California Stories Uncovered, 1

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,

gracious 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

not allowed.

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

Torrance, CA

Jan. 3, 2005

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