Thursday, March 17, 2005

Pagoda Tree

I would never attempt to translate a poem--any poem, not even mine. Look here, I first wrote a poem in Pilipino about the calachuchi, then wrote about it again in English. Some of the things the two poems say about the calachuchi may be the same, but the general thought is different. This is because the flow, the rhythm, the sound, of each language is so different. And poetry is first and foremost rhythm, sound, flow! My admiration goes for those who can translate poems well.

Pagoda Tree
By Mila D. Aguilar

The pagoda tree,
as they call it in English,
is our calachuchi,
the same name we give
to mistresses.

But how strange the name sounds.
Pagoda tree, I mean.
Towards the summer solstice,
It sheds its leaves

A body made up of so many arms
Dancing their way to the skies
Their fingers growing
The purest freshest flowers

This even in its old age.
I have seen it at 50 or so
Joints already gnarled
By so much twisting
Still offering its flowers
With the daintiest of fingers.

Without sacrificing the grass.
Other plants could be grown
Below it
Because its leaves don't take
All the sun
And its roots not too much
Of land and water either.

Cut a branch and let it stand
On an inch of soil, then see
New roots grow
Out of the salved wound
Once dried up,
As long as a month after.
Its moisture keeps.

Yet for all that
It's not a pagoda tree to me.
It's still my lovely calachuchi.

March 16, 2005
10:35 pm


_Soulless_ said...

hello. i am also a pinay blogger, currently addicted to poetry. ;) anyway, i got here via em's site.

pilipino poems are breathtakingly melodious. so i'm vigorously rooting for "Calachuchi." ^_^

oh, let me share this: i have just found a blog (by a 23-year old pinoy) devoted to such. here's the URL of his site:

mda said...

Thank you for leading me to Basilio, soulless. He is among the best. Melodious should be your word for him.

Carl Marx said...

i like this work.

mda said...

Thanks, Carl. I like your site too. So are you studying in Manila?

miii said...

Is the Calachuchi/Pagoda tree the one just outside the classroom that I stare at whenever i get bored?

mda said...

Boredom is in the mind of the beholder, Betchai. Do you think the imaginative ever get bored?

miii said...

^__^ I never claimed to be an imaginative/creative soul. I even said otherwise.

But... I always admired that tree. all branches and flowers sometimes and no leaves. It's a lovely sight.

CleanMyCity said...

WOW. This is amazing, Im am going to link to this page from my Pagoda trees Flickr page. For the last two years I have been documenting the growth of five pagoda trees grown from seed.



mda said...

Thanks, Dan. I saw your pictures. Let me post my photos of the 50-year-old pagoda trees on my Flickr site, so you'll see how they look when they grow old and wise. If you see this, go to I already have one there on in my "Art" album -- go to