Repentance is a Republic of Words

MANILA, Philippines—It was a call for a halt to the political hostilities. President Macapagal-Arroyo Sunday called on the faithful to pray, reflect, repent and love one another at the start of Holy Week, Inquirer, 3/17/08

Repentance is a republic of words
of the poor, against them
this Sunday of the fronds.
(The fronds, quickly gathered from some yards
are all what we have got to welcome the prophet,
the true one who gives us some hope to depend on.
Other hopes given to us have betrayed us.)

A republic of words is repentance too
even as a president tells us
to pray and pray harder, one more time
to reflect and reflect harder, one more time
to repent and repent harder, one more time.

Like our generation and those of our elders,
we who have seen
all what is to be seen,

and wanting not to see any longer
that which assaults our seeing,
we resist this republic of words
against us: Let those who ought to repent
repent and repent harder
ask forgiveness and ask harder
lie flat on altar floors and cry out
spell out the alphabets of their penance.

This carrying of the Lenten cross
this carrying of the burden of a land
too heavy for our impoverished soul--
this is something we ought to be done with
a long time ago when we ripped the chains
when we torched all the records of our imprisonment
for twenty years of Martial Law and more
for the years of Erap excess and his films of false valor
and this regime of prayers said over and over again
like a litany to the wrong patron saints.

And so we must say the prayer to end all these
that exacts vengeance, demands justice for justice
requiring redemption for redemption
and all those are for us now.

The exhibits to our collective sadness, remind us:

a protesting placard flies freely on a barbed wire
on that road leading to the palace and a church belfry
looks out and the praying woman has guts

a silk veil on her royal head, gold thread on the edges
black in its truth of what the mourning of the masses
is in sin and in color, hides her face, her eyes

sunken, her cheeks sallow
while her husband enjoys
the best of rock-a-bye music there is
the best of drunken red wine for the heart there is
the best of lover that gives you lust forever there is

and the platitude of his wealth, his mucho dinero
he inherited from a history of thieves

how can he, he says, how can he lie
when he does not know
any word that comes close to it
this abominable word he does not where
where to look for in the dictionary of cheats?

How can he steal, he says, how can he,
when he does not have the swift hand of robbers,
his Castila hands those of the colonizers a long time ago,
the lines of his arms squeaky clean and their texture smooth
with no trace of having secretly pocketed a penny
from a beggar's can (the beggar is from church steps, by the way)
or snatching inflating pesos like our egos from mothers
going for the bargain of a poor man's fish
but pesos he gets, with full honor,
from some bagmen who, like the palace prince's guards,
shield him from all the evils of the money and resurrection.

Then, of course, comes preaching time.
Like this Sunday of the fronds
our people can afford to bring
to the temple of their forgetful gods.

We say amen, amen, amen
until kingdom come. The blessings we await,
the grace we await. And the end to all these.

Repentance is a republic of words of the poor
while those who have so much
have the lying words they keep against us.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
March 16/08

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