Dis 30, 2012

Motto Stella

Kailangan ko ng mga mason,
ilang masusunuring batang tagabuhat,
isa o dalawang babaeng may tubig sa baso,
o lalaki, kahit Filipino.

Mainam kung may mga sulo, ngunit
kung bumubuntot sa itim ng apoy
ang mga kamera,
magkakasya na lamang sa karimlan

O sa iisang kandilang sapat kapwa
ang panganib at pag-aabang
sa mga pakpak ng lingid na insekto,
sa mga maigagatong na mata.

Bigyan mo ako ng estruktura.
Bigyan mo ako ng maliligaw sa estruktura.

Dis 27, 2012

Ang Lugar Kung Saan Tayo ang Tama

ni Yehuda Amichai
aking salin

Sa lugar kung saan tayo ang tama,
hindi umuusbong ang mga bulaklak
kapag tagsibol.

Ang lugar kung saan tayo ang tama
ay matigas at napagtatapakan
gaya ng bakuran.

Ngunit mga alinlangan at mga pag-ibig
ang bumubungkal sa daigdig
katulad ng topo, ng araro.
At isang bulong ang maririnig sa lugar
kung saan ang nagibang
bahay ay dating nakatayo.

Dis 23, 2012

Rebyu sa Huling Araw ng Pagsusulit

PINK— Gumamit ba ng kompyuter si God para gawin ang mundo?

ELIS— Hinde.

PINK— Anong ginawa niya?

ELIS— Sinabi lang.

Dis 21, 2012

The Bane of Peleus

Yesterday, I received a visit from a friend. This friend, he's among the truer ones, those less given to betraying your secrets. Who don't plant little bombs for you to discover after they've up and fled, gone to other lives or time zones, still believing such things somehow made them more important, or interesting.

But this one, I have forgotten how intense things have always been with him.

I fetched him nine minutes past one at Olivarez. I apologized for not being on time, the highway was clogged by the traffic, there was a funeral procession at the junction. He reported a parallel procession on the other side, from where he came. I suppose I was also apologizing for my daughter, the younger one, who had been wailing the whole time. My wife was doing everything to console her, even resorting to lollipops, but Noam just can't take it when she sees either of her parents talking with strange people. Maybe she can accept the talking per se, but what she won't tolerate is happy, animated talk. If so, then she's bound to reject any person who truly engages us.

I told my friend that I would have to bring my family home before anything else because they kids were due for siesta. I'd have to show him part of the house, but not most of it, regrettably, because he came at short notice and we had been wrapping gifts, prepping the kids for parties, Elisha for exams. We had little time to tidy up.

He asked for a tour. First stop? The Main Library parking lot. It's a long story, but I believe it would not have been possible to carve a life from these mountains—much less a family—without that day when he, along with my other college friends, accompanied me to replace that book I lost. The library represents a crucial part of my life, but I pass by this lot every day on my way to errands, to work, to bring Elisha to school, always mindless of its significance.

My friend? He kept getting the goose bumps.

We went to Institute of Chemistry too, that was his pick. After that, I took him up the mountain, then to the park to see the Fertility Tree and the Carillon  According to one story, they chained up the Carillon because students kept on committing suicide when they reached the top. A tower built for music, bedecked by the iron of many bells, flight upon flight of stairs: this was everything. The forbidding clouds above, the inviting green below, and—I suppose—a view of the lake: all the basic ingredients. And this sealed tower, within free reach of that Tree where lovers carved hearts, stole moments of crazy sweat...

It now occurs to me that I had been showing him the keys to this place.

Two boys climbed the mountain and died... A student's body was found right around here... In Biñan, an elsewhere... I apologized, again, this time for my inadequate skills as a tour guide, my banter, the limitations of my lore.

I showed him the horses and crows of APEC, the ambition of the place, the ill fit of school and community. We lacked noblesse oblige, he said. Once again, for I have heard him say the phrase before, a long time ago, while walking a different university. I believed myself doing a good bit, presenting him the wonders of the square meters that had been touched by a plan, and by the hands of workmen, only to be abandoned to non-completion. "It's what a hectare would look like if it had a sky but was put in drawer," I thought. But did not say, for he might think I was smuggling in another tactless metaphor for life.

We settled down at IRRI for pie and conversation. À la mode? The woman asked. No, he said. Ice cream was bad for the throat, and we had a lot of talking left to do.

I won't write everything. Not of our four hours, perhaps our last hours together, worth more than entire months of other people, not of his trials, nor of his identity now, nor my poverty as counsel. But I must write something, there's no other recourse. Unlike the better people I know—or their counterparts, those more certain and scientific—I have a clear weakness: if I don't write, I forget.

Now, the thing about forgetting: I have yet to earn that luxury.

One exchange, a mere facet of that whole time, it's all I can put down. Just this one. Even if it marks me as vain and hubristic, now, at this my age, when a person should have learned quite enough. When I should be frowning my grimmest frown upon all pretense and arrogance. Here it goes:

At some point in the conversation, I began thinking of a lesson plan. I wanted to lead with Janus when I meet classes again next year. I've done this a few times before (but not recently, not in the last five semesters), but I told my friend that this time around I might work the Janus angle right up (or backwards) to Achilles.

I could tell this digression caught his attention. He remained, as I suspected, a connoisseur of war in all its blood and nuance, the glittering array or the dirt of it. If this would be our last conversation, then the wunderkind of Peleus must take his portion of it. So I told him of a curious story about Achilles, background material. How the macho Olympians once desired his mother, the nymph Thetis. Once, I said, because they stopped the moment they heard about the prophecy, how this woman's son was destined to overshadow his father. So Zeus and the others discussed the threat and how only the humans honestly appreciated that sort of thing. They pulled their act together, hurried up, and married Thetis to Peleus, a mortal king.

My friend said he had not heard of this story before. I said the reason I brought it up was, well, we're human. I'm a father, and you're bound to be. And before us, our parents. As adolescents, we judged them harshly. But the years have tempered that judgment, have now made bona fide fools out of us. Made saints of our beloved parents. Still, despite all their virtues and invisible achievements, our parents have most certainly had their failings (of which we are keenly aware, though will never be fully so) and thus we try our best to avoid replicating them, yes?


We strive to become better versions—or shadows—of them.

Yes, he said. We owe it to them to make something of ourselves.

I said: Suppose we succeed?

What if we become the fathers we wanted to have? Fathers who always understand, who explain very carefully, firmly, lovingly, who never fail to convince and who leave their children happy to have been persuaded. My friend. What if we never fail to provide?

He shifted, in his seat. At that moment, I believed he perceived where I was taking us. So I did not tarry: If so, then we would fail to provide the thing that shaped us, that bitter gift to which we owe whatever character brought us this far, to our own families, to live long enough for this conversation. The gift so freely given by our parents, but which we now (so stubbornly and gullibly) keep to oursleves: pain. We would neglect to bless our children with adversity.

There is no other recourse, he said. We can only emulate the strengths. We can't make the same mistakes. The only kernel of human nature worth having is that which denies human nature, which seeks to surpass itself.

What shall we do?

What remains. We feed them stories. We fill them right up with stories.

There was more talk after that, better words, talk of the bleak and the far away, but most of all, of course, we stared at the clear and present. Of the dirty snow he never did aspire for but now must swallow.

I left him at the exact spot where I met him, the strip in Olivarez that leaves the highway and leads to the parking lot. He liked the idea of closing the circuit.

Stories. That's his word for it. I don't know. I teach narratives, I go so far as to call myself a fictionist, but I don't know about this idea of his. Because stories like that, they lead to hope. And the Greeks, they put hope in a box along with other knives.

What a clever people, their gods long gone, never to return. What's left is to defer to sound advice.

Dis 20, 2012

Outline of a skeleton

As an assignment for the first week of December, I had the class collect five-word lines from no less than 20 sources. After briefly introducing the cut-up and found poem as techniques, I asked the groups to make a poem by arranging select pieces (three lines per member) according to some order or other. By default, their first line would be the title.

Some groups passed early, and I checked their submissions immediately. I selected some lines from these and produced a cut-up from their cut-up. The following was the result:

                                               Before they’re allowed to graduate

                                      the first day of school
                                      the outline of a skeleton
                                      was looking into your eyes
                                      I’m waiting, this is true

                                      I’m not simply aging
                                      organisms have to adapt to the
                                      objects you wish to manipulate
                                      found a few paper-covered books

                                      us to see beyond reality
                                      is a limited time offer
                                      to see its practical value
                                      sacrifice his defensive competence

                                      didn’t notice all the roses
                                      handled and referred to gingerly

                                      air, musty for having been long
                                      time in your own health
                                      arms to look like wings

                                      impatience has been around for
                                      you going longer and stronger
                                      egos have small ears
                                      you have to say today
                                      you’ll always have my shoulders

                                      interest in the universe alive
                                      when did the rain become
                                      the thirst for immediate results

                                      every teardrop is a waterfall
                                      I’m waiting, this is true

This was the nth draft of the second attempt, by the way, and I finished it that same night, right after checking. The following night, after some consideration, I posted the poem on the class Facebook Group (another upside of deactivating my personal FB account is this: I can now use FB for purely academic purposes). It was my way of reminding those who have not yet submitted to bring their output the next day.

The post was seen by 124 and liked by 21. The following is my part in the exchange on the comments section:

DE— I cut up your cut-ups. Because you can’t have all the fun.


DE— Saan ba nanggaling iyan? Sa balita?


DE— Ay oo nga pala. Palagay ko sa balita, yung tipong na-suspend o kung ano tapos may mga kailangang pagbayaran bago makagradweyt. Pwede rin namang sa simpleng school policies nagmula. salamat sa iyong grupo!


DE— Paborito ko ang “Air, musty for having been long” sa apat. Galing ito sa "Araby" ni James Joyce, kung hindi ako nagkakamali.


DE— Sinong titser mo sa Eng 2? Saang lesson (kung naalala mo pa) ginamit? Nabasa ko iyan sa teksbuk ng Ate ko, hindi sa klase.



DE— Haha, may read for pleasure din ako sa inyo bago mag-Pasko. 100 salita lamang (abangan!) yung una kong ginawang cut-up, "Outline of a skeleton" ang pamagat. Nakakatuwa ang tula ninyo, science-y, may photosynthesis pa!



DE— Ayos lahat yan, lalo na yung "the thirst for..." Yung shoulders may pagka-cannibal ang dating. affectionate cannibal.


DE— 2x ang linyang iyan. Pang-frame. Saan mo nakuha? Awit?


At the Sunny Patch

One of the upsides of deactivating my Facebook account: now I can focus on verbal snapshots of the children.

After Elisha's exams, we decided to give the two unlimited hours in their favorite play area. We took shifts accompanying them, my wife spending most of her minutes in the queues of agitated Christmas shoppers.

Noam mingled quite well with the other children. She has this face when she's trying to explain something to you in that strange half-intelligible dwarvish chirp of hers, her eyebrows arched like so, she seems very confident that you get what she's trying to say. For some reason, we were under the impression that this face was something she kept solely for family. Not so. About 40 or so minutes into the play session, Noam started to use this face on other children. They began exchanging explanations. Whenever they broke off to return to their own worlds, they appeared to leave with some understanding or other (but I have no way of knowing this for a fact).

On the other hand, Elisha made two friends. She forgot to ask the name of the first one. Perhaps she takes it from both parents. She did, however, manage to ask it of her second playmate, without any prompting. I wonder why. Was it something about the second playmate? Or the kind of play they engaged in? Or did the other girl ask her first.

(Of note: Sometimes, Noam would thrust herself in the middle of Elisha's play with other children. This was evident even in Batangas, when they were at play with cousins.)

I had the chance to follow Elisha's progress with the first playmate, a girl who was two or three years her senior. They played dress-up, the see-saw, and watched Dora together. My daughter grew bored after some minutes of Dora  and wanted to resume with play, but her friend was intent on watching. Elisha quietly asked her if she wanted to return to the play area, but her friend said—also rather quietly, as if they were tiptoeing but with words—that she'd rather watch. Elisha would thus watch some more, remember her boredom after a couple of scenes (or perhaps she never forgot), and would ask her playmate again.

After the fourth time, I told my daughter to leave her friend to Dora. I reminded her that she could always play alone.

Dis 19, 2012

External Markings

Born to the drown
of the mountain (to the

teeth of upper fish)

where four wrists exhibit
no remarkable

signs of grasping each to
each, no movie gloss

of eyes meeting, no end
credit glazing other

than lividity, that ooze

the edges of the flat
immovable rocks

a tug invisible
under a wet air, a

swirl whispering at
once about two solitaries

knotted black

in the blue
of borrowed shirts.

Dis 14, 2012

Twelve Days Senior

Family day at the gym, onstage, middle of the night. 

What the suicide would've said had she known I reviewed her grades. 

For whose sake did they cut the strings of the red puppeteer. 

I smell her diapers from here. 

In a dream of Banquos, Macbeth squeezes a collarbone to wake me up. 

The picture that never gets thanked for smiling back.

Only one recommendation to go before the library opens a door for her.

Of the seven things that we are, more than three are our mothers. 

Who has yet to study for her exams. 

Only the little storms leave flowers on my stomach.

Whom the gods would destroy, they first flatter.

If we're talking happiness, I would've brought their bikes along.

Dis 13, 2012

Two Advertisements

                                             We began

         with a simple, but powerful idea.

              and build
a pair of lips with such style
   luxury, and


        that it would exude
an unprecedented presence.

                                                It's not a face

it's a time change. When

                                         we finished
                                            we put

                                    that presence to the test. In
             the world's busiest, brightest
                               fastest environments.

                                        We simply
      parked the pair

                  of lips and let

                        the cameras roll.

Dis 12, 2012


SR. SOL— Urine.

ANATH— I don't think so.

SR. SOL— I said this will be the last thing, then I said, urine.

ANATH— You're not that interesting, Sr.

SR. SOL— We're talking blood in my—

ANATH— Wait a minute.

SR. SOL— It's pins and needles, you know, when I—

ANATH— Who's behind the medicine?

SR. SOL— These days,it's all alcohol.

ANATH— Topical?

SR. SOL— No, inflammatory.

ANATH— Did you believe, for one moment, we'd last as long as this?

SR. SOL— And I don't want you worrying, I don't want you writing me.

ANATH— I never write you, I just write.

SR. SOL— Or making sad, contemplative faces.

ANATH— Terminal?

SR. SOL— Or questions, no more questions.

ANATH— I can do gifts. Time-released gifts, but you've got to give me the schedule, that is, the span.

SR. SOL— I don't want you, in fact, I don't want you.

ANATH— Not wanting you sounds like something I would do. With or without the blood, Sr., that is—

SR. SOL— So this is it then.

ANATH— It's colder now, so I suppose it's more painful. Yes, as needles go.

SR. SOL— You get to say one last thing.



ANATH— Adult diapers, darkish underclothes.

SR. SOL— I'll give you one last thing to say.

Dis 10, 2012


Kung makaihip ang umaga
kung minsan nga naman

Ang buhay parang guhit
sa leeg ng matinding dalaga

Paano kakayanin kahit
kapwa pagsanibin ang binti

Kuntodo tadyang
kumpletong puso, impit na ngiti

Kung minsan nga naman
kung makaihip ang umaga

Kung makapaglambitin
sa pagitan ng

Malalayong kilay ng talaga
akala mo, wala nang bukas.

Dis 7, 2012

On "Smell"

Read or listen to "Smell" by William Carlos Williams.

DE— Not to undermine your point—and I will try to think it through using your terms later—but after reading "Danse Russe" and hearing about WCW's domestic situation, I believe "souring rose" might also mean not the women as individuals but the nature of his relations with them: covert and illegitimate relations, unacceptable things to smell (and love)? But yes, it's interesting, thinking of it in your terms, that the nose smelling "souring flowers" (was it an essay by Benjamin Franklin that also encouraged relations with elder women, wiser women?) turned off the younger "girls".

DE— Maybe the multiplicity of meanings is necessary here (as in Dickinson) because of the explicit aim of possessing everything (as in the number of windows in the house of Possibility) within a very short compass. Whitman had 52 cantos to make his case for him, but Williams here has only a handful of words. I found refreshing the points that led to the post-coital reading as well as the girls veering away from man and nose out of association.

GE— Your points are well taken. They're also discussing the misogyny of 'Smell'.

DE— Perhaps moreso the ones with experience! Moreso other noses (female counterparts) that desire everything as well

GE— Didn't think it was possible for anyone alive to pull that off!

DE— This info on poplar flowers lends the poem better to the imagination.

Dis 5, 2012


I'll have you know, it took everything I had to ignore you, resist your charms. You could always double them, somehow, when it's time to sleep. Emotional manipulation will get you far in this world, but it's not yet time to know that, or your limits.

After some play, some futile singing, I tried it your mother's way which was to allow you to lull yourself to sleep. I had to pretend to sleep (a talent I learned as a child and never thought would be of any use after independence), had to turn away from your darling babble, your catalog of colors in the half-darkness, your list of relations.

Did not help that I heard your first pronoun tonight, the possessive "ko" for your navel which, because of your yet unarticulated hiss, resulted in "puyod ko".

Your navel, surely, so never forget. Also, that you succeeded where I failed, sang yourself to sleep after six rounds of eensie weensie spider, at one point drumming the pillow, but your head now on it, and your hand under the belly. Good night, water spout.

Sipi mula sa Trans-Atlantyk

ni Witold Gombrowicz
aking salin

At gayon sila nakatayo, nakatayo hanggang kinamot ni Ciumkała ang likod ng kanyang tainga; at habang nagkakamot siya ng tainga, hinaplos-haplos ng Baron ang kanyang bukong-bukong at si Pyckal naman, ang kanyang kanang binti.

Wika ng Baron: "Huwag Kamutin ang iyong sarili." Wika ni Pyckal: "Hindi ako Nagkakamot ng aking sarili." Sinabi ni Ciumkała: "Nakapagkamot na ako." Sabi ni Pyckal: "Kakamutin kita." Wika ng Baron: "Magkamot, hala magkamot! iyan ang dahilan kumbakit narito ka!" Wika ni Pyckal: "Hindi kita Kakamutin, Sekretarya mo ang kakamot sa iyo." Wika ng Baron: "Kakamutin ako ng aking sekretarya kung uutusan ko siya." Sabi ni Pyckal: "Kukunin ko ang iyong Sekretarya para sa aking Sarili."

Dis 4, 2012

Mga Pagninilay-nilay Hinggil sa Kasalanan, Pasakit, Pag-asa, at ang Tunay na Landas #3

ni Franz Kafka
aking salin

May dalawang kardinal na kasalanan kung saan nagmumula ang iba: pagiging mainipin at pagiging tamad. Dahil mainipin, pinalayas tayo sa Paraiso, dahil tamad, hindi tayo makabalik. Ngunit maaari ring iisa lamang ang kardinal na kasalanan: ang pagiging mainipin. Dahil mainipin, pinalayas tayo sa Paraiso, dahil mainipin, hindi tayo makabalik.


"I’m going to set my timer. It's not rhyming words at the end of a line. It's not form. It's not structure. It's not loneliness. It's not location. It's not the sky. It's not love. It's not the color. It's not the feeling. It's not the meter. It's not the place. It's not the intention. It's not the desire. It's not the weather. It's not the hope. It's not the subject matter. It's not the death. It's not the birth. It's not the trees. It's not the words. It's not the things between the words. It's not the meter.

(timer beeping)

It's the timing."

—Charles Bernstein's 60-second lecture on "What Makes a Poem?"

GE— Timing is the comedian's property, his element. Timing is everything, else the punchline is wasted, the joke, the whole life of the hours of preparation flows out of your hands. Perhaps for the "new" poet as well, this is the case? Timing might mean you sing when relevant the relevant song.

AN— Mean Time, don't be so thrifty, so cruel

AN— haha, well you did make it in time anyway

AN— Time asks: Is there more to be sad? We answer: In tune.

AN— the motions. the hesitations where we reveal ourselves best as nothing.

AN— Dance operations.

GE— the tiny motions of the every day mind, tiny notions of the every day hand. / we dance best when we don't know it, the earth spins beneath so we seem to be moving. / seem: to whom? and why?

AN— yes, those syllables are drumming =)

GE— the hay came to pay its respects to a dead horse. / the dog said the horse died of hunger. / the hay cried itself into a forest, choking the dog.

AN— precipitate, also. then rain. sink to the occasion.

GE— Bow before audience so you don't have to look it in the face when you're laughing.

AN— except the outside shattered like so seem so inside, somehow

AN— Readiness yes. Enough patience to hold your tongue. Come the moment: speak!

DE— Touch the moment and moment flies away. Do not touch the moment and your hand flies away.

AN— useful directions (also) for rowing a boat, sitting up or down a tree. Would make for an interesting shower.

AN— reColding | deColding

AN— no breath to waste!

GE— Remember Orpheus. Who, in song, had perfect timing, had the Furies crying, drenching their wretched hair with tears. But come the last moment of patience, when he was moments away from freeing his Eurydice, his doubts overtook him, he turned (a moment too soon!) and lost his meaning forever.

AN— your eurydice reminds me of kafka (coming from Dickinson's alternative house of "Prose," hope you won't mind): "There are two cardinal sins from which all the others derive: impatience and laziness. It was because of impatience that they were expelled from Paradise, it is because of laziness that they do not return. Yet perhaps there is only one sin: impatience. Because of impatience they were expelled, because of impatience they do not return."

AN— patience was not asking for one more day yesterday

AN— a haste of lime

AN— let's stalk in staccato, yes!

DE— In Time, a classic revenge is being taken upon France.

AN— laissez le bon temps rouler, louisiana! france has left the building

DE— Superfluous time. Withered characters of the capital. There is only one——what?——moment to lose.

DE— Diamond is only so much coal that had to endure and wait and hide until it has forgotten what black ever meant. I can see glitters in the soot...

DE— The hour the clock skipped and never remembered