For the City that Nearly Broke Me
For the City that Nearly Broke Me, a work in progress
Ang sakit ng kalingkigan,
sakit ng buong katawan.
1. Taga Ilog
I was hoping I’d see someone else; not you,
suffocating your children in your full skirt’s
folded barbs. Hooded ladrones, bones
jutting, skin abscessed, discarded bodies.
At your banks, dengue fever swarms, thirsting.
Flowers with basura drift, toxic, silted, rank.
Into your murmuring waters, Rizal’s moon once
spilled his verse, and your whims once swallowed
bridges alive. Now, we sing your dirge, snaking
giant, you who named our fathers’ tongue.
hypodermic needle sludge,
dying animals, human rot,
water so thick, rats race
across its oily surface.
i am of here, in this box
twenty souls share no light
but what we have stolen
from night’s frayed wires.
i am of here, and cockroaches
share my bed floorspace corner
tarp and scrap adjacent to
the floor’s open mouth,
slum toilet, river below.
i am of no name streets here,
patron saint of splayed bare feet
and black mud, chicken wire,
polystyrene islands, every
thing you no longer desire.
3. Junto al Pasig
Luce con galas mil;
–Jose Rizal, Junto al Pasig
River of mangrove ghost
River of trench latrine
Su hermoso cielo
River of stagnant stink
Viste de luz gentil
River of giardia
Sus ojos son divinos
River of typhoid rash
Su frente el rosicler
River of sunken barge
Sus labios purpurinos
River of DDT
El pecho hacen arder
River of biosolid dredge
En tí, dulce hermosura
River of blooming cholera
La mente segura va
River of corroded pipe
En tí, rica ventura
River of arsenic groundwater
El alma feliz tendrá.
4. San Francisco de las Lágrimas
Ang lakas ko ay nalipat,
Sa puso’t dibdib ng lahat;
Kung nais ninyong akoy mabuhay,
Pag-ibig ko’y inyong ibigay.
–Nicanor Abelardo, “Mutya ng Pasig”
Praised be You my Lord, through Brother Sun
Petroleum fumes burn my eyes, my lungs
It hurts when I breathe, it hurts when I don’t
Praised be You my Lord, through Brother Air
High from inhaling gasoline vapors
Headrushing’s made me a true blue junkie
Praised be You my Lord, through Sister Water
I bathe in her, I drink her tears
Collected in cisterns, poison rain
Praised be You my Lord, through Brother Fire
I erupt in bleeding ulcers and boils
My body, a cancerous tree in bloom
White walls, high and tipped with glass
shards, ringed barbwire. Iron gates veil
tiled manors, bougainvillea, servants
haunting. Porcelain teacups steam, poised
ladies hushed, their papaya scented bodies
sloughed tender, phantasms, translucent.
6. San Andres Apostol
Patron saint of fishermen
Pray for our rancid waters
Patron saint of fishmongers
Our pockets are always empty
Patron saint of maidens
Our virtue again under threat
Patron saint of spinsters
Let us not die in dementia
Patron saint of rope-makers
Our nooses chafe our throats
Patron saint of songsters
Our throats are oozing sores
When the eyelids are scalpeled
suture cysts may ensue, and
suboptimally placed incisions
may cause excessive scarring.
The surgical fold renders eyelids
unnatural for the Oriental face.
Overflow tearing, hollowness
are possible side effects.