Span 37

Journal of the South Pacific Assoc for Cwlth Lit and Language Studies
Number 37, 1993
Yorga Wangi:
Postcolonialism and Feminism

Edited by Anne Brewster, Marion Campbell, Ann McGuire, Kathryn Trees


Marie Luisz B. Aquilar-Cariño

O there is my native clearing—
but how does a beast slouch toward Bethlehem?

- Gémino Abad

According to the 1990 census, the Filipino community is now the largest segment of the Asian American category...
By the year 2000, there will be over two million Filipinos in the U.S.

- Epifanio San Juan, Jr.

A scattering of seeds, the soft
bursting of spiralled pods
in the dark. With saliva-
moistened thumb and index
finger, pry open
my difficult history
to a page swollen with swamps
and rain-soaked cassia flowers,
toxic rivers, effluvia of dead
dictators, the fury
of a hundred

The carabao
has been hacked to pieces
in the ricefield
and the boy with mud-
caked shins who believed
anyone could become
president in America
disappears in a ripple
of cogon grass.

Look hard, you've seen
this face before
peering at you through the smoke
of steamships or votive candles
in church, hovering in white
winged caps as you emerge,
insides swabbed and bladders
skilfully emptied,
out of a fog of anesthetics.

In the fake
stone-age forest,
a helicopter descends
on a tree-top
platform; child-
sized natives skitter
through pot shards, broken
bird scales, notched
messages of warning
in bamboo groves.

Foliage turns
deeper into shadow,
a clouding over
the way prisoners' eyes do
at the point
of capitulation, the way gauze
rags wrapping flagellants' heads
eclipse noon light and the route
from highway to river
where the water turns crimson,
rinsing thorn-bled backs.

To erase the scenes
of repeated departure
and return, to slide these
as beads among others
on a rosary, marking
decades, centuries.

Consider the rusted bolo
that turns into a silver paiñeta
stabbed through the canvas of sleep,
its teeth radiating, divided; cut
globules of mercury, thick
as the rote-learnt syllables
clotting on my tongue, ún /
com / fór / table,

We pole
down a canal in Venice,
remarking how the afternoon
light dusts the matte
grey waters with flecks
so much like in Kyoto, the gold
leaf sprinkled
into our sake by a little brown
girl so homesick, Manong,
for Cabugao. Dark
hair softer than palm
fronds framing a face that you never see
buckle, even while she trims the fingernails
of white tourists, sucking
their cocks at the same time.

Look hard, look
underneath the fragile and
apparently immaculate
translucences of paper
where the watermarks show
a tracery like blood, like
muffled heartbeats.

The poet
in Greenwich Village paces
a path of commas
through a labyrinth of books,
meals forgotten, uneaten
since winter.
Calendars proclaim the year
of the dog, mongrels and no-
name curs fighting
for an extravaganza of
scraps under the table.
His wife wakes one
morning with the memory of salt
searing her mouth, infants
never living beyond two
or three days, their blue
faces wreathed by pressed
satin pleats in tiny caskets.
She leaves him, transformed,
months later, as a heavy-
lashed beauty queen kicking
her legs across the ballroom
through tango, fan-
dango and singkil.

de Antipolo, Virgin
of travels, Mother of children
and mothers fleeing war-torn
valleys in the north
and south. Mother of heat
rising from the bowels
of a construction site in Makati
where Mang Nanding's unearthed
a USAFFE bomb crusted with
negligent spite left over
from the war. Virgin of cross-
dressers and manicurists.

Madonna who parts
the waters of the bay,
where Filomeno and his two-
year-old son drown in a knot
of seaweed and sorrow.
Virgin of unscrupulous
doves. Patroness of fiancé
visas, Guardian of balikbayan
boxes. Mother of lonely
doctors in large,
expensive houses.

Mother of cracked
desert stones and sandstorms.
Madonna of middle eastern workers.
Madonna of subway shooting victims.
Madonna of murdered fathers.
Madonna of passportless au pairs
who are really teachers and
mothers. Queen of martyrs,
Mother of slat-eyed
assassins and bloodless
revolutions, Virgin of salvage
lists, Virgin of rebels. Mother
of volcanic eruptions
and earthquakes.

Madonna of consolation
and indifference, we round
the earth's corners
planting songs, stringing
garlands of warped
vowels and names,
counting the beacons
burning on each new hill.

* * *

21 March 1994, 2:42 am; Chicago

New: 13 December, 1996 | Now: 22 April, 2015