Sumang, Mannumang

He treated us badly. So we locked him up.
Roderick Sumang, leader of the group who locked up their abusive ship captain

It was the porridge you took once a day.

The head gets watery with abuse such as that,
the boiled rice swimming in soupy tenderness
without some sense of lightness or laughter.

How can you ever feed the body with a tryst
with hunger in the high seas, with work heavy
on your shoulders and the weight of absence
from family and children pressing hardly upon
the memory of you farseeing a land
but not so?

A mutiny is the spelling of vented
pain, its letters cooped in the chest even
as you heaved a sigh each time the captain
thinks of you as his slave.

$250 dollars por dios
por santo sus mio jesus dios!

Or the ticket to ride,
back home to the islands yonder to see
once more the invisible name of want.

A cooking stove sparkles, neat
and cold at dinner time.

Plates unwashed for days
except for the bowl whose contours
are familiar, its topography of terror
making you sit up and remember the days
of calling it quits with the sun and some sums.

You go home, now, Sumang.

And your co-warriors on the journey
back to ourselves. You could have been the Ilokano
who battled with snake venoms, antithesis
to all that poisons the pulsing heart.
Or the blood breaking open into a spring
of struggles we can no longer count,
men of the seas or men of the roads.
Or the circle of life you taught us,
with your blazing fire, to renew.

A Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa/Nov 6, 2007

No comments: