Saturday, June 25, 2005

Today's Poem

Strictly Politics
(For Pia Hontiveros)

by Mila D. Aguilar

Listen to the apologist
As he speaks,
Wriggling his way out of
Her closet, like a worm.

Look at the two black blotches
On what could have been
His cheeks, acned
By years of excess

Sweets and tar having
Eaten up his teeth,
The better to hiss
His sibilant sounds

His eyes shifting left
And right, his darkness
No match to the
Handsome men and host

Facing his venom
As he sneers at the
Sheer logic of the
Clean man of God.

In my garden
The mariposa has not visited
My mother's santol tree
For years.

No big colorful butterflies
Here anymore,
Only the small ones
Who flit about fast

And then disappear.
This summer
The santol fell to the ground
In their dozens,

Leaving us little to eat.
Something in the air
Dwarfs all beauty around me.
Something in the heat

Smothers the truth.
I wish for the rain,
Though it be too far between
To wash off the scum.

June 25, 2005
5:30-6:15 am


Mila D. Aguilar was also known as Clarita Roja when she was underground for thirteen years during the period of Martial Law.

She had chosen the name Clarita Roja, which means "clear red," thinking it to signify the red of communism. Little did she know then that it also means the blood of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to redeem mankind from its sins.

Clarita Roja it was who wrote such books of poetry as The Mass Line and Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win.

When she emerged as Mila D. Aguilar again, this time in prison, she came up with three more books, one published in San Francisco (Pall Hanging Over Manila, 1984), another in New York (A Comrade is as Precious as a Rice Seedling, 1984, 1985 and 1987), still another in Manila by the Free Mila D. Aguilar Committee (Why Cage Pigeons?, 1984).

Almost all her poems, including those she wrote from age 15, were collected in a volume published by the University of the Philippines Press in 1996 (Journey: An Autobiography in Verse).

Her latest collection, still unpublished, is entitled Chronicle of a Life Foretold: 110 Poems (1995-2004). This poem, as well as five others, is not included in that collection.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

How many short stories?

Break-Up Stories
5 short shorts

by Lilledeshan Bose

I. Oh, what a night

The last time I saw trees shaping strips of moonlight into curves, I was ten.
We--my sisters, my yaya, bunches of kinchay, strawberries and jars and jars of peanut brittle--are bundled up in a car, parked outside my father's house.
My father is outside, reading a letter just handed to him by my mother, who is getting into the car.

She slams the door, adjusts the rearview mirror, and asks, "Who has to go to the bathroom?" My sister starts crying, but no one answers, so my mom starts to drive away.

When I look back at my father, he is tearing the letter up into tiny pieces. They're carried across the moonlit strips, until we turn into a curve, and then I can't see anymore.

II. Christine

Everybody has a girlfriend named Christine. Chris, Kristy, Tin-Tin, Ina Christina, Tina, Kat, Trina.

They’re freshly powdered and Nenucoed, long hair ponytailed, books held tightly to their chests. To pick things up they never bent down crassly by the waist but discreetly buckled at the knee, tucking the hair behind their ears.

These Christines have flowers and chocolates from you, teddy bears and pursed lip kisses are all you give. You practice enunciating your "I love you" s with a Christina.

You ride at the back of a pick-up to the beach, counting streetlights like stars as you whiz past with Chris. At a party, you get so drunk that Tin-tin has to take you home in a cab. Ina cuts class to bring you lunch if you are hungry in school. With Kat you ignore curfew and lie to your parents. With Tina, you learn to love.

In the times when you’re about to fall asleep, deep breathed and rested, a girl named Christina strokes your arm, smelling like cologne and bread.

But during the rainy season when the traffic at EDSA slows to a crawl, or when dusk gleams through night lights in pink and orange, you dream of a different woman.

Head thrown back, her laughter like dancing, asking you to join her in the rain.

III. Out to Sea

She took him out to sea, which was brown and curled up at the edges with seagrass. It wasn’t like she remembered; the sea looked less blue, the sky less infinite. His presence filled her vision so she could hardly see the view. The tide was receding and they walked in ankle-deep water. There were sea urchins and dead coral they had to watch out for.

When the water got deep enough they sat down facing each other, and he wrapped her legs around his body. He tried to fuck her in this position, but it didn’t work too well—it was noon, and it was as tight as the first time.

Facing the beach, she kept looking over his shoulder to watch out for people on the shore. When he finally cried out, "I love you, I love you," she stared at the twinkling waves, her eyes brimming with salt.

IV. Heartbeat

With other boys her heart would beat a fast drum pound dug-dug-dug-dug-dug not stopping for breaths in between. These boys she watched out for; looked for the tops of their heads in crowded rooms, waited for their calls.

She lived for their comings and goings—they made her heart beat-buzz through her veins like a telephone—ringing in her ears, the sound vibrating on her tongue.

Jose was different, though. When they were in bed together she hugged him to look over his shoulder, her heart resting against his. He said his "I love yous" a countless million times, and her heart slowed down with every declaration.

Some days he hugged her stomach, and tried to listen for her heartbeat. It was there—a slow thunk- thunk- thunk of hollow tin.

V. Questions.

My mother had her eyebrows tatooed on her face when it was uso, in the early eighties. They were perfectly placed, new moon thin above her eyes. As she grew older and her face started to droop, her eyebrows remained perfectly placed on her forehead—a few inches above her eyes that drooped down at the edges like an upside down smile, a few inches below the hairline that crept every year like higad.

With her eyebrows, she looked like she was always asking a question. Good morning, honey? She seemed to be wondering at me, when I woke up. Go fix your bed? Her mouth queried, in afternoons. I hate your father? She would exclaim after too much wine at night.

Leave me? She'd wail, when we were alone.

Copyright by Lilledeshan Bose. Previously published in The Philippine Free Press.

It's a story and it's short

I am uploading the first two stories for English 10: First, in this post, "The Boy Called Juan Pusong," and second, in the subsequent post, "Break Up Stories" by Lilledeshan Bose. I had asked students to Google Lille's story, but one reported that he couldn't find it. True enough, it isn't there anymore.

The Boy Called Juan Pusong

Once there was a boy whose name was Juan Pusong. He was very mischievous.

One day he went to the fields to see the cows of the King. He thought of playing a prank on the king. He cut the tails of several cows and then drove the cows away. Then he stuck the tails in mud holes, with half of each tail sticking out of the mud.

Then he went to the King’s palace and told the King that many of his cows had jumped into the mud holes and drowned.

The King was very sad. He went to the fields to see his cows. When he saw the tails sticking out of the mud, he became even sadder.

But when he asked the people nearby he learned of Juan Pusong’s mischief. The King became angry. He ordered his men to put Juan Pusong in a cage. The following day the cage was to be thrown into the sea so that Juan Pusong would drown.

Early in the morning, Juan Pusong cried and cried. A man came along and asked, “Why do you cry, Juan? Why are you in that cage?”

Juan Pusong answered, “I am crying because the King is forcing me to marry his beautiful daughter but I don’t want to.”

The man thought that to marry the King’s daughter would make him a very lucky fellow. So the man suggested that they change places. The man put on Juan’s clothes and placed himself in the cage. Juan Pusong put on the man’s clothes and went home.

The following day, the King’s men came and carried the cage with the man in it and threw it into the sea.

The next day, Juan Pusong passed by the King’s palace. The King was surprised to see him. He thought that Juan Pusong had drowned the day before.

The King was about to put Juan Pusong in prison again. But Juan told the King that he had returned from the bottom of the sea. There he had seen the King’s dead parents and relatives. They were all very happy and they wanted the King to come for a visit and see their beautiful houses.

The King marveled at Juan’s story. He wished to see his parents and relatives in their beautiful houses. So he had himself put in a cage and ordered his men to throw the cage into the seas. And thus the silly king was drowned. And clever Juan Pusong became king in his place.

(Eugenio 369-70, as taken from Cebuano Folktales 2, ed. Erlinda K. Alburo)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Poem for the first semester

by Mila D. Aguilar

I don't know the language
Of which they speak
As they fly busily about

After the rain.
I can't tell why
After some minutes

They stop
Going about their business.
Is it the wind rustling

Gently through the leaves?
Or are they done?
The skies may be gray,

But I share their joy
Over the coming and going
Of the rain, the way

The plants green and preen
Over the end
Of a long withering summer.

June 8, 2005
10:00-11:06 am