We weave the stories here,
on this note of guilt & grief.
We do not know, however,
if the uncovering can begin.
We remember Allos & his story
of red resistance, a million of them,
in the farms, with the immigrants
trying to search for some sense
that was not there in Bugallon,
in his father's parched fields
of rice & hunger & want.
Allos was Carlos Bulosan, alright,
he with his moral imperative
about locating America deep
in the heart, in our hearts.
The way he said it
in the novel or memoir or
in Nasa Puso Ang Amerika the play,
the way the tale comes in circles
of pain and anguish for leaving
the homeland is the same tale
that we have kept
that we keep.
We cover the tale
with gentle words,
We cannot afford to offend the host,
the country whose kindness
no one sees another way.
But then we remember Stockton,
the reminder on the door reminding
us some more:
Dogs and Filipinos
It could have been
a kind of forgetting, this remembering
of the days that are long gone.
The undertones are still here,
however, and we warn the next
one who dares to come:
coyotes hide smuggled immigrants
in cargo boxes & they arrive past the borders
as decaying corpses, their identities
lost in the sand, the desert, the wind.
The stories are not grim
when we hear the social sinning
going on in the new year in Manila & Makati,
this wanton celebration in the yuppie towns
& this yuppie money in wild abandon
& this yuppie way of coming on,
greeting the first daybreak
with glad tidings while tsunami victims
look for the substance of grace
in their search for the salvific
in temple ruins, in the debris of homes,
this wreckage of life in these useless deaths.
We call this a contradiction in terms,
these opposites marking our stories,
setting the scene where to begin,
setting the scene where to end.
As in these California stories uncovered
that could begin here in this city of angels,
mispronounced by the okies or the arkies
or those coming from the midwest or deep south
or the colored slaves or slaves who were colored
& this slavery goes on, changes suit & shape
as the need arises, function & form per the requisites
of oppressive circumstances the oppressor
calls love and charity, love and care, loving care
in the name of divinities that accept
dollars for offerings, the greener the better
they are, the more of them the better they are,
in sum as in their possibilities to go algebraic
in the accounting of net profits
from our sweat, candor, resilience
and that tenacity of the spirit
to hang on and live each day anew
everyday, live life one day at a time
because back home
the hunger continues,
the starving goes on
the homelessness sits well with those
who live in palaces by the river
or by the gated enclaves of the privileged few,
those who reside in villages that are dirt-free
& with no dung to step on
& with no muck to dirty their door
& with no dust to cling on to their desires.
Here in this California of our hearts,
stories of redemption and regret
come in all tones and timber.
There is hardly a tune at all
resembling the alleluia of Handel
piped in parks and malls
where joy could be bought for a fee.
Because here to sing is to cover
your stories with more stories.
Here we are all busy with mythmaking.
The uncovering of these stories
has yet to begin.
Aurelio S. Agcaoili
Jan. 3, 2005