The Gospel According to a Work Authorization

This is a timeless

trick, an eternal exile's

redeeming grace from all

that which ails the wandering spirit

as you search and seek

from one sea to another

from one door to another

from one street to another

from one country to another

as it has always been,

this quest for new ways

this looking for new roots

if at all this is possible

when mornings have migraines

when the days are dull and dark

& appear but just briefly

& the nights

come right after a late lunch

at a Starbucks corner,

a cup of the cheapest

capuccino and carrot cake,

one slice, just one slice

to make do with the budget

to put an end to that hunger pang

you would not want to bring home

in the night, let it sleep

in your double dream of bounty

and bad vibes.

The gospel according

to a work authorization

is so simple and not.

It is born of purple verses

sometimes seedy and cloudy and sad.

The formula for good and evil

is all there: say the wise word,

the sincere speech, and you are finished.

Say the truth and your truthfulness

comes under fire for saying

something about kindness,

good intentioned, yes, indeed,

but does not produce the desired effects.

It is a contradiction, this.

A bundle of blunders

you do not want to get into

nor commit if you have got

that modicum of self-respect.

You need to think

of the rice money, you say.

Survive and the imperatives

of urgent ethics

will come and visit you.

It is life, the jungle's joke.

But then you say,

we need to sip the aroma

of each cheap hot coffee

even if we down all the dregs,

caffeine and all

to perk up our days.

And so you listen

to other concocted tales,

jugular and jazzy

dazed and dazzling,

the same old tales about promises

for progress and prosperity

by all the presidents you have known

whether here or elsewhere

in the homeland or the heartland

in lands familiar or foreign.

It is about the magic

of myths, the authorization

to work under the tables

of the rich and the not-yet

this last the compatriots'

collecting the sum

of your tears and fears

& calculating the profits

& giving you some morsels

to taste the bitterness of your days.

It is also working side by side

with kitchen sinks,

or above them.

You pray for tips on how to remove

the dirt on your fingertips

not so much because

you do not want others to know

but because others do no care to know

that in a land so far away

you have to work the sewers

you have to work the edges

of hope and losing it

like helplessly watching

the gathering dusk

& not being able to summon the light.

Some stories tell of other things:

a quick divorce without love

in a chapel in the dessert

now the haven of sinners

and saints, traitorous thieves

and decent workers on the furlough

those who labor day-after-day to gamble

with the hours and fate,

to tease the chips and the slot machine

so you can call out, "Come on, big money,

come on, big money!"


in the name of a card that

tells you you can now cheat

to your heart's content,

& all of a sudden you remember

all the dark days when

the sugarcane cutters

of Oahu and Maui

save up on calories

to calm down their hunger.

It is still the same

after all these years,

from Allos' stories

to the Stockton scenes of shame,

that episode about dogs

not being allowed to get in

where food and abundance were served

about Filipinos with pug noses

and the look of famine

in their faces

not permitted to imagine

how food was laid out on dainty tables

for effect, the warning on the wall

with its fake pretenses for politeness.

So today, as you get to open

the envelope containing

all your wishes to work and work,

you remember all, the tragedies

and terrible takes

on what is it to be an alien

in a universe of everything english,

loving and living like they do

from dawn to daybreak

from the long a to the short a

from the idiom to the contraction

of both your language and your lips.

With the work authorization

in your hand, you leave for work,

you begin to live to work,

you begin to work to live.

Aurelio S. Agcaoili

Torrance, CA

Dec. 22, 2004


joel said...

wen, di kad nalawlawa itan ti aangsanyo, manong. dayta ti "good news" a talaga...


ariel said...

dear joel,
yes and no. estoria daytoy dagiti kakailian nga agbirbirok pay laeng iti aangsan.ti imasna, narigat a talaga a is a story of our being economic exiles.

manong A