Kalawang Katiyakan

Mala-kahel na kayumanggi
ang compound na ito
Iron Oxide sa Ingles
Fe₂O₃ sa Kimika
parehong wikang banyaga.
Sa karaniwang pananalita
bubong ito ng barungbarong
sinubok ng panahon
Inulan, binagyo’t naarawan
kaya’t madaling tablan
Kung paulit-ulit nga naman
at may pormula na ang bagay-bagay
pakikibaka ba ay tunay?
Kung nangungusap ang mga mata,
bakit pa kailangan ng mga salita?
Kung lahat ay tiyak na
para saan pa ang mga tula?
Kalawang ang katiyakan
at may saysay sa kawalan


Cursed-the world is-
At the core, this
Pandemonium crept
Irking the inept
Taxing the prole
Above all, the scowl
Lifts the facade
Industries have worn
See the strange compromise:
Men over women

White over black
Ah! That hierarchy of yore
Strong over weak

Alas! But learning the lore

Limbered the rank and file
In retirement, with
Ease, watch it crumble!


Ilang taon, tanong nila
(Sagot) A?
Parang di naman (sagot), ke bata niya tignan
Parang ako pa namali ng sagot, aywan

Lingid sa kanila,
Ilan sa kinahuhumalingan niya:
Bigen at jobos na kulay itim para sa buhok
Ba-bye puting sulok

‘Pag nga salmon ang ulam
Collagen sa pinggan niya ang imbakan
‘Yung balat-balat, taba-taba ng isda
‘Yun ang sa tuhod niya inirekomenda

Ilang taon na nga ba siya?
Kumakain ng balat at taba
Sabi niya, kaya siya tumaba
Sa pagkain ng tira ko no’ng ako’y bata pa

Hanggang ngayon naman,
Sa tuwing napapadami ang sandok ko
Sa alok ng mundong ‘to,
Si Mommy pa rin ang umaako.

Mahal ka namin, ma! Salamat sa walang-sawang pag-aaruga! Maligayang araw ng mga ina!

I See You in the Spaces

I see you in the patio
Sunlight still low
Taking a sip of coffee
On a filigree
And how ornate! I thought
How you brace yourself for the day’s bout

I see you in the market
Oh, the way you fret
Brows furrowed
Beneath the clothes of old
In dear voice,
“Suki, that’s 3 for 100”

I see you in the calendar
Am I taking it too far?
We’re only in the month of May
But I might say
I am frayed,

I see you in the canvas
An obra maestra, ’twas
Strokes of light in orange, yellow
But mostly blue in color
“Longing” in acrylics
Dimensions: here and now

I see you in the photos
You weren’t really there, no
In the halations
Graduations, celebrations
I still wrestle with
The negative spaces

I see you in the spaces
In blank pages
Between paragraphs,
Lines and words
In the absence of which
Makes all else gibberish

I see you in the spaces
Between now and never
And what could’ve been
Goes only as far as my imagination
But I see you in the spaces
And transience in this world
Is made bearable

Happy birthday up there! Hope you’re having a blast!

Writing About Writing

This unrequited love began when I was three years old. Crayon Shin-chan attracted me, but not quite as much as crayons and sketchpads did. I was obsessed with feeling my grip on the pencil. It was a frivolous occupation of mine to watch that graphite scratch the paper. I was often scolded for kissing the paper with my eyes, but business continued as usual. My hand, the pencil, and paper worked in a mechanism. With stuffed animals as witnesses, I scrawled my signature on pertinent documents. Engaging in correspondence with politicians and businessmen was a painstaking job. Primitive as it may seem, this pretense prompted me to actually write.

My parents had it easy since I learned the correct pencil grip. They only had to make sure I didn’t run out of paper so I would leave the walls alone. Next thing I knew, I was in a tropical country. Gone were the days of snowball fighting and sakura viewing. Right after kindergarten, my parents sent me to study in the Philippines. I was an astronaut jettisoned into space for a mission—to learn the English language. For some time, we lived miles apart. I was in the care of my extended family in the Philippines, while my parents toiled and saved in Japan. Even so, mom got to visit every six months, and I got to visit dad during summer vacation. This situation further hurled me into writing.

You see, like love, writing meant different things to me at certain stages. When I was six and craving for attention, writing was satiation. Somehow, filling the pages with words drowned my loneliness. Back then, I learned a great deal about writing. And by ‘writing’, I meant letters that read: “Dear Mommy and Daddy, Thank you for taking good care of me. Take care of yourselves. I am grateful for your wonderful love. May God bless you. I love you very much. Love, Naomi.” Letters of this type soon found their way to my friends. Their replies also reached my coffer.

During the latter years of grade school and my four years in high school, people relied on my prowess as a writer. Writing was something I excelled in. I was a campus journalist for years and was convinced I was good at what I did to the point of considering a career in journalism. Academics aside, it was during these years that I penned most of my cringe-worthy pieces—the kind that will get mid-aughts emo bleed with nostalgia.

Came college and I doubted everything I had for writing. This cynicism wasn’t of help as college was a battle ground; academic writing was how you yield your lightsaber. Except for a few jotting down on my Keep Notes at 2 A.M., I put leisure writing on hold. The hiatus and all the literature classes I’ve attended made me realize how delusional I was, seeing writing through rose-colored glasses. For a long time, I’ve had an egoistic view of writing—that it is the writer’s asylum when the world goes obsolete. Such a view reduces writing to something superficial and romantic, which it is not. The writer carries with him a responsibility of changing the world. As Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer noted, a writer “writes not just because of the need to express himself—which is every writer’s needs—but to comment on social inequities.”

And like how most theories get debunked in college, I learned that I came to love writing not “just because”. I came to love writing because of all the bookstore trips and Momotaro bedtime story I nagged my dad to repeat even when I already know what came out of the huge peach. I came to love writing because of reading. To quote author and literacy advocate Pam Allyn, “Reading is like Breathing in. Writing is like Breathing out.” You wouldn’t be able to write good stuff unless you’ve read them. I’m still working on that.

Although I’ve been talking like crazy about writing in the preceding paragraphs, there isn’t even a single piece that I am proud of. But I’d stay in love with writing, with the splatter of hope that it’ll reciprocate one day. I’d stay in love with writing until the words become a part of me. I’d stay in love with writing even if it’s difficult. Here’s to all the poems and stories I have yet to finish!

Rose Garden

“Why call it convenience store when they wouldn’t let you drink in peace?” he said.

“Who cares, I’m cool here,” I raised my bottle, and clanged it with his.

Above us, the omniscient stars watched over our clandestine meeting. He whispers a joke and I repress my laugh, every time. And I fail, every time. Despite our efforts to be nondescript, the night is gay, and so are we.

To my dismay, the sun had risen too soon. Except, it wasn’t the sun. A man in orange is pointing his light at us…the bottles…and then at us again.

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