THE LONG SILENCE
Maligned silence, milky as the swirl / at the bottom of a cup, toward which/ the face bends to drink, wanting more.---From “To Silence” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa,. 02-20-12
Silencio! Por Dios! Dionisia, drive the children away,
Father must get his rest on his rocking chair before
Doctor Querol sees him today. Rapido, hora mismo!
She had those sewing glasses on, tumbling on her
Indio nose. (They were not mestiza-nariz). Senora
Dona, Patron, however they called her. She was strong.
Como esta, Dora? Bien, gracias! Y usted, Antonio?
If the ailing padre de familia, somnolent on his chair,
heard her greet the family doctor with a bit of alacrity
he would grip her now bony fingers, los dedos finos
of those schooled in the conquistador’s Cartilla, and
would have rasped: Hija, mia! Con poquito verguenza!
He did not stir when the Madrid-trained physician
placed an unwarmed stethoscope on his rib-cage,
first on the right, then on the left, then quickly back.
He held his pulse, he grabbed a warm lavacara
ready in the mayordoma’s hands, wiped the old
man’s face, grabbed a vial of streptomycin…Oooh.
When he looked at her, he with the aquiline nose,
he with the manners of the caballero of olden days
before the kempetai razed mansions like theirs
so the Yanquis and maybe loose guerrillero bands
would not feign control in those huge houses,
the ilustrados shared a municipio as their homes.
Aiee, Dora! Lo siento mucho, Dora. But Alejandro
has just left us! She stared at the swirl at the bottom
of the warm milk he would normally take after siesta.
Dionisia started jumping around in manic grief,
the hired help, the Japanese governadorcillo,
stood silently. She drank the milk instead. Gave me
the rest, from powdered Yanqui milk, while I stared
at her wrapping the absent Patron with the franela
sent to him earlier by his brothers, the Freemasons,
together with the wall-to-wall portrait of their hero,
Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal, who seemed to stare down
at me with a stony silence I would describe in a novel
much, much later, when I recovered enough sense
not to malign silence, even if it comes from the bottom
of an empty cup, and, why have I always wanted more?
---Albert B. Casuga