Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Debris,flotsam, jetsam, garbage, wreckage, floating trash,
Corrugated metal folded like paper, a book destroyed, all junk.
Carcasses of trees, shards of glass, iron rods, a refrigerator door, a hand,
A shoe without its pair, unidentifiable things, soggy rubber, clothes off somebody's back,
Dogs, cattle, pigs that could not swim, a child's plush toy, a bench, a lucky charm,
Somebody's father, a neighbor, a stranger from another village, a lot of stuff.
What used to be a roof, a student's backpack, now all useless crap.
Uprooted crops not ready for harvest, a teenager not ready to die,
Shanty dweller, man, woman, child, elder, sister, enemy, friend, someone's lover,
She who lived in a concrete house, he who had two cars, they who had none,
Business man, kanto boy, tambay, police man, priest, a convicted thug,
The village gossip, the righteous one, the one reviled, and one well liked.

Residue of a life that was

Remnants of days that now seem so long ago
Of that quiet time before the storm
Wreckage of families, separated, decimated,
Bodies of children who escaped their parents' grasp,
Corpses never given a chance to say goodbye,
Drifting to the sea,
Carried helplessly,
Washed away from home,
Swept away, then gone.

The angry water did not choose.

The storm surge had no favorites.
The howling force of the wind did not discriminate.
Yolanda was blind; she took without regard to who or what.
The fury vengeance of mother earth simply struck everything on its path.
Everything, everyone was equal, all fair game.
It wasn't the clever nor the richer who survived.
Not the braver, the stronger, nor one more deserving to die.
Just whoever, whatever, whichever.
Random and impersonal as can be; they're all debris.

She struck, swept, smacked,

Stole, swiped, slayed.
And then just as abruptly, she left.
And in her stillness, the shock.
The deafening stillness after the roaring waves.
And the last struggling leaf fell on the littered ground,
Waking up those who did not die.
And they stirred, and they moved, and they searched
Through the debris, the flotsam, and the jetsam
Searching for hope, for nanay, for kuya, for remains of life.

Debris, detritus, sludge, scrap, and crud

Cover the earth for miles around.
Under the garbage, signs of life.
Under the rubble, somebody rises.
Behind the glazed eyes too tired to weep,
Remnants of a heart ready to fight,
To eat, to lash back, to survive, to fight for what's left behind,
To move on, to forgive, to forget, to flee, 
To find a new place, a new reason, a new season, a new cause,
Amid the debris, the vestiges, the leftover matter, yes, hope remains.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Saddest Month

September is the saddest month
When a sister sighs
When a mother cries
When her man reaches out to empty space
When a child grows another year older
Without a mom
When the wind whispers her name
And hearts remember the pain
When years are counted
Stories recounted
When the nightmare of ten days
Of the longest goodbye
Flashes slowly in the mind's eye
When memories of a sweet, innocent past
Of living oblivious to loss
Untouched by death
In the bliss of ignorance
In the happy shadow of denial
Are relived and achingly replayed
When fervent, hopeless wishes
Are whispered to heaven
To please, please go back to that time
Before naive peace was shattered
This saddest month
When a father hugs the air
And best friends stifle tears
When dreams are haunted
And photo albums revisited
When songs awaken
Sleeping sentiments
When questions are asked
And secret regrets surface
When wrinkles deepen
When the the rifts in my soul widen
When the anesthesia wears off
And the numbness turns into
A smarting tender sore
September, sometimes I hate you

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Not Here

In the middle of raucous chatter
Of familial ribbing and laughter
The noise of nothingness shatters
That familiar emptiness shouts out a whisper
And then I remember
I miss her

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ode to the Invention Called the Shower

That first collision of the cold splash of water
With the steaming heat of my scalp
Followed by the explosion of ecstasy
And the escape of a moan
From a mouth minutes ago was cursing summer
And I feel like I was the one to discover
The opposite of fire
And so I melt in a ball of exquisite joy
Of utter surrender
Whispering a prayer to the God of water
And I let the rivulets of pleasure
Drizzle my hair
Trickle down my face
Tickle my back
Embrace my chest
Wash away the grime
Obliterate summer’s sweat
And expunge the heat
And erase the hate
For this torrid bleeping weather
The curse of being a tropical creature
Ah, this magnificent shower
This splash of relief

If only I could stay here forever

A Stanza for my Sister

A whisper in my heart, 
a conversation in my dream, 
a gap in my soul, 
a universe of memories in my mind, 
a tear in my eye, 
an ache in my gut, 
a hope in my spirit, 
a yearning in my chest, 
a never disappearing presence in my life.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Scent of Mother

At night, she gets out of the shower
A scent of alcohol and baby powder
Trailing after her
Smelling like clean and comfort
And sweet dreams and safety
She throws the sheets up in the air
Casting off dust and bed monsters
That whiff of happy
Filling the room
Assuring, protecting, calming

When my tummy aches
When I cry in pain
She fills my lungs
With the scent of magic potions
Vicks vaporub and manzanilla
No medicine's more potent
Than her touch like magic
Her kiss a healing tonic
And the scent of  mommy's love
Chases the pain away

She comes in from the garden
Smelling of sun and soil
Of nature and nurturing
Of green grass and growing things
The biggest wonder
Is that no matter how dusty
And dirty she gets
Her sweat is the scent
Of freshness and health
Of rainbows and garden joy

Nothing in the world
Can smell better
No factory can make
No shop can sell
Nothing can top
Nothing can comfort like
Nothing will replace
That heady scent
That heavenly embrace
Of that perfume called mother

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ode to Summer

When it's summer in the Philippines, it sizzles. So much so that I've been inspired to write poetry. Two poems, in fact. One in Tagalog and another in my version of Shakespeare English.

These are just poems for fun.


Kapag tag-init, payatot, tabachingching pantay pantay
Normal lang na ang mga outfit nating pambahay
Ay saksakan ng nipis, iksi, at kupas ng kulay
Mga tisert na sobra nang gutay-gutay
Napagkakamalang basahan ng kasambahay
Mga perpec shorts na super mahalay
Kasi naman ang ineeeet, haay!

Shakesfear (written after reading some Shakespeare)

Praytell, what's this mefeel
Raging heat from head to heel
Burning innards, sweating crook, oh dear
Yet still, I need to wear a brassier!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

No Choice

She stands in the middle of the intersection
with no hint of shade for cover.
Her sweaty brow,
her carbon filled lungs ignored
as she makes cars go to and fro.
No time to whine,
no time to wonder
if all is worth the exhaustion
as she inhales the exhaust of the city,
exhales the unheard sighs,
even manages to smile.

He wades in morass
in a little cube of stench.
To worry about bacteria
that an ocean of hand gel cannot squelch
is a rich man’s concern.
To be alive to smell the shit is bliss.
He thinks he’s lucky
for to be working today,
to be called to swim in other people’s crap
is a blessing, an assurance
that today there’ll be food on the table
there’ll be a scrap of cash.

Her father says she’s doing it for the family.
Her mother says she’ll do it anyway for free.
Might as well be paid to open her legs
to men too ugly inside
that they have to pay for it.
Her innocence is worth nothing.
Her honor cannot be eaten.
What use is worrying about a lost childhood?
What point is there in saving her purity
when staying alive is not a guaranteed option?
She just closes her eyes and takes it
as she tells her soul to die silently.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


From Wikipedia on WYSIWYG:
The phrase was coined in 1982 by Larry Sinclair, an engineer at Triple I (Information International, Inc.), to express the idea that what the user sees on the screen is what the user gets on the printer while using the "page layout system", a pre-press typesetting system first shown at ANPS in Las Vegas. The phrase was popularized by a newsletter published by Arlene and Jose Ramos, called WYSIWYG. It was created for the emerging Pre-Press industry going electronic in the late 1970s. After three years of publishing, the newsletter was sold to employees at the Stanford Research Institute in California.

The prhrase "Whay you see is what you get," from which the acronym derives, was a catchphrase popularized by Flip Wilson's drag personal "Geraldine" (from Rowan; Martin's Laugh-in in the late 1960s. Geraldine would often say it to excuse her quirky behavior. 

*end of quote*

And what do you know, my other name is Geraldine. 

Now, tack to the poem.


What you see
Is what I am
I won’t pretend to be deep
I won’t cast furtive, sideway glances
To make you think I’m enigmatic
I won’t give you cryptic lines
To show a shadow of something dark
Hidden, lurking behind a half-smile
No. If I try to be perplexing
And pretend to be mystifying
I will laugh at myself
And then I’ll make you a PowerPoint slide
To be sure you get
What I’m really saying
If you call me mysterious
I’ll say you’re full of crap
Figuratively, of course.
Figures of speech, I shun 
Preferring the literal
What you see is
What there is
Yes, I have my dirty secrets
But who doesn’t?
But the Venn diagram
Of what I show outside
And what I am inside
In the well-lit caverns of my psyche
Is a fairly expansive circle
Because my life is one big open book
The spine split wide open
The pages dog-eared and well worn
With nothing much in between the lines
The story of my life is open source
Password not required
Because I can be a whore for attention
Desperate for a reaction
My status even strangers
And their friends of friends know about
What I had for dinner
Snapped and posted
Liked and commented
Shared and quoted
My brain is not a mollusk shell
With meandering paths
And unexplored tunnels
My guts are spilled
For all the world to see
My innards exposed
My heart bared
If anyone cared to look
Every little pang of emotion documented
Every imagined poignancy exploited
You see, I’m in the in the business of sharing
Distributing the little that I know
People pay to learn about the stuff 
I manage to google and stuff inside my
Pretty uncomplicated noggin
I prefer the efficiency of information
Over the enchantment of the unknown
I have no time to be coy
I have no patience for innuendos
Unless they’re the funny, dirty kind
Which you say with an obvious wink wink
That makes me guffaw because I got your joke
I know, I know
I’m boring
But really, the need to be clear
Far outweighs the need to be sublime
Metaphors confuse me
The metaphysical can never trump
The clarity of reality
The ambiguous leaves me confused
Hints flummox my simple mind
Just hit me with the truth any time
And I’ll say thank you for telling it to me bluntly
Yes, that means I'm shallow
Like a saucer
Wide open
Unlocked, ajar
Your irony will probably escape me
If you say no, I hear no
If you say you’re hungry
I assume you need food
And not that your soul  
Is famished
Or your spirit ravenous
For some nebulous craving
Look at my face
And you see pretty much the wall behind me
Transparent like cellophane
Predictable like August rain
Symbols my ass
Semiotics—a pain
What you see
Whether you like it or not
Is what you get

So the question is
Why rest from prose
Why poetize
Why deviate from paragraphs
And delve into stanzas
I don’t know
It's just that sometimes
When I least expect it
A word gurgles out
From somewhere visceral
A bubble of a thought
Refuses to conform to the regular syntax
And the enter button insists
On moving to the next line
Leaving the last one unpunctuated
To form narrow columns
Instead of broad walls of text
I don’t know where they come from
There is rarely rhyme
And even less common—reason
I don't even know
How to do it right
But who cares
I just write
What feels like poetry
Listening intently
To the uncontrolled sentiments
The unstructured statements
And I relax my silly grammar rules
And let the words flow
Unfenced by patterns
Unhampered by justified margins
And they just pour out
A jumble of misplaced ideas
And molted musings
Spewed out
From a place uncharted
Maybe somewhere
In a body drenched with words
Somewhere in there
Where I’ve never bothered to look
Just maybe
Just maybe
I’m deep after all
Or not  

Monday, February 25, 2013

When Walls Talk

Stained, blotched, faded
Silent walls, three decades standing
Now heaving heavy of only memories
Housing emptyness
Covering only remnants of everyday living
The leftover matter
Once considered valuable enough to store
Now discarded
Or just waiting for the next truck to fetch them
Walls sheltering no breathing creatures
Just ghosts and lingering scents
Of food and events and human beings

They stand, lonely, lamenting
Mocking me for moving on
After years of faithful protecting
From rain, heat, and bullets of soldiers rebelling
From a world so harsh and ugly at times
From the glare of the sun and scorching truth
From the stench of the city
From the poverty some call reality
They’ve done their best
To be a fortress, a haven, a default safety
Where masks, bras, and pretensions are removed
Where one puts on a bullet-proof blanket of comfort

How dare I leave now
Where is my loyalty?
But they oblige
They shrug shoulders they don’t have
And give in to the inevitable
They say go, go, move one
We cannot stop you from living
After all, you left a long time ago
When you married that man from the south
And the walls envelop me
Forgiving me for leaving
Trying to hide their weeping

But before you go, they say
Let us talk
And I let them
And they talk of a family too eager to move in
Bringing salt and icons in a home filled with dust
And furniture too few that the house shook
Then filling the house with dreams and plans
And stories, not all of them fun
Filling the home with people, even not their own
With all sorts of things and things and things
And things and toys and books and stuff and things
With love and love and love and love

The walls talk
Of new wave parties in the 80s
Of college buddies hanging, chilling
Of sleepovers too many to count
The corners whisper of sins and secrets
Of stealing daddy’s ciggies to learn how to smoke
Of playing hooky and getting a hicky
Of stealthy kisses
And experimental gropings in the dark
Of growing up and throwing up
Of grounded days and loveless nights
Of love or what we thought was love

The walls snicker remembering
Bad fashion and worse music
Of bawling teenagers thinking
That this is the world ending
Of emo moments and bad hair days
And angst-ridden diary entries
Of children hating parents
Who loved us even when they wanted to strangle us
Of two silly brothers fighting over briefs
Killing each other over nothing
These walls giggle about jokes and pranks
And Ogs’s many emergency room trips

The walls cannot count how many nights
A father waited anxiously
Inspecting rooms, doing a roll call
Praying for the safety of those not yet home
Of losing sleep worrying how the hell
He would find tuition for
These lazy, reluctant students
Who only cared about Saturdays
Whose expensive books remained unopened
Of children oblivious to the love
They speak of a mother always screaming frantically
But just us passionately giving all, loving us loudly

The walls confess of hearing confessions
Of people alone in rooms
Of pains shared in the stillness
When nobody else was listening
The walls sing of hidden joys
Of the smiles one hides
Of hearts being punctured
Egos being bruised
Of brothers and sisters fighting
Not talking, pretending not to care
Of love unspoken
Because it's uncool to be sweet to your sibling

The walls hush of family secrets
Of pregnant announcements
And embarrassing separations
Of family dysfunctions we thought
Nobody else had
Of dirty linen kept where they should be
Hidden, forgotten
The walls speak of heart-scarring hurts
And gut-wrenching breakthroughs
Graduations, weddings, birthdays
The walls saw the growing up
Of awful kids transforming into awesome adults

The walls remember
Parties, preparing for parties
Dreaming of parties
Parties that went too far
Of drunken people sprawled on the floor
Of cleaning up after the nights of reverie
The walls will miss
The people
People visiting
People overstaying
But more than anyone,
The people who lived, slept, breathed, dreamed, grew, gave, loved in it

And then the walls grow silent
Remembering a sister
For whom this house is just not big enough
To hold the love
To bear the pain of losing her
And maybe that’s why we have to move
Maybe this is where they outlive their use
This is when they say goodbye
One last hug, one last look
To let us move on for fresher air, for new stories
For more graduations, weddings, birthdays
For more love, love, love, and love

They're just walls
Concrete, immobile walls
But they speak
They witness
They remember
They cry
They confess
They love
They hurt
They die
Those walls did talk
And I am glad I let them

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Do you remember the twenty first day of September
When I grew up and the child in me died forever
When my heart broke into tiny gooey pieces that could never be put back again
That now it’s all patched up and cracked, alive but barely recognizable 

On the twenty first day of September
My sister went into coma
Because that stupid tumor just decided to erupt to flood her brain 
And all that gray matter just could not be fixed again

On the twenty first night of September
The floor beneath my feet collapsed
And I crumpled into a kicking, writhing ball of denial
Screaming the truth away, bawling the undignified howl

The days after the twenty first of September
Were engulfed in pain that turned to fear that turned to pain again
That turned into a numbness pretending to be strength
That turned into silence pretending to be peace

Ten days after the twenty first of September
We were one less sister
A million joys poorer
Wondering about the meaning of forever

So here we are
A year after the twenty first day of September
Healing, but not quite there
Better, but never like before

I sigh.
I weep without tears.
I just want this day to be over.
This twenty first day of September.