(For Leah, Ayi, Camille & Nasudi Francine)
The children remember
the 20th anniversary
of our loves multiplied.
There is algebra here,
the abstraction of emotions
going linear & then circuitous,
the boundaries of blase despair
It is our 20th, past many
years after we buried
a leader coming home
from self-exile, his widow in tow,
the bubby daughter delivering
a dramatized eulogy of her father's
opposition to that which does not matter
to loving a land,
to giving up your life for a people
as grateful as the cold waters of seas
sacred and all-giving
in these tortured and tormented islands.
The purging waters are there,
have always been there,
surrounding us and reminding us
of our intractable solitudes
to wash away the impurities
of sacrificing less for
the purpose of a nation of lies & liars,
the purpose perhaps destined or denied.
A year after we married ourselves,
just the two of us, with our mutual cares
for our witness, our covenant sealed
by the streets becoming hungrier
& angrier as the months went by.
That was the year preluding a first
people power of self-redemption.
It was the postlude to producing paradise,
a grandiose one as befitted
a people long deprived.
The hunger was more
because we were starting life anew,
because we were starting a new life
from the old ones, investing on our
memory of new society money
that was never in our hands
but in the pockets of robbers
& those who we voted to bleed us dry.
The anger was more for allowing
ourselves to forget to grieve for our
incalculable loss of lives & laughters
as we saw the dissenters to the dictator
& his agents inaugurate a salvaging spree,
one at a time initially,
two at a time gradually,
the eventual massacre
of the dissenters' dreams
of the best breakfast of dried fish,
fried rice with a generous sprinkling
of garlic to ward off the evil in the thought
of meals & many more lives crucified in the sun,
or in the palate that savors & remembers
the truth of a hemorrhaging homeland,
its blood curdling
its own healing word
gone astray with the strong winds
coming from all directions,
the winds tempting us to declare
a moratorium of deaths & despair
in order to get to our feet to fight the foe
in our hearts,
the emotions expressing themselves
in raw forms & shapes & language,
killing us softly even as we partake
of new promises for a new dawn,
of a new day from the deep & dark night.
The dictator, sick & losing sanity with his
bloated bluff & the blunder of a wife's
& his promised greatness of a land,
showed himself off,
his dictator's exhibit number one,
the chest of a carinoso primero,
the decaying muscle of a madman,
& capricious self-importance entwined.
To prove my loyalty to his oath, he said.
So he showed the carcass of his mind,
now the epitaph of a murderous love
of land and lust
of people and their power.
& so we kept on, the young wife
& the young man,
their dream of home & hearth blessed
forever by the stars and skies
in the sidestreets of their loves, ours,
in Palawan in Sta. Mesa
& then moving to Maria Payo
& then moving to the days
of extreme need & want
even as the funeral of a hero
gathered millions to see him go,
blessed him more & more for the courage
blessed him more & more for the energy
that rebuilt us in this infinity of extreme sacrifice
the angered hungry land called us to offer.
We witnessed all even as we dreamed:
the snap elections that electrified us
with its newly-minted 20-peso bills
that made the rounds of slums
& squatters colonies
& guilt-stricken minds.
We remember there was this family fight,
the daughter & the father,
the daughter the young wife.
Did the father say
do not take it, the freshly & crisp
bills with the blabbing boast
of a dying god
take it & put it into the pockets of fate
& our direst destinies.
Do not be practical.
Do not be pragmatic.
Do not be w-i-s-e. As wise as the traitors of a land.
But more. & more transcending.
The young wife said
she was taking the bribe to buy milk for the son,
born before his time, always in a hurry
like all the babies in those dimmest of days,
coming before the early hours
had the chance to peep
into the window of our new love,
this young one who did not see the fear
in us but was there just the same,
his presence the cause of his mother's fear,
her challenge to his young man to get real
& get lost
& drop all his willingness to fight,
hand-in-hand with the rest, the clerics
as well as those who despised them,
the nuns as well as those who think
of them as the capitalists of our charities,
the seminarians who dream of sex with sirens
from tabloid centerfolds they insert
in their breviaries & bible commentaries,
the socialites with their fake standard English
& their military security men as drivers
moonlighting as their lovers,
the party leaders of both hands & in-between
who dream of raking it all,
the resources & respect,
the wealth & wisdom,
the dignity & decency
they could buy in four-gives or five-six
or in appending on their names the flat word,
"honorable" as an honorable man can be
with his delusions of grandeur and devilish ways,
one act for the public to consume,
another for the private world to keep
such as: the giving of varnished coffins for the dead
& accepting commissions from a relief project
for victims of truth and meaning
for victims of fellow victims
for victims of the impotency to name our pains
& call it quits, this lie that was always poised
to resurrect, always poised to resurrect.
We saw it all, the young wife & the young man,
& those were the days of doom & gloom
& the social cancer kept on spreading
& the social cancer could not be arrested
& the social cancer got bigger & bigger
& the social cancer became a behemoth
& the social cancer became a bad phantasm
for a young couple and their first born
trying to grow in years with grace.
The young man with the young wife
& the young child said: I go.
I go & you cannot tell me I cannot.
& so he went to the Mendiola of his fears,
climbed over the iron fortress
of a palace of booby traps,
& brought home a piece of a barb wire
for the memories.
He saw the anger & he told this to his son
who knew from his silence and the clapping
of his chubby hands, a less than a year-old
listener of narratives of collective aches.
The royal picture
had been ransacked, stepped on,
with a thousand
heavily-burdened steps & soiled footmarks
marking the smiles of daughters,
a son, & a pair of parents
that forgot how to reign in their strange lives.
We moved on from here.
We moved on from the stories of selling
books for a bargain in Recto to buy
the medically prescribed milk
& the hopes for the better for the uncharted universe
of young parents with its countless challenges.
Or buy the medicine.
Or pay off the hospital money
for the two weeks of incubating a first born
& make him ready to face the world
of adults cheating us of our beautiful dreams.
Between them, the young wife & the young man
are 20 years. Among the children, the stories,
solemn & sanctifying, are twenty years
& will be told forever beyond the ages.
Aurelio S. Agcaoili
Dec. 26, 2005