Mayo Martin is an arts writer and editor at TODAY. He also maintains the newspaper's
arts blog, "For Art's Sake". He previously released Babel, a book of poetry in Tagalog,
and produced Uniberso: New Pinoy Poets Calling, a bilingual spokenword audio anthology.
In 2013, he published a new poetry collection, Occupational Hazards.
Man and Woman
The solitary man by the window
At dusk looks out, stares
At the grey concrete wall that hides
His neighbour's daily routine. Always,
The sound of someone sweeping
Dry leaves and later, smoke rising,
Entering the room. Such a small world
That one's rubbish can easily be another's,
He thinks, then pauses as the first few
Notes rise from a stranger's throat.
Behind the wall she stood, his secret pleasure,
Burning, singing, burning and singing.
I'll never forget that day.
Three mimes came to school to talk
About the benefits of regular brushing
Without saying anything.
On the blackboard the school dentist
Stuck guidelines on how best to prevent
Tartar buildup and halitosis while the mimes
Quietly gave out flyers
Before doing a skit about how it's easy to make
A lot of friends if you take care
Of your teeth and smile often.
And just when two of them were about to
Run into the blackboard sunset, the third yelled
As Jodie emerged from the classroom doorway,
A pale smile on her lips as she waved at us
With a bloodied hand and collapsed.
The school was in an uproar and after
My classmate was rushed to the hospital,
We were all called to the office.
The toilet mirror was smashed.
One by one, the culprits confessed.
A month ago someone boasted she could cut herself
And the rest followed. It started small
With nicks, which grew and grew, more
And more, on arms, wrists, kitchen knives,
Swiss knives or whatever blade they could find.
They carved out names of boyfriends, butterflies,
Flowers and everything else they considered Art.
Every Saturday, they gathered at the mall
To show off their latest, everyone wore
Sleeveless and when scandalised aunties
Stared, they stared back. Jodie always got picked on,
Called a coward because she never did so.
A week after the accident, Jodie came back.
She wanted to say goodbye to us. They didn't let her.
From the window, we saw our classmate smiling
And waving, her hand wrapped in white gauze.
I then imagined that moment when she faced herself,
Staring back at the young lady inside the frame before
Smashing the mirror. Shards of glass rained down
On the floor as she looked at the broken reflection.
With a smug smile, she raised her bloodied fist. Win.
The imps were on a roll.
Last night was on everyone's lips
And they were munching like
Crazy. It started with a pile of leaves
And everyone had something to give. Lawns sprawled.
Most of the trees were perennial, therefore scarred and wise.
Soon, the pile was a pyre. But the idea of matches
Was chucked in time for the tower
To rise in comfort. God could plainly see
Their red hats and he could tell
They were giggling. It seemed like an army
Although he wasn't sure.
Pas De Deux
To dance to save the soul of the one you love
And yet betrayed you? And if you are, can you last the night?
All night, the master of the hall weaves
The rhythm sustaining all those heads shaking,
Feet flailing, arms waving as one, and at the urging
Of lust, they who secretly make out
In the darkest corners of the vast room you consider
A second home. "They don't leave me.
I'm the one leaving them. I'm the one who gets bored,"
You explain again like a broken record.
The needle pressed against the grooves
Is the conduit of sound, the source of rhythm
Ricocheting from both ends of an enclosed room
Full of jostling bodies — an accident
Waiting to happen in case there's a fire, a bomb
Or an earthquake. "Are you ready?"
The doctor asks the young lady with new prosthetic legs.
She reaches for the offered hand and wobbling,
Takes the first steps towards the other end of the room.
He asks her again. "Are you ready to live?"
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