A Letter of an Exile

(A poem recited at the Bonifacion Day celebration, Art Auditorium, UH Manoa, November 30, 2007; recited also as my way of saying goodbye to Dr Dean Alegado, former chair of the Ethnic Studies Department, UH Manoa, who decided to go back to the Philippines and start life anew after more than 30 years of absence from the homeland.)

To my homeland:
These juvenile storms of the mind
Have been weaned from the earth. There, in the secrets,
Like those in lands remote, I count my afternoons
With no meals.

Even the days come tardy now in
The outlines of my poems. Truth is, the word is a stranger
That adorns the muse of the wise or
In the overseas of feeling, I will wait
For that which does not come:

Of that moment destined for tear
To come rushing back.

The letter begins at that moment when
Sleep is about to take over
Or when the primeval famine arrives,

The revolution of desiring.

The lie of that sacred keeper of memories so that plenitude
Is given a name, like the burp in a young evening,
Announcing the partaking of the meal of thieves

And then those small loves turn into dwarves.

We look for the betel nut and the leaves.

We chew them ceremoniously,
Antidote to the gut that skipped the food
So we would not vomit blood
Or hope. These are all lines

Of our fears in the regime that had gone
And is spoken of by the wind that makes holy
Our wandering: In the east I shall wait for the full moon
To arise and feed it with all that which is the good life,

Round like a day old boiled rice or newly cooked
And then I throw it with the evening
As the witness to the union of all strangers
Like us who go away so we can find

Progress in bus terminals, in nights that are relentlessly dark
In avenues that look like roads to prison cells
Or dead-ends or good luck
That you are too certain of.

Because why do you leave
When you lie beside, as you rest,
That lost look in the eyes
As you count the spiders

And all those house insects or the thumping of the chest
That when it sleeps is full, while you, exile of exiles,
You cannot even count the sobbing you keep hidden
In the letter or in the notebook of writings that flatter.

The dwarves, they reside in our sleep.
White, black, black and white, o they come as amulets.

They are carried by exiles like us, in the hollow of their hands,
With that same passion as in leaving, like me.

I will leave just for a little while, I said in the past.

Just for a little, I promised the dawn that is coming,
My hand raised, like an oath to an obligation
That one has to sign, with blood or with saliva.

I said, I am restless, like a neck gone stiff,
The neck of the one who leaves
But does not throw a goodbye party
Or laughter, could just have been sufficient

To kill the early hours of the night
Of the first of our journeys.

We all will come back, all of us, but unlike before
We bring along with us the stories of tired steps
Like the havoc wrought on the breast
Of that which yokes us.

We were exiles before. We are exiles still,
In this endless coming to a full circle
Of missing the homeland.

A Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa/Nov 30, 2007

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