(For Terry Tugade of TMI America/Global for reminding me what fatherhood in absentia should ever mean and for saying that the youngest daughter needs all the poems she will read to fill in blanks of the lives of a father gone on exile and a daughter going to win her awards)
You do not write to
your last born no more, says the poet,
he who lives in times and places beyond
the raging waters down here in my heart.
The sorrows came in abundance
and the present past
was a poem pluralized.
I tell him, our cellphones bridging us:
"There is no country for exiles."
It is my singular sentence
its predicate he knows,
but I tell him nonetheless,
and no country ever
comes to own us
poets of loves
for a homeland denying us.
I tell him too:
I write poems for the dear daughter
each day, the lines fierce and faithful
of what longing is for a stanza
with no reason and rhyme:
it is the same poem multiplying
like the August mushrooms
in the eastern hills after the heavy rains
when the ricefields in the west are heavy
with grains and grace.
And each day of absence
I dream of feasts multiplying
a hundredfold after the harvest season
of sun and songs
the songs their lines I carry in my soul
like distant relatives on pilgrimage to a shrine
for the common ancestors, like the family home
with the pain of growing shared,
the memory etched in a bright stone
we keep for its magic.
The songs we sing come
to hear the chanting
of beautiful dreams pursued
by a father and a daughter
who know what dreams are made of:
years of longing limning
and in these times the dancers
are singers as well dancing on the edges
of remembrance and regret
renewal and remorse
for leaving and not coming home too soon.
You do not write to your last born
no more, you say, and I write your words
accusing and telling me so
to make a poem of my absent grief.
I am most happy painting canvasses
of not being there each day:
the ribbons, hers,
she counts in early evenings
she talks to her pupils, the dolls
I send from faraway places
I am preparing for her to come to live,
hoping she will stay to write
of the distances we knew were always there.
There is the right time for all these,
this writing and this defense:
the lines of poems must be kept
in the vault of our private selves,
the sense of our words
revealing only so much
hiding more in the lie of our words
for small truths to come unravelled.
A Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa/Mar 19-07