For Jeffrey Acido, in response to his accusation that I do not write poems anymore
Yours is a question I have asked myself
again and again. I do not write poems anymore.
Not the kind that kills the wasp stinging
what conscience is left in my grieving heart.
I have come to the end of the road,
And my identification card has been replaced
With something else I could not have wanted
If given one fat chance to choose between
Being a traitor and a holy man. Even words
are not true to us, you see, even as we
Are not true to our words. The lie is somewhere
Between desire and intent, and the need to watch
The spectacle of what we all have become.
We ran away, and we keep on with the running
Only to come back in the full circle of our
Exilic lives, stories, narrations, depositions
Of bounded covenants we keep to insure
Us of the corner we have got.
In the strange country, our language
Gives us away: it is the Ilokano of our soul,
And the accent, however much we try,
Will reveal the loyalties we have, not a lot,
But include the case of our people,
The case for food and freedom,
And the case to speak of our failures and dream
In the syllables that can only come from our hearts.
There is no abbreviation here, no contraction,
No slang, but the blood of each letter we sound off,
Each combination of vision and want
As concrete as the Ilocos sun rising fast
Streaking through the dense forests
Of our unforgiving mountains that hide
The souls we keep to save our bodies
From becoming an exhibit of terror
One more time. We cannot be history
as yet. We must make history with this exile
That is us. I do not write poems anymore,
Not the kinds that lead to a hundred lies.