In the Dead of Night

MANILA, Philippines—The son of a former Supreme Court Chief Justice, sentenced to life in prison for shooting to death a 16-year-old girl despite her pleas for mercy, has been released from jail after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo granted him executive clemency. A dela Cruz, Inquirer, Oct 7/08

I am the spirit you murdered 
years ago,
in the dead of night. 

In the dead of night
sixteen years after 
you are a free man,
your bloody hands those that held
onto iron bars 
and tears that came
too late. 

In one quick draw
of bravado and machismo, 
you snapped fire from a bullet 
and into his head
you pumped fire and death
until he could not say the words
any longer except to stare at you
in the face, the blankness of disbelief
you remember 
you will never forget.

That young man who had 
his future before him
his life oozing with the promise
of the country and our EDSA freedom
haunted you so, in wakefulness
as well as in your dreams.
You remember that several years
before when your father had
justice in his hand, gave what was
to be given: the beginning of life to come
to the yellow of the same revolution
you did not believe was ever real. 
or else you could have gone to pray
say Hail Marys and some other
prayers that could have spared 
you from the devil. Or the oracion
from the anting-anting could have served
its purpose, with your coward's
gun firing akimbo towards the heavens
on Magallanes on that beautiful evening.

Like me, I did not let you sleep 
the one for the just you claimed you were.
I am the young woman you deprived
life and limb as I laid dying in grief,
not being able to say goodbye to mother
and tell her I have loved her so
but in that deep dark I could not see her
face, not her body, not her hand
I could hold, briefly and in the quiet.
I was losing my breath and you came 
to punish us some more with your
words, saying you know but you did not
you did nor know and now you do 
and that somewhere you bruised yourself
not your own man, not your own mind
that you are broken in the spirit
and that it was power you knew
and the act of meting out the finality of death.

I could have said that you 
could have been my father
that love had deserted you a long time ago
that evil was what you had, stored
in the crevices of your tortured spirit now
filled with the memory of regret
coming in too late, darn too late. 

It is your name that makes us wonder,
in awe as in questions that lurk behind
those Manila news 
and headlines filling up the pages
of mornings that my mother and father
take the warm coffee and remember my cold
body, that of a daughter dead.

In the dead of this Friday night
that you are set free, behind you
is a life I could have had.
And the young man's too:
what could have been a combination
of gift, he with his smile now gone
and I with my laughter buried.

I watch you falter now, your steps
no longer knowing the steady cadence
of what vim and vigor stood for. 
Death is coming in closer, I know,
is closing in on you, and the call 
of the rainy days
is coming in closer as well
as all the cycles that will claim
the living come hell and high water.
I could have danced the rigodon-de-honor
and asked you to come to my debut
by the bay, and from there watch
the sun go to sleep, hide in the purple
of a young evening before 
you listened to talk of 
of your gun and its capacity to sever
the spirit from the body.

It has been a long story, and you were
hidden, the security of prison locked
away from the city that bears my memory.

Let this dead of night remember
you coming back. In the meantime,
I keep watch over you, day in and day out
I follow your comings and goings
and I hold those murderous hand
I account their murderous deed:
castrate the testicle in those hands
grown old, bony and shivered 
so you will never ever forget
that once you murdered 
a young woman's dream.

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