Born and raised in Cebu (Philippines), Lawrence Lacambra Ypil has received numerous
awards, including the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, the Philippines
Free Press Awards, and the Joseph Mulry Award for Literary Excellence (1999). The poem
here is taken from The Highest Hiding Place (Ateneo de Manila University Press 2009).

At the Beach

The distance from one person to the next was equal to the length of a

Bridge. There. Right at the edge of it
Forty-four full miles from the heart of the house
to where the road hit rubble and
the grey factories gave way to the wide-expanse
of the empty lots and the long line of trees,
and the old watch tower carved from the side of the cliff,
where from its roof one could see the edge of the world:
edge of the sea: wide arc of the sky that was
uninterrupted: bridge. And on some Sundays,
when the sun shone, and the wind, yes,
was strong enough to blow off course a boat
happily missing; a car (with my dad at the wheel),
close to skidding (with my mom) off the road,
crawled its wayward way (and us at the back
waving at the sky from the window),
over that quick skip between the islands.

The distance from one person and the next was equal to the length of a

Story. Schools of shark circling in droves
across the floor of the sea, scouring the scrags
of old corrals for dead bodies: Once, in the 70's,
a sea monster borne out of the muck of an old mill
whipped its huge tail against the foot of the bridge
and sent ten families skidding into the sea.

What we did not see we refused to believe: besides,
it only took three full sentences screamed into
the opposite lane of cars and tricycles and a truck
of dead hogs for us to get to the other side -
End of the bridge. End of the story.

The distance between one person and the next was as deep as the

Sea. As if I had any choice in the matter.
Or Tina. Now there are so many, many things
to believe in: drowned, and then found, and
then laughing hand in hand into the waves.
I can almost re-tell the story in a different light
while the whole world was watching:
not breakwhen she didright into the rocks
crystal gelatinous heart when they opened her
like a jellyfishIt was a huge wave coming
out of the water as if it loved her small body enough
to drag it down into its erotics.
Wonderful world.
Wonderful world where she lives. And she lives,
my friend, even as we speak.

The distance between one person and the next was as fragile as a

Shell. Starfish. Slow-moving
many armed armies startling the clam
to pry open its mouth of meat. Imagined.
Here's what we knew, tracing our feet
over the ocean floor and its bed of weed,
and the one vicious eye at the center
of the splayed body: without doubt:
Knee-deep in the low-tide still-pools of the shore

mudfish skipped over the sandtraps.
Sun-stars, dark and innumerable, skimmed
their immortal arms over the weeds.
And the sea slug, bleeding its faux blood,
clouded this shallow bowl of a replica.

This memento. This souvenir.
Dear diorama of the dead —

The distance between one person and the next was as dark as the

Dark night. As in the sleep of the way home
and the moon following us back
and the gnarled trees warped by generations
and generations of winds saying: To arrive

alive after long travel
Tell us how it goes —

Farther and farther away and deeper
where the dry light of a room wakes exciting
the story of the day: back home?
and the young drawers keep
what they remember.

House. Sea. And tree. And in between, the dark patches
of hands holding hands, bright yellow fans unfolding,
and in the small towns along the way: dances!

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