Sunday, October 23, 2011



(Poems for my Father)

(For Francisco F. Casuga+) 

O, Father. Time overtakes us, and/ We cower in our darkened rooms. 


“Will courage Redeem stupidity?” -- Nick Joaquin 

There is a manner of returning to the root
that explains the virtue of a hole,
its quietness the petering circle:
the canon of the cipher indicts us all. 

And you, rocking yourself to an eddy,
drown the death wish: O that grief
on sons’ faces could tell you all.
“Will courage be visited upon my children?” 

It is this cut whittles the tree down,
not of consumption but of fright
that bereaving is one’s splintering
of children’s bones. Death is our betrayal. 

They are sons gaping as grandfathers die
shapes the gloom of the breaking circle.
They who knew the frenzy of the bloodcry
must never return to find sons become spittle. 


There is a scampering of grace in the dry woods
and a pulse upon some soliloquy:
it is the rain come as a smooth and forbidding lace
upon the cup of the dead and dying weather.

It is past the season of the grub.
The flirt of the monsoon upon the arid lap of Nara
is caked on the thick napes of children
dancing naked in the mire of the fields,
gaping to catch the fingers of the rain,
slithering like parched serpents guzzling raindrops
cupped in the hollow of gnarled father’s palms.

There will be no songs, for the ritual is not of birth
but of death as summer dies in Nara
and with it every titter bursting from a child’s mouth.

The rain becomes a bloody plot.


Tanqui’s supreme conceit is its dread
of withering grass in the month of the frogs
when rain, like fingers in the night, tread
the lesions gangrened on a hillock’s carrion,
carcass of a season mourned
as the briefest of them all.

“The rain is on the hill, the dry pond
is red with clay, the gods are back!
And so must I --- shadow of a past long gone ---
weeping, running through these deserted streets,
crouching now in mud pools of childhood fun
when songs were chanted as songs for the dance.
A dance for the grass! My limbs for the grass!
I must dance for Tanqui’s singed grass!”

He dances hard, his body clean and gleaming,
but Tanqui’s rain is on the ashen hill.
Neither his dancing nor his lusty screaming
will stop this dreaded withering.
Tanqui’s conceit is stranger still
when songs are sung not for her lads and lasses
but for this stranger who, dying, has come back
to dance for black grass, dance naked
for Tanqui’s withered pantheon grass.



Halfway, between this river stone and many rocks
after, Nara shall have gone from our echoes-call.
We have wandered into a sunken mangrove

and wonder: Is it as silent there? Are there crabs there?
What quiet mood is pinching bloodless our spleens?
This is another pool –-- navel upon the earth.
Always, always, we cannot be grown men here.

After the white rocks, after the riverbend,
Nara becomes the dreaded dream.
We have put off many plans of soulful revisiting ---
we will go on re-stepping beyond the white stones,
each step becoming the startled rising
into a darkened city farther downstream
where we once resolved never to die in.


Do we wake up then afraid of Nara?
But rising here is the nightmare come so soon,
treason in the daytime, maelstrom at night: 

The nightmare was of cackling frogs
and serpents rending skulls and cerebrae
of kitemakers who sing while termite logs
burn and children, chanting the Dies Irae,
mush brainmatter, pulling out allegory
like unwanted white hair, stuffing black grass
where brain was, casting tired similes
into dirty tin cans where earthworm wastage was: 

River swells drown us where, surfacing,
we wake up knowing our days have become
termite nights and decaying metaphors. 

Revised October 22, 2011, Mississauga

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