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“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)

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Buwan ng mga Akdang Pinoy 20: “Dreamweavers” ni Marjorie M. Evasco

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Ang librong “Dreamweavers” ni Marjorie M. Evasco ay, sa buod ng talinghaga ng pamagat, isang paghahabi-habi ng sanlaksang karanasan ng daigdig: mula pag-ibig, panahon, kamatayan, pakikipagkapwa, at tulad nga ng “dream” sa pamagat, hindi lang mga panaginip kundi mga pangarap—ang pagbibigkis ng sansinukob bilang isang obligasyong pambabae, ang sining ng/bilang paghilom, na nagsimula pa noong panahon ng mga babaylan at ngayo’y inaari ni Evasco bilang tagapagmana ng tradisyon at legasiyang ito. Bagaman sinasabing ito’y mga piling tula sa loob ng takdang panahon ng buhay-makata ni Evasco, hindi dapat ito mapagkamalang antolohiya ng samu’t sari. Walang sinasayang ang makata na hibla ng salita; bawat tula’y dumaragdag sa dahan-dahang pagkakabuo ng isang obra maestra na hindi lang feminista sa kaniyang nilalaman (proyekto ni Evasco ang magbigay-tinig sa isang boses na kaytagal nang inaapi at pinatatahimik: “I have come home to my own, contributing to our kind these personal struggles with the dangers we face as women and as women writers of color,” sabi niya sa kaniyang napakagandang sanaysay sa umpisa ng aklat) ngunit pati na rin sa kaniyang anyo. Isang sipi mula sa “Caravan of the Waterbearers”:

“We have joined the trek
of desert women, humped over
from carrying our own oases
in the claypots of our lives,
gathering broken shards we find
in memory of those who went
ahead of us, alone.

When we seize the watersource
our ranks will complete the circle
we used to mark around our tents,
making homes, villages, temples,
schools, our healing places.
And we will bear witness
for our daughters and sons,
telling them true stories
of the caravan.”

Buwan ng mga Akdang Pinoy 19: “Kuwadro Numero Uno” ni Benilda S. Santos

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Kung ang pagkababae ay isang sinag ng liwanag, ang mga tula ni Benilda Santos sa “Kuwadro Numero Uno” ay isang kristal kung saan sinasabahaghari niya ang karanasang ito sa iba’t ibang sangandaan ng panahon, katawan, pagnanasa, mortalidad, pag-iral, kagandahan, at pag-ibig sa marami nitong anyo. Maiging tagapamagitan si Santos ng karanasan at wika: sa isang banda, may katahimikan ang mga tula tulad ng sa isang madunong na pantas; sa kabilang banda, maraming tula sa koleksiyong ito—77 tulang hinahati sa pitong bahagi. Sa madaling salita, bagaman maaaring piliin ng makata ang katahimikan, may litaw na impetus ang mga akda rito: ang pangangailangang isiwalat sa mundo ang isang uri ng pagsasaysay ng karanasan at tradisyon sa lente ng pagkababae, isang kondisyon ng pag-iral na tinatanggap ni Santos sa unang tula pa lang, at sa gayo’y labis na nagpayaman at nagtaas sa kalidad ng mga tula rito. Bukod dito, itong libro rin ang pinakaunang aklat ng tula na binili ko ilang taon na ang nakararaan, at siyang naging inspirasyon ko sa pinakauna kong mga tula, kasama na ang pinakauna kong tulang nalathala sa Heights. Kaya higit sa kaniyang kahusayan, may sentimental na halaga itong libro sa akin. Isang sipi mula sa “Isang Disenyo ng Pag-iral”:

“Hinihingi nito, samakatwid,
na lumaya ang makata—
mawala sa kawalan-ng-salita
ng bundok at hangin
tahakin ang pagi-pagitan
magsa-maya sa nilipad-lipad
sa mga puno ng saging
na isa-isang bebendisyunan
ng piping tuka
upang sa gayon
mapawalan ang mga anitong
kabig-kabig ng nakaraan
at di-abot ng kasalukuyan.

Nang sa gayon
maibalik ang lahat
sa pagkakawing-kawing
ng makapangyarihang panahon.”

Breakup poem where you need space

Who doesn’t? Imagine
if we are all packed
to the atom, we would be
so dense we won’t be able
to feel. That’s the thing
about life, it needs some void,
that little thing called nothing,
which isn’t really little nor
a thing, but is there, even when it’s
not really there, isn’t that weird?
Like being in two places at once
or being two objects in one place
or just being there, that’s all,
that’s all we need, a sense
of orientation, direction,
location, location, location
because what are we if we are not
in space or what is space if we are not
somewhere in it, and the answer is
it is still space, that which will live
even without life, even without
this thing called skin called us called
that-thing-which-is-not-space
which is definitely this, and maybe
we don’t need it inasmuch as we need
to be it, that lifeless life, that place
that is not place, that being together
without being together, in a way, is ideal

*

Day 4: Write a love-less poem, something that doesn’t really use the word ‘love’ but talks about love, or lack thereof. Since this series is about breakups anyway, it’s not really a difficult prompt to deal with. It was more a matter of closing in on a specific aspect of a broad prompt.

“The Story of Our Lives” by Mark Strand

la vita è bella

The Story of Our Lives
Mark Strand

1
We are reading the story of our lives
which takes place in a room.
The room looks out on a street.
There is no one there,
no sound of anything.
The trees are heavy with leaves,
the parked cars never move.
We keep turning the pages, hoping for something,
something like mercy or change,
a black line that would bind us
or keep us apart.
The way it is, it would seem
the book of our lives is empty.
The furniture in the room is never shifted,
and the rugs become darker each time
our shadows pass over them.
It is almost as if the room were the world.
We sit beside each other on the couch,
reading about the couch.
We say it is ideal.
It is ideal.

2.
We are reading the story of our lives,
as though we were…

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The More Loving One / W. H. Auden

“If equal affection cannot be, / Let the more loving one be me.”

Poem of the month: The Way Things Work (Jorie Graham)

“The way things work / is that eventually / something catches.”

Let them talk

The Way Things Work
by Jorie Graham

The way things work
is by admitting
or opening away.
This is the simplest form
of current: Blue
moving through blue;
blue through purple;
the objects of desire
opening upon themselves
without us; the objects of faith.
The way things work
is by solution,
resistance lessened or
increased and taken
advantage of.
The way things work
is that we finally believe
they are there,
common and able
to illustrate themselves.
Wheel, kinetic flow,
rising and falling water,
ingots, levers and keys,
I believe in you,
cylinder lock, pulley,
lifting tackle and
crane lift your small head–
I believe in you–
your head is the horizon to
my hand. I believe
forever in the hooks.
The way things work
is that eventually
something catches.

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Explaining Summer

gian can't dance

 

On the first day of existence,
the sun chose us. And that was that.

He’s got a street address now
and a delinquent tax record.

Let me explain. I am lying to you
because it is cold where you are.

Cold and far and snow and darkness
and chilly hands. Or maybe not.

But such dichotomies are easier.
And who are you to stop living

multiple lives and occupations
in the snowstorms of my mind?

Teacher and farmer and secret poet.
I need to tell you I don’t love you.

I just need to stop falling in love
with you each time a cool breeze

rushes past the tips of my fingers.
Or revising another novel I will shred

in the hidden office behind my rib cage.
As if my entire body were a mob front.

But isn’t everything a front for something?
How, in my world, cold weather…

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The Oregon Trail goes to prom, Gregory Sherl

This is how you undress: quickly, without
heart. This is how you love: a slight
exaggeration of yourself. This morning we forded
the Kansas River, watched the water curl under
our toes. We were safe, even for just a moment,
inside ourselves. Now inside you, I am.
After we touch for the first time, I am cordial
with your wrists. I enunciate against your
ribs. When I whisper desert I mean dessert,
I mean Understand I am overwhelmed
by everything you didn’t say. Catch the lost
moments in the back of this wagon.
When you’re not in the room, I am slowly
waiting to stop waiting slowly. In nine months
we’ll be nine months older, our family fuller,
but right now you look so good in that dress,
your eyes are my heart’s entire discography.
Basically I love you the most. What I mean
is Come hold me, I’m your softest fur.

I Should Really Stop Smoking, But You are Gone, So What Else Can I Do

I look closely at the x-ray of my lungs and noticed how it resembles the map of Leyte. That was an excuse for leaving my body open like an unchartered country, for making it prone to colonizers. I’ve been coughing up excuses lately. And lots of blood, but there are much worse things that came out of my mouth. This poem, for example. Or when I screamed “You’re so much better than her” on some girl while I fuck her brains out in my apartment kitchen. Truth be told, I’m bad with lies, but you’re no good at keeping promises either. That means we’re quits. But I already I am a war-torn island on the ocean of my bedspread. Rain is falling hard like bombs on my roof top and I pretend your memory is a bunker. True or false: I am not waiting for you to return.