwanag ng mga puwersang di-madaling mamalas, ang maging tagahatid ng mga di-makita at ng pagnanais na makita. Sa kaibuturan ng “Clairvoyance” ni Carlomar Arcangel Daoana ay ang ganitong tungkulin ng makata na maglatag ng isang arkitektura upang ipirmi ang di-mapirmi at bigyang-anyo ang walang-anyo—panahong nagdaan at paparating, mga danas ng dahas at lagim, ang kaluluwa (o ang maaaring kawalan nito)—dahil iyon ang kondisyon ng pag-iral natin bilang mga tao: ang magpakahulugan, gaano man kalabo o kasalimuot ang paliwanag. At sa koleksiyon ni Daoana, ipinapaubaya natin sa kaniyang talas ng pandama at mala-propetikong pananalinghaga ang ating pagnanais na makita ang mga di-makita, at pagsara ng libro, lumabas kahit papaano nang mas marunong, kahit ang karunungan ay iyong pagkilalang hindi tayo tunay na marunong. Isang pagsipi mula sa “Dream Sequence: IV. Intramuros”:

“…the past still flows, coterminous, with the present
[…]
we are simply inspectors now
we press against walls for what they hold
we discover garrisons, rusted chains, churches built and rebuilt
we have the hindsight to consider all of this as evidence
not a witness
the long dead will not speak except through a chamber we don’t have access to”

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.