Now that the leader is dead, we begin to count
Those who fell before him and those coming after.
It is like preparing a balance sheet
Of assets and liabilities and that runaway
Commerce of conceit, deceit, and profit
From lives lost, dreams inhumanly deformed.
It is religion, they say, this thing that
Is meant to bind, to ligate, to tie together,
To unite us all in higher aims and holiness.
But there is brisk business in war as well,
And the Holy Land sells bullets and guns
To crusaders of a truth in a silver barrel smoking,
The thicker the haze the better
The louder the thud of a fired cannon the better
The more crisp and pithic the parsing the better
The more numerous the hostage-taking
Of the fallen and divided heart the better.
We can name them all, this drama of contesting
This contest for meaning and relevance
For which is holy, which is more holy,
Such as the feasting or the fasting
The plouged fields or the fierce people
The inherited identity frozen or fluid
Our given names in alphabet or in hieroglyphs.
Like this long goodbye of all leaders
We can only surmise some surprises
From some decalogues deciphered,
Those covenants that speak of the ages
Of triumphing before multiple graves and caskets
Some commandments of mourning more
And wailing more and lamenting more
For the odds and evens of banal blessings
From gusty winds and cold showers
And torrential storms to transform our intents,
Metaphors all we invent to justify ourselves,
Commit to remain forever incumbent,
The mandate from these salvation histories
Without redemption, without fulfillment.
We connect the dots now, the deadly dots
Those symbols and signs that have escaped us
For so long, down the decades and centuries
Of fighting to eliminate each other's traces.
And then, of course, we resurrect the shadows
Of many more angels of death, now in concert
With this ceremony of irreversible regrets.
Aurelio S. Agcaoili
Nov. 21, 2004