A HARVEST OF
NEW POEMS AND OLD
LOVE IN THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN
--- The female carries the male butterfly on her back while they reproduce, and then the female eats the male while waiting for the pupa to become another butterfly, and then she dies shortly after. --- Bohol Butterfly Farm Guide Felix.
How a butterfly farm can turn
an upside down imitation of life,
haunts me still this side of art as life
or life as art as transfixed visions
of what we must be now:
like the gravid mariposa luring its mate
in a flight of duty -– she must bear
the male of her specie on her back
while they consummate a dance on air
not unlike our act of mating ---
she enamouring her mate
with scents purloined from blossoms
as, conjoined, they flit from flower to leaf
tumbling on air in ecstasy
not unknown to us when wild and young
and brave with joie de vivre,
for they must breed their kind
in a chrysalis of quiescence hurriedly,
urgently, before an inexorable end
where the male must be consumed
as her victual while clinging
to bramble branches bearing her pupa
seen to us now, voyeurs of unfolding
beauty and arresting splendour,
as the preening papillon bestirring
the dry air into a flutter of magic
sprung from throes of death and dying,
for she, too, must soon perish
after this function of issuing
a magnificence that for us can only be
borne of love and loving, yes,
perhaps also onto death and dying.
The poet’s refrain, “how do I love thee”,
is supercilious here, cher ami,
it cannot match the male butterfly’s sacrifice,
nor this mariposa’s dying
to bear life, beauty, and splendour.
Alas, beauty is an omen here.
A RIVER'S RUSH
--On a cruise along Lachine, Quebec
It is the river as mother to the sea
Entraps us into this womblike feeling of ease;
It is the river draws us to this discovery
Of need, our quiet helplessness.
We are the river ran its course
Into an engulfment of restless sea.
How far have we gone from our rivered Nara?
Or how long have we gone astray?
Does the river current come full circle
From the breaking waves of sea?
Do we meet each other, dreamlike,
In the endless stream of the world’s Lachines?
When do we come back as rivulets
In some hidden rock spring?
The river runs full circle, and we discover
We have not even halfway met.
When will my currents break into your rocks,
You distant sea, you entrapment of need
And engulfment of ease?
When will the sea create the river?
When will the river create the sea?
Where they meet in the trickle of a little garden,
Who laves the riverstones?
Who laps the greening shores?
The river’s rush is also our question.
THE FINAL TEMPTATION
…and from his rib sprung Eve to ease his loneliness.--Sunday school tale.
Adam names grass whatever they may be,
but does he feel their caress on the navel gently
pressed where pressed they ought not
on afternoons like this? This afternoon is hot.
Blue skies have virtues all their own seen through leaves.
O, blue skies, what new birds bring you? What eves
Bring you when evenings are soft wind on my cheek?
Twitter of unnamed birds, tremor of eel in some creek?
If I only knew what Adam is abroad about all day,
I would not ask you, black boughs, which way
To Adam, O which way?
Afternoons darken like this and soon it will rain.
He will have new tales tonight. I know that;
but that tale about the Tree, I will get him tell me again.
A STRIVING AFTER WIND
--- All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it.
Malaise stamped on evenings like this ripens romance:
Wisdom becomes our sad bohemia, and we are clowns.
We laugh at what night disgorges --- the gilded askance
But night defines shadows twixt dancer and the dance;
We are cynics grown old, now satyrs of the lounge
Malaise-stamped on evenings like this. Ripens romance
When we, Simon-like, doubt wine and whore’s relevance?
They, too, have time who walk the streets, liven towns
We laugh at. What night disgorges (the gilded askance)
Hounds us, we them, arguing the grip of night and trance
Makes of us involuntary heroes but our bravura drowns,
Malaise-stamped, into evenings like this. Ripens romance.
Romance is talk of God and lady’s drink, a dash of Launce-
Lot, which, too, has time as we have time for cups and daunce
We laugh at. What night disgorges (the gilded askance)
This painful laughter? This wastefulness of remembrance?
We have become martyrs of meaning yet must be clowns
Malaise-stamped on evenings like this. Ripens romance.
We laugh at what night disgorges: the gilded askance.
WHERE THE FINAL WEAPON IS A CHAIR
Ah, to be old and a mariner come upon that restful cove,
to be old, cher ami, is a gallant slouching on that chair –
where the final weapon is the chair not love,
some porch of the heart grown insensitive to care.
This must be the reverie of a changing season;
We never knew quite well how far we had travelled
before we ceased to chant our rising songs:
O we have blanched at the rustle of dried leaves
O we have quaked at the fullness of a street’s silence
O we have hushed at the coyness of echoing eves
O we have known the crag flower’s quintessence!
It is no longer Nara beyond this echo-call.
Where am I? Where are we?
If the morning never becomes an afternoon,
will it always be a waking into a moment
of disfigured song, a dawn of perpetual clocking?
A LESSON ON BUBBLES
Bubbles burst when you catch them,
Much like your wildest dreams:
The blowing is good while it lasts;
Soon the suds run dry, the bubbles fly
From your grasp; elusive illusions
Remain like tombstones. You were
Here once, but just that once
Until bubbles fill the rooms again,
Fly, and burst while catching them,
Much like your fondest dreams.
Catching bubbles, bursting bubbles,
Popping bubbles while you can;
It is a game grown old in our hands,
We tire of it and let the suds run dry.
---The boy stuck a message to his balloon: If you are there,
God, show me where you keep your miracles. And he let it fly.
However high it goes, it will come down --–
Wrinkled on a branch, its message undelivered.
Harsh spring winds will blow it out of town
Before its whimsy, nay, its prayer is discovered.
Why play crapshoot among the clouds, my boy?
Could God be there, or does he hide elsewhere
Among the stars, or in some bramble being coy
Lest he expose himself as burning bush in fanfare?
Let your balloon fly shorn of its couriered burden
Of finding him sheltered in some unlikely heaven
Where heaven is not — for he never left your side
As you let it go to look for where his miracles abide.
DIES IRAE: A POEM FOR OLD MEN
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.
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 singéd 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.
ONCE UPON A SUMMER SOLSTICE
(For Francisco F. Casuga+)
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.
THE BRUSHFIRE WHILE IT LASTED
---They called it People Power, kuno!
Leery Smokey Mountain scavenger.
It is the hunger on brown wrinkles
lined in the irony of parched lips
parted in smile that convulses
the clot of flames violent in the blood
of these gnoméd comrades now
crouched in the muck of this burning river.
The anger was good while it lasted.
--- ALBERT B. CASUGA