COMING TO TERMS with the cold, with its dark undertones, has been constant in my poetry. Here are variations on the theme, with a bit of revision since it first saw print on the pages of Philippine Graphic (8 April 1996) and the anthology Likhaan: Best of Philippine Poetry and Fiction 1997 (UP Press).
ALL THE UNSUNG
They come wind-
willed, without a creak
from the rusty gate.
Those who went
are here again, shouting
for their shadows.
My breath clouds over
everything when I
call back. No more
the barking dogs. I
swing the windows wide
and wonder why
the sky lately looks
starved of stars. I
cold. I hear nothing
but birdbone stuck in
the wind's throat.
SPECKS OF SEA
I remember, and the breathing
of the drowned draws the ripples.
The waves drowse no more,
wobbling the boat while the wind
blows out the weathered hats
of fishers. I stand wordless at
the breakwater's edge and hear
the burst of spume. Storms recur
in my head. Now returns all
the shipwrecked. All the dead.
Flitting by are swarms of fishes.
In the coral within my skull skulks
the coelacanth and I, diving
deeper, peer at it, prying it loose.
As it surges off, unhooked,
my depth-deafened ears hear
the scabrous clarity of scales. I blink,
resurfacing in the eye of the surfs.
Only the remora remains, mossy
in the rustling waters of memory.
ADDRESSED TO A NAMELESS MARINER
This is just to say how I envy the sea
gulls. Theirs is the blue of both sky and water
in one fell swoop while all I can see
are but the odds and ends of leavings: fishbones,
a litter of shells, stranded sargasso... Your bottled
letter found me among these ebbtide
souvenirs. On this usual shore. I stumbled,
tripping over it. Now I know the wind's a guide,
goading the waves on until even my feet
wavered, as when I hurled this missive, this
reply folded like a wing. May air ripple through it
like a sigh. This is just to say goodbye.