The poet is persona non grata.
And he should be.
You see: a poet of our people
is not of this earth
not of a nobody's unthinking friend
or amorous liking or willing slave
not someone who flies
akimbo to the prosaic vision
or the on-the-bargain sale wishes
of writers of cheap speech that will soon
be forgotten like fresh flowers
that are only good for the elect
as long as the public show lasts
but never for the masses who want
to hear the song of freedom
when the pretenders stage a pop show
instead of writing what red protest is
instead of writing what immaculate revolution
gives birth to in swirling images of color
that in the road to life a poem emancipates
like robust sticks to chop off
the excesses of despotic discourse
in them are vague sounds that make you forget
the lonely crusades of poets rebelling
to plumb what is in the abyss
of our Ilokano writers' perennial grief.
Why would he repeat, this persona
non grata of a poet, mindlessly parrot
the same flattery for pretending honorable men
and women whose deeds will go with them
in their adulterous, sinking, shallow grave?
Why would he recite polygamous accolades
for those who seek honor and temptation
when honor is for those who keep
the truth of word, the integrity
of language, the peace of sentences
that tells us what life is
what liberating poetry
is for the work we do
to free our word from dictators
and those whose wretchedness
is learned by dancing the curracha
with the rest of pretenders
and dancing with everyone else
including robbers and thieves of greatness
when temptation is for those
who know where the good in art begins
and evil in life ends?
He accepts: I am persona non grata
as I am of another earth,
another geography of another poetics
the geography of our people's pains
the geography of our collective sadnesses:
these are what I write about
not the honor you so desire
that honor I truly cannot give.
I am persona non grata, he says,
this poet, who in his sleep,
dreams of freedom for all the oppressed
even as he dreams that he is oppressed.
No, he says, give me back my language.
No, he says, give me back my poem.
No, he says, give me back what justice
is in the arc of our public histories,
you who have come to defame,
you who have the temerity to call it quits
with truth and beauty and morality
of our deeds.
And so, he remains the persona
non grata of his people, in the margins
of the memory of those who are drunk
with the nouveau wine of self-deceit.
A Solver Agcaoili
Manoa/Nov 26, 2009