Ian Salvaña writes from Cateel, his hometown in Mindanao, Philippines. He has
an MA in Political Science at Central European University in Vienna, Austria and
Budapest, Hungary. His latest poems can be read in Cha: An Asian Literary
Journal, New Contrast: The South African Literary Journal, Quarterly Literary
Review Singapore and Voice & Verse from Hong Kong.
No wind today, and in a zoo in Rome, the news says,
lemurs bite frozen apples to cool down. Such encounters could be
worth an overpriced ticket, maybe applause, taking survival as
spectacle, from an audience who in mid-day have bedazzled
urban terrains with rushed movement, a marathon to home, beads
of sweat sprinkling streets, fertilizing dormant seeds.
The sun looks swollen to the eye, mistaken for distance, the lie of
mirage. But here now, people start to shed layers
of skin, scabs crisp, dehydrated and dusty, devolving and
devolving until they finally go back to nothing.All the while,
everything becomes processed by time, contained by a world
boiling without water, enough to keep no audience confusing those beasts
from foreign lands, compound eyes of a loitering mosquito spread
across all the sight among humans held captive by the sun,
inbred to submit the shortness of breath to airconditioned flats,
prison cells shying away from the big, big world out there.
At the peak of a rooster's crass noise of a taktagaok, the breaking
of a rural dawn, with or without care for words, Ma reminds
Pa the same murmur: Pangukuhon kuno kay maraat yang maripa na alima.
No reply. Seeming routine confrontations demanding
routine answers. Still, I wonder the arrival of this news, wiping
clean the body, though she knows where a clean life comes from.
In the minutes that followed, little forms of crescent moon
fall on the wooden floor. From a distance, I sweep the earth still covering
itself with rotting leaves. The day is already becoming a day,
and so I fold its blanket. After a while, I trim parts of its body with
a trowel, clean its yesterday. As soon as I am back inside
the hut, only bits of earth in my hands remain. Ma this time:
He's on the way to the farm. No reply, a pause, and then another routine
answer: Para maripa? Then again, no soil would till itself,
we know it. Silent, she only lent me the nail cutter. In circles
she clinks the teaspoon, then out of the cup's hot bath,
the aroma of morning. What routine, what life. Putting it on the table,
she meets my eyes and leaves. Drink your coffee before it gets cold.
Inspecting how they welcome nature in its most unexpected,
I see these cute beasts that have constantly evaded
electrocution. Jumping from a mamuang tree to live wire
and then back, elongated extra hairs at the topmost tip of their ears
as if used to listen to the routes of the current, they
inhibit a life of hit and miss most days, too careless sometimes,
dek dek jumping out of their homes, grinning after
the coming of thunder. Finally, rain after two dry months
in Bangkok. Caught up in their balancing acts, these
ballet exhibitionists simply wash water off their faces, tiny fingers
to furs, slowly, and they continue treading roads mid-air,
gliding sometimes, and then lifting those small cheeks to smile
at each other. From afar, safely enclosed within
the apartment balcony, I see life at its most serendipitous,
the rain renewing my senses, as if I haven't seen it
coming, just the memory of days passing by.
In Manila, a few years ago, a couple prepares to die.
Wrapping their children's heads in cellophane, they move quickly
to the master's bedroom of their crumbling family
apartment. Soon, pills beside the table, all there would be
to four sleeping bodies is silent sleep, suffocation by sleep, until
a few days after, the neighbor would notice
the rotten smell of dead mice. Beaming evening headlines
on TV would say only because of debt, unrepayable,
robbing a future of life as depicted in lifestyle magazines in this country.
What must have been their thoughts before letting the night pass?
What bedtime story did they tell their unknowing
children? After all there is to demise, would the world persist
to live another day if only to unlearn many an existence?
Only now that I remember about it I gasp for air,
saliva caught up in the dryness of my throat, a drifting thought
asking me what else has the world not seen yet.
Back to Front.