Ekphrasis on a Baguio Hilltop

Poetry by | March 18, 2018

Crest a hill in the city of pines just after an evening meal, one with an overview of another incline. It doesn’t matter if the other hill towers over the one you are on, it’s the hillside that matters.

Pick a light, one brighter than most; not the gilded glow of sodium street lights, the ones lining the main roads for traffic, nor their silvery residential counterparts, and definitely not the ones that are in motion, staying either ahead or behind the vehicles carrying them, as they all will fade and wink out, as if the world were trying to forget this part of it, as you soon shall see. Pick one that stands out, like a construction site’s floodlights, or maybe one from a steeple or belfry, one brighter than necessary.

Stand there, or sit if you have the luxury, and wait. But be not idle in the waiting. Commit the hillside view to memory; recognize boundaries between the subdivisions, the main roads, the little streets that you can recognize and make out, where sedans and hatchbacks trundle along and where they cannot. Recognize the paths nearer the other crest, where the lone pair of headlights sometimes navigates, or the seemingly unsupported pinpricks of illumination, their sources unidentified in this distance.

As you watch the sight, you will forget, as a blanket of cloud seems to roll in, reasonably murky white in the darkness. The lonely lights near the crest first, blinking and twinkling as they pass among trees, or simply glowing superficially by themselves, start to succumb to the thick vapour. The street lights, both silver and gold, start to glow wider, one by one, as their lights refract and diffuse in the looming mist, then are drowned altogether.

Notice the car on the mist’s edge; as if it were trying to escape the undulating maw, as its headlights splice the spilling whiteness, the occasional tree trunk blocking it from view, yet the lights coursing its side actually metes out the fog’s progress and distance.

As it draws nearer, your memory of the hillside starts to blur, but remember that light that you’ve chosen, the one brighter than most. Watch as it dims, in the moments wherein the lesser lights are absorbed, and its light, no larger than a pinpoint now, threatens to blink out. But your chosen light, if chosen right, will never leave you through this.

Discern how solid the murkiness seems, like trying to recall something forgotten. Recognize the impenetrability to the eye, the thickness of it, yet also its intangibility to touch. Perceive the scent of moisture, and as it pervades the mouth it is almost icy-sweet.

By coincidence, a light may be focused behind and towards you at this moment, and, if you are on your feet, a giant will suddenly be standing, towering over and in front of you. Calm yourself over the mild shock, and gaze ahead again, and you will once again start to remember.

The lights blink slowly back to life, the fog rolling away now, slow but steadfast, and the world remembers itself again.

Charles Dwayne C. Tumalip is a literary enthusiast born and raised in Davao City.

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