I, a thunderstorm

Poetry by | December 14, 2020

and you, a morning mist,
fog blinding me of direction.
If I announce my cry,
you bleed in liquid, and yet,
not in full bloom,
spring resurrects you
from your everyday death.
I, a thunderstorm,
and you, the clouds bearing
my tears. My sense of time
withers with light
piercing through you,
becoming empty of me,
once inside you, now gone.
Slowly, I, a thunderstorm,
beg to hear words
from you, a silent city,
sleeping as if my grief,
a lullaby, hums your body
to your soft bed. You
remain a still world,
and I, your passing time.
You pause to breathe,
and I, a madness,
you wait to be ruined
in seconds. Who listens
now?

 

 


Ian Salvaña writes from Cateel.

 

The notebook

Poetry by | December 14, 2020

Creased spine, yellowed pages, it lives
its rugged life on a coffeeshop table.
For years, thoughts becoming
of women and men and those beyond
draw life page by page. Everyday
ink curves and scratches
mold a heart. Made of clay, shaped
differently per second. Today
the notebook decides
to be a sister of a child with autism.
Yesterday it was a soldier meeting
for the first time a date.
Tomorrow it will be a retired teacher,
hands of veins caressing every
leaf, and finally a world
partially written in the next empty ones.
Here, a recourse from continuity.
The notebook grows with time
and time grows old only to be reminded
that today it was good to live. Mirrors
stop to look at many a self
sometimes, begs to crack in absence
of knowing change. Yet pages
continue to free up still.

 


 

Ian Salvaña writes from Cateel.

 

Flightless Cormorants

Poetry by | November 16, 2020

i. Ecological Naïveté

It was on our fifth day in Galapagos
that my mother, a biologist, and I
first caught sight of a flock of flight-
less cormorants in the north western coast
of Isabela, at a thorn-scrub land-
scape at the side of a slippery slope,
swathed with cat’s-claw bushes and
thin-leafed daisies. In
front of them, those birds: a young
man hefting a massive rock, his sweat-slick
forehead glistening under the sun.
The birds’ wings, at this, did not kiss
the scorching equatorial sky;
they remained still as the tree-covered hills
behind them. Even their eyes merely slid
past him languidly, over at
the primordial landscape,
where other endemic species resided.
The birds’ wings echoed their own eyes.

ii. Evolution of Flightlessness

Terrestrial mammalian predators’
nonexistence in the islands of Galapagos
had undressed flightless cormorants’
vulnerability millions of years ago,
said my mother years before we went
to that place. Those birds,
therefore, had grown downright
accustomed in the stretches of coastline
and in the fluorescent-blue sea,
where they foraged for fish
and other aquatic organisms,
without dread of being devoured.
In the long run, their wings
had morphed into stubby garments
that were only utilized as
an armor to battle the bone-
chilling ocean of the archipelago.

iii. Ode to the Flightless Cormorants

The isolation bubble of Galapagos,
O flightless cormorants, had already burst,
pierced by the thirst of humans
for dreamscape, their presence,
like waves, lapping on the archipelago
every once in a while. You don’t swim
against the current. In truth,
danger to you has been a wind.
This what you deem as wind,
however, has magnitudes.
And when its strength slaps the sea,
tidal waves—say, bird hunters—
can wipe you all out. Start flapping
your wings, flightless cormorants.
Metamorphose them into massive ones.
The cloud-thronged sky is a place
where waves can’t reach you.
Sail through it. I would love to see
you there enacting a metaphor,
beside the other flying species,
rather than in a book in which you are
a mere history—an aftermath
which will occur if those waves
devour your existence whole.

 


Michael John Otanes, 25, was born and raised in General Santos City, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English at Mindanao State University. He was a fellow for Poetry in the 2018 Davao Writers Workshop.

Welcome Home

Poetry by | November 2, 2020

I dreamt that I came back
to find our living room
strangely empty, as if all life
one day went up and left
and not even a chair
or the carpet remained,
yet somehow I heard my sister
saying something about the TV
that no longer sits on the shelf
where it should.

Perhaps the reasons scuttled away
on eight limbs across cobwebs,
melting into damp, unlit corners
too quickly to catch, or perhaps
they were never wanted at all
within those pale, cracked walls
and doors that never locked.

In the kitchen, a cinnamon bun
sat on a counter whose trays
burst with plates no one used anymore
but there it was, a lone piece
of sweet bread sitting on a saucer
if someone got hungry. We are.

 


John Oliver Ladaga hails from Iligan City but is currently based in Davao, and hopes to teach writing classes for a living one day.

That Leaf

Poetry by | October 19, 2020

a tree judges not a leaf’s triumphs,
but its crushing defeats;
and when that leaf falls
it serves its purpose;
it alone exists for the tree,
and to nothing else,
lest it tries to be everything
to everyone:
it is no longer a leaf.


Paulo is a senior high school master teacher.

Another Day Ends

Poetry by | October 19, 2020

She pulls her long skirt up as she skips from rock to rock avoiding the ankle-length deep water of the silent gushing river on her way home.

 

Her knees sunset red for kneeling hours until she reached the Fifth Glorious Mystery her Wednesday routine with the Virgin of the grotto outside the church.

 

It was a rather peaceful evening save for some old ladies trying to tell her fortune of a strong man husband and healthy children by Her intercession.

 

Full of grace she hails the remnants of the day ending in pink violets and orange reds as she carefully climbed the bamboo stairsteps waking up her aging Tagpi from its afternoon siesta.

 

Then just as the crickets’ and kamarus’ chorus signal her to cook the dinner rice her Tiyo appears banana leaves on shoulders wrappings for tomorrow’s lunch at Junjun’s first day of school.

 

“Mano po,” as she brings her Tiyo’s calloused hands to her forehead smelling of sun sweat and the lingering image of a carabao pulling her skirt.

 


Rory is currently based in Petropavlovsk, Kazakhstan and dreams of going home one summer to Davao Oriental.

When a Frog Escapes

Nonfiction, Poetry by | September 28, 2020

The sack was too heavy to carry. Lola told me not to drag it because it might shred off the ground and that the frogs inside it might escape. But the thought didn’t bother me. Besides, I was just a few meters away from Bukagan near Bankerohan Public Market, a stall where differently-sized baskets were created and sold. It was also where lola had stayed over the course of three decades to sell frog skeletons for medical college students.

I kept dragging the sack with my thin arms along the pebbly street as if I was carrying a corpse. It was knotted, which made me wonder if the frogs were still breathing. They were all croaking but the larger ones seemed uneasy. They were jumping as high as they could to escape. I stumbled and my hands accidentally unclasped the sack. But I stood up, clutching the sack again. The frogs didn’t defeat me. I reached our house but there was no one home. I went to the corner where lola used to slaughter the frogs and dumped the sack there.

 

As a child, I was never bothered that animals like frogs also had lives and needed to survive. The act never mattered to lola because she once told me that if being merciless is the only way to survive a day, she would kill frogs forever. It was for our own good, she said. I had long understood that we were poor—no each single kind of request would be granted instantly. But I also that if it was really for our good, then why would my ates and kuyas leave the house every day, only to return by past midnight? They said they wanted to be happy. I somehow agreed. Who could even stay in our house with all its unpainted brick walls? There were only two windows, both had no curtains. There were empty containers wedged at the corner so that if it rained, we would placed them where drops of water raced to fall. The wires of television entangled around a brittle wooden pole that supported our roof.

 

There was no good memory of me and ates and kuyas eating on the same table together when we were young. But if there was something that made us close to each other as friends, it was the large pre-loved bed where we slept next to each other.

A neighbor who’d migrated to Japan gave that bed to lola. The old covering was scraped off. It made my skin itchy when we slept on it, so lola fixed it all by herself. She brushed and washed the used sacks where the frogs had been once kept. She cut each sack on both sides and hand them on our clotheline. For days, she stitched the sacks together and laid it on the old bed as it cover.  I could no longer identify the color of each sack, but I remember that it looked like a single side of an unsolved rubik’s cube. When lola finished mending the furniture, my ates and kuyas found their places on the bed. We would sleep together like we were inside a can of tinapa and would wake up each morning to share the dreams or  nightmares we had the night before.  But where would ate Jelly sleep? There was no space on the for her. None of us were willing to sleep to sleep on the ground with patches of brown cardboards.

But one day ate Jelly didn’t come home. A few days we learned that she eloped with a man ten years older than her. It angered mama. She scolded lola for being neglectful.

At those times, I couldn’t sleep. I would look up the open window beyond the passing trycicles and hoped that ate would come back home and would sleep beside us. I had always wanted to talk to ate, to know why she had run away. Maybe I should have asked what she was thinking. The thoughts she had while she was sitting by our window, combing her hair with her fingers. She was sweetly humming a song I had no idea what it was. She said it was from a dream she had sung. She told me I couldn’t understand yet because I was too young to talk about love, family or forgiveness.

 

After a few weeks, mama and I finally knew where ate Jelly was staying with the man. I was nervous when we started walking down the rocky paths going to an unfamiliar neighborhood. We both ducked as if we were hunchbacks because our heads almost hit the floors of the stilted houses made of plywood and Amakan walls. We passed through trails of barricading stilts and clothelines where panties and briefs were hanging. We were in the darkest slums of Bankerohan. We reached the shack were ate Jelly and the man lived. A palm crucifix was nailed at the center of the wooden door. We knocked on the door for a couple of times, but we realized that no one was really inside. We were told by the man’s neighbor that he’d left with a young lady. By the time mama realized that ate Jelly was hiding in a different place, she decided not to bring me anymore. She told me to stay with lola and I was back carrying sacks of frogs again, still deeply thinking where my sister was really hiding.

 

This time, I dumped the sack without talking to lola as she began to talk about ate Jelly while rubbing her long knife against a whetstone. “Imong magulang wa na gyud kaantos diris balay. She never returned,” she said bitterly.

She prepared boiling water inside the large tin can. She placed the long knife beside her small chair with a folded cloth so her back wouldn’t hurt. She would be sitting for an entire day again. But before anything, she would count and check how many frogs were still alive. She untied the sack I had just brought. All the frogs were jumping as high as they could.

Guniti og tarong ang pikas sako, ayawg buhi. Don’t let go no matter what.”

Lola would get them one by one. Each frog would stretch its limbs, helpless as it would be transferred to another sack after counting. But I clumsily dropped the sack as one frog had accidentally touched my hand. I couldn’t help it. All the frogs were jumping anywhere.

Lola cursed at me and pinched my waist. I cried aloud almost to the point of wailing. Lola bent and tried to catch the other escaping frogs.

Dakpa ang isa, dakpa!” She screamed at me. “Catch them before they leave!”

She was looking at the frog that was on its way toward the hole of a ditch. But I really couldn’t stop that frog from leaving this house.  Lola beat me with a broom. It bruised my legs and arms. I stared  at the window exactly where ate Jelly was sitting and thought of the world outside where all the frogs return to.

 

***

Neil Teves has been a fellow for Creative Nonfiction to the Ateneo de Davao Summers Writers Workshop, the Cagayan de Oro Young Writers Studio, and the Davao Writers Workshop, all during 2018.

Tender Like A Bruise

Poetry by | September 21, 2020

He tells me to stop crying.

He had the most beautiful,

most cruel mouth: gums pink

as Mother’s expensive lipstick, tongue

soft and sharp.

His lips are tight like a vice

around the end of a withering cigarette—

Marlboro Red, no longer

than my thumb.

We lie in the quiet aftermath

of us fading. We do

nothing,

salvage

not one body of memories.

 

He reminded me of my father,

smelling of smoke in the early evening, sitting

on the curb in front of the house

in Laguna.

It had been years since I last saw him.

 

I dress in haste, body scarred

by his constant

effortless nonchalance.

He says goodbye like an afterthought:

a stray bullet shot with eyes turned

the other way.

 

Weeks later, he calls.

I’ve missed your body.

His words are now tender,

like a bruise

pressed by young, curious fingers, wondering:

Would the skin open up to let the purple

            and yellow spill out like paint?

He is there and not there

at once.

 

When we are done, I leave,

stomach full

of melancholy.

Lamp posts line the streets; raining down

pools of orange light.

Tears dripping, I walk through them.

I bathe,

I bathe,

I bathe.

 

 

***

 

Nina Alvarez is a writer and illustrator based in Davao City. A graduate of Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines Mindanao, Nina Alvarez believes that the best way to show gratitude for experiencing good stories is creating more for others to experience as well.