Raj was so conservative
She always wore
so many layers
Even on the hottest days
in summer I rarely saw her
even when my friends from the barrio opened up the hydrant and we played in the street in our bathing suits
Raj they asked me for one day
I think back and
cower over what has
become of my poor friend
She was always covered up
that I rarely saw her
but to think now
Your bustling streets vibrate with the rumbling of the jeepneys
and the hollers of the drivers as they say,
“Pasahero diyan, kasya pa, kasya pa!”; (Any passenger there, some seats are still free!)
Your nights twinkle with the Christmas lights
that surround every tree around the Meralco building
when September begins;
Your endless traffic jams keep McDonald’s and KFC alive
twenty-four by seven
where traffic enforcers dodge cars
trucks and tricycles
and jeepneys and bicycles
while dancing to the rhythm beating in their own ears
with a smile and a salute to all the drivers
from dawn to dusk;
The noise awakens the outskirts of your city
filled with people who never fails to smile
even when the storm pirouettes like a tempestuous ballerina,
where children watch the roads
transform into this ocean of black water
and small wooden boats become the means of transportation;
paddling in between houses
as the adults try to go to work;
where chickens waddling upon roofs
and cats chasing rats
become the best forms of entertainment
your lingering smell of cancer
comes with the dark blue starless sky
telling people to grip their bags until it merges with their bodies.
Manila, say good night
while they hold it tight
protecting it from the dark humid air
where thieves come out to
thumb down unscrutinised objects
from shallow pockets
by the flickering lamps
across the blazing red and emerald green lights
you see less
as the Sun sinks and says good bye.
and try to tranquilise yourself.
Your city is now lead
by a blood-thirsty leader.
Apologies from gunshots overpower the cries of help from your people.
and sleep well.
Let the truth decay
while lives burn and vanish.
Prayers cannot save your mutinous ignominy.
Halcyon days are over
you are still a beautiful city.
Your resilient people
overflows with hospitable hearts.
Their faces plastered with big smiles
as they welcome us for you
and say, “Mabuhay!” (Long live!)
proud and mighty.
Offering their minds on banana leaf plates to everyone who visits,
Giving away their hearts in small loot bags to everyone who leaves,
The Pearl of the Orient Seas
was my hood.
despite your lack of snow
and intense weather swings,
and will always be
Spring has many calling signs
Like flowers and birds and sun
Or getting home to find
Thirty cars at your neighbor's for fun
For every spring and summer
The family across the street
Plays mariachi louder than a speaker
With their entire extended family to greet
You have been barking too much
and you seem to have lost touch
with what is acceptable behavior
ignoring the example of any Savior.
The community is also sick and tired
of the noise you make that’s inspired
by the standards you wish to impose
on other people to follow your nose.
You think that when barking you don’t drivel
expecting those whom you bark at to shrivel
by the magnitude of the noise that you make
so as to impress all others for your own sake.
You’re really nothing but a mongrel after all
and don’t give a damn about others who call
often out to you to shut up and stop barking
but continue with a selfish clamor marking.
Could it be those whom you bark at are being
a threat to your own position you’re seeing?
Or is it perhaps due to the diminishing customer base
as the neighborhood is now aware of your sad case?
The time’s coming when you’ll get a kick up the arse
so the incessant dreary noise you now make will pass.
When my family and I moved into this house in 1977, Dad was our patriarch.
For four decades I have lived in a subdivision that is called Crosby Park.
Today I've lived in this subdivision for forty years.
I was only five years old when I moved here.
When a person lives at a place for that many years, it fits like a glove.
This is where I'll live for the rest of my life and it's a place that I love.
I'll tell you why my place means more to me than it did just ten years ago.
It's because this place is now mine and there's no place like home.
Mister Blister, there he goes!
His shoes, they open for his toes.
His jacket has no sleeves at all.
His trousers, well, they just might fall.
He is a coarse and hairy sight.
He limps and dares not stand upright.
He has a shopping cart to push.
His bathroom is the nearest bush.
People yell and call him names,
and talk about the way he shames,
the neighborhood, and those who "care"
about the world they say we share.
But, Mister Blister is my friend.
He always has some time to spend.
He cares about what I say,
and remembers this from day to day.
He knows about my cares and fears
and what I try to say he hears.
Perhaps the others are too old
to see without life's blindfold.
I wish that he could freely live
and that the town, he could forgive.
They just don't know you like I do.
Mister Blister, I'm glad I do.
The soda can rumbles in the bowels,
tumbling into the gaping mouth
into which I enter a hand
to protrude my sugar rush.
sssni-kah, then the slurp of an obnoxiously pleasing sip.
I let the carbonation tickle my tongue,
reveling in the effervescent sensation.
The smell of old tires,
malodorous oil and gasoline,
and stale cigarettes fill the air.
My vexatious sips go unperturbing the dense atmosphere
that thickens outside the small air-conditioned office
and into the gas station,
where the mutters and sputters of drills,
the squeaking and squawking of rotors and axles,
the interjections of swears and grunts
fill the air.
I peek through the dirty smudgy glass window in the door
to see grimy overalled ants meandering
under the body of our red mini-van
hiked up into the air like a figure skater,
suspended by the rusty clawed accompanist,
not a tremor of strain, unflinching,
letting the greasy men crawl underneath, hiking up her skirt
to examine her anatomy.
I walk outside and sit on a dusty tire stacked with others
on the side of the building--
some growing forlorn in tall grass
weaving in and out of the aperturous rim,
the fingers latching onto fissures and pulling it down
into the hungry earth.
Another slurp and I set the can down
to step onto my skateboard--
rolling across the gritty pavement,
snapping ollies and pop-shuv-its
to add my timbre to the cacophony
leaping out of the open garage doors.
I look over to the barbershop adjacent to the station--
The off-white single room squat allowing the cylindrical swirl
perpetually pirouetting atop the door-frame
to dazzle in a placid manner.
It is there I get my close trims
and pull a lollipop from the cavernous bowl
sitting atop the counter.
The barber, working silently behind his dull gray mustache
and dull gray eyes.
Outside the barbershop to the left,
Leicester Highway ambles onward,
diverging at a fork just ahead of the lot,
and the road adjacent that winds down my neighborhood,
I've never embarked down either divergent,
and I wonder which one is the less traveled.
(Frost, guide me.)
I go to the mailbox teetering on the edge of the highway
and hastily grab our mail,
the wind slapping at my ass as the cars whisk by
in their infinitesimal haste.
I feel like time slows once you step onto Juno Drive.
I turn around and saunter back to the station to see Billy,
my Working-Class Hero,
who I mostly see strolling up to the driver's side window
of our dull red mini-van
to loosely rest his arms crossed atop the window frame,
resting his sweaty forehead on his sticky hairy forearms.
his blackened hands with his greasy smile
behind a scruffy scattered beard caked with dirt and grime,
atop a dark red leather face--
but eyes bright and merry.
His laugh, a phlegmy two-pack-a-day sputter
hacking and pummeling through the van,
all the way to me in the backseat peeking around mom's shoulders
to catch a look at this superhero anomaly.
And his southern drawl wrenching out of lungs
caked in tar and exhaust fumes,
that torpid slur that executes like the garbled hum
of an Oldsmobile engine chugging restlessly--
His laugh, an engine that won't turn over, sputtering to life
but falling right back down into the dirt,
lying on the oil-stained cold concrete floors dirty boots slipping over
and sticking too like wads of gum.
The charismatic mechanic who knew the answer to all things,
always ready to flash me that crooked greasy smile
stretching across his ruddy leather face.
I step back onto my skateboard, with soda in hand,
mail in the other,
and silently say goodbye to my Greasy Eden
before making my way down Juno Drive
towards the first house on the left,
following the road as it snakes past the trees,
alongside the creek, around the bend,
and out of sight.
Enjoying the cool evening air
in the middle of May.
Walking my dog through the neighborhood,
enchanted by its bucolic setting--
Besotted with the scent of freshly cut grass,
and the drone from the lawnmower that renders it,
and the chatter of crickets far in the distance,
preparing for their evening performance,
and closer to me are the squawks and chirps of the birds
hunched in the brush and perched upon telephone wires.
Enamored with the sight of lush foliage,
scintillating at the utmost tier of the woods
where the golden haze of the shrinking afternoon sun
is still hopelessly chromantic in its fading vigor.
The clouds, dispersed like shreds of cloth
against a looming soft blue sky,
the color of the walls in my crib-room as an infant.
The affable hand-waves veiled behind translucent glass passing by
propelling fleeting smiles onward in the journey.
Though the atmosphere is dense,
its ambiance expounds a soft lull.
There's a hush over the six o'clock late afternoon day,
as the auriculariae settle gently aside my temples,
placating the rooted tendons wrapped tautly
in my grove of flesh and bone.
It suddenly becomes disturbed
by the creaking and squeaking of a rusty frame,
the slow groan of old worn tires treading across harsh gravel,
and the conductor of the indistinct cacophony himself:
A placid old man,
in his worn red and black plaid long sleeve shirt,
faded grey work trousers,
dingy black socks,
muddy crusty ragged off-white sneakers,
and an old camouflage military cap to top it all off.
His face, barely visible under the old cap
and the worn silent shroud of his visage,
holds dull dark eyes steadfast peering ahead,
off into the horizon,
with slackened skin the color of clay,
from afar having the countenance of subtle cracks in worn concrete.
The One Man Band rides atop his aged machination silently--
I hear no stressed breath or grunts,
but in passing--
a slow mechanical raise of the right hand,
a slight tip of the head,
and a soft whisper of a hello in greeting.
If I had blinked I would have missed it.
He slowly creaked and squeaked and groaned his way onward,
in his slow and steady rhythmic pace,
until he disappeared in the golden afternoon horizon.
I see him every morning and afternoon
as I drive in and out of the neighborhood--
I wave, always he in return with that slow mechanical gesture,
like an old theme park ride from the fifties.
It was the first time I had actually heard and felt his presence,
to see up close the picture of health and resilience that he is,
the Dorian Gray of bicyclists,
transferring his years of wear and tear onto his metal frame
and his balding rubber soles.
Every time I see him come round the bend now,
I still think of that aged Carousel with the rusty horses
and the song worn a semitone off-pitch,
or the "tranquil" boat ride with the languid mechanical dolls
with thick black eyes goggling eerily
and sallow arms waving infirmly--
but he will not erode as the horses, dolls, and his bicycle--
he will live on, and only he shall demarcate
the trash from the treasure.
Like a rotten house,
oh how time flies.
Through empty streets,
the air being colder.
To stand at focal point,
and just look straight.
It all seems dim,
but yet like fate.
With dry large hands,
and busy eyes.
The tired men,
and starved flies.
It all seems gruesome,
to be one atom of the universe,
and yet so different,
so meaningful without words.
A hope diving from ground up,
to be new and refreshed.
To be rebuilt and beautiful,
the destruction of memories best.
It craves to be reborn again,
with a youth up to date each century,
but I, at focal point, stare out beyond,
craving my best memories.