Love Offering at the San Pedro Port

They have come here,
the missioners
with the blue bags
and blue songs,
in the dead of winter,
in the heat of summer,
in the exuberance of spring,
in the nakedness of fall
in this chill of mornings
when you are half-awake
to touch the hearts of dead fish
to partake in this commerce
of stocking up for dinners
on meatless days.

Their language
of quick logic is crisp
like the air
from the sea breeze,
always sounding
like wavering waves:
Love offering po
para sa mga misyon.

I have seen them come
in my dreams:
from Cubao,
on the EDSA and Aurora,
the entrance to the Act,
that theatre that has sinned
against us all
for the filth on its billboards
with the legs of maidens
split apart
and below,
the missioners
thrusting their blue bags
on to the surging sex
on your mind
the dark desire
on your hands
the lingering lust
on your eyes
and the same bawdy billboards
multiplying and thrusting
their glance on your broken heart
remind you of repentance and regret
remind you of redemption and relief
by buying your way out
like the calculated indulgences
paraded by a dying actor dying
as a dying god
a god that grabbed lands and honor
a god that malversed on our pauper dreams
a god that played the role of a rescuer of the nation
a god that lived on the proceeds
of our votes and vice
either the one who,
in the people's park by the bay,
declared the coming
of orange dawns
for us all
so that no one would leave
the old country again
so that everyone
would be cared for
in salvation as in the sweet sums
of our self-sacrifice
so we can make this offering
so we are guaranteed a seat
in the feast of the elect
in midnight banquets when the fate
of the country is raffled off like
the bingo
the lotto
the jueteng
the sweepstakes
they all rig in conspiracy with corrupt clerics
to make the godlings richer
to make them laughing
on their way to the banks conniving
with their greed and deceit
with all lords watching,
knighted friends as well,
those who donate carpets and concrete
those who give money and maidens
those who sell their delinquent souls for a fee
those who give sand and sea breeze
to make the dying god indulge
in the fantasy of his birthright
to be king
to be savior
to be inheritor of good genes
from benevolent dictators
and alms-giving cheats
the one who is dead but alive
in our yearning
for a just land:
liberty for us all
who have to live in shackles
beyond our stunted minds
and polluted imaginations
jobs for those who want
to live right here
where the afternoon shadows
are not longer
nor are absent without a reason
but alive
and kicking as well
like our dreams
that have no intention of self-destructing
but come out springing back
to decency and self-respect
each time,
after miracles,
after revolutions,
from EDSA and beyond
as in these foreign shores
where you are now
you offering
the dainty dollar in your secret pocket
now that you are here
in this scene of salt and ships
swaying as if in a big dance with the green water
them holding out
in the cold of days,
their blue blags ubiquitous
like the unseen
freshness of the sea air.

You are reminded
of that scene
back in the old country
the bags held out too
like the missioners dressed up
for the role,
their charm
intertwining with
the dust settling
in the desperate dusk
in the city corners
where sorrows of all names
give birth to more sorrows
of all names.

You witness to the velocity
of bills exchanging hands,
sweat too in dark corners,
in dark cubicles of loneliness
and late loves.

From the old country
to this awaiting and welcoming land
thousands of miles
and memory away,
they have come
to haunt you
one more time,
those who believe
those who make
you feel as if
you have lost touch
with the ancient divinity
that has dwelt in your heart.

Their rehearsed line
comes lilting now,
as if in a lyric of a sad song,
you from the slumber
in these parts
of this port
of your citified American life.

Love offering for the missions,
love offering for the missioners.

Ah, well, some time
in the past
you had played that part.
And not so well.

A. S. Agcaoili
March 19, 2005

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