quiet rivers

pathos, in free verse

narcissistic

sometimes i can’t help wishing
details were as clear
as the big
picture;
getting too close to someone
i don’t want to lose
also brings out all the gray
issues i need to
forgive…
if my affect was great enough,
and all that being older
entails,
the devil in those very details
hound me no end…
time becomes important
the more i spend it,
and i find i have to locate
myself
before i can cherish
your importance
in my life, the way i am
when i am with you.

i find you
within my own tribulations,
i learn to forgive your angers
by devastating my own.

in holding you,
completely yourself,
but so-tenderly mine, with all
your faults,
i come full circle to myself;
all the wrinkles, all the obfuscation,
whitewashed in the viscousity
of a thousand lying dawns,
now coming into one truth —
i must, thus, retrace
every one
of my
transgressions,
to forgive them all i could, find
forgiveness for myself,
so that i could love you
more.

Remembrance

I don’t remember hugging my dad since I was 18, and that’s a sad thing I’m thinking. My last recollection of a hug I tried to give him was when he was sick in the hospital before I left for the US, and him pushing me away because he said I stank of cigarettes. Shortly after I got in Florida, he passed away. Twenty years ago to this day, he left for the other side.

My experience of life, what I had perceived it had given me, and my general disillusionment in people had happened way before then, and I had felt detached somehow when he had pushed me away from that awkward attempt at a formal leavetaking on my part. Like we both knew we had disappointed each other thoroughly and any such attempts could not really be sincerely offered or accepted any more than politeness would allow. We had no words then; we could not acknowledge even the inadequacy in the light of the moment. It was simply time to go our separate ways.

I have had twenty years to think things over; over-analyzing the hows and whys of it, weighing the nuances of what we had tried to express but both failed to say, and I think now he might have tried before but I was not there to really listen. We have had a lot of dialogues when I was younger, and I know he had plenty to say but I, having lived too narrowly and too recklessly to really understand, did not have any experential reference to really feel the implications.

It was only way later that I found out he had spent most of his money paying for my own wedding reception; I did not have any of my own at that time. I was that far gone from reality.

Twenty long years for things like that to sink into my soul. Twenty years till I finally understood it was never the words I should have looked forward to; it should have been the actions that were given without explanation. Twenty long years to try to forgive myself in his stead.

Today, I owe him this remembrance. Without his existence, I would remain a dream somewhere. Without his cooking that fried chicken so early so I could take it with me to scout camp, I would have been less than proud as my peers who I thought had everything I did not have at that time. Without his dreams, I would not even have been able to dream and to reach out for what might come true for me if I only tried.

He had been weak sometimes, and I had a front seat to some of those moments of weakness he had inadvertently shown. But he had been mostly strong when it counted.

So yeah, I do not remember ever hugging my dad since I was 18. For sure, when I was younger he would have. If I had any regrets, it was wishing I could have remembered that far back when I was still learning to walk. But I could not, if only to think of how he might have smelled and how that smell would have cheered me up no end, knowing my dad was there to pick up when I stumbled, to gentle my tears when I hurt myself, and hugged me to him.

What I remember of him must be what I remember of my own feelings when I hugged my own children to me when they were still babies. What I remember of his love is how I loved my own kids while they were growing up; how every stumble was a thud of my heart, how every wayward scrape earned from too much play was a lurch in my own stomach.

When I sang my daughter to sleep when she was two, that was how my daddy felt when he had me at that age.

In some ways, I am told I am more and more looking like him in his prime. In a lot of ways, I think I have tried to walk in his shoes, in an unconscious bid for forgiveness, to reach out for a grace that was innate in the man I called my father.

Someday, I hope to be like my dad. Someday.

Wings of Wax

Am I the same person who rose up early this morning?

When I’m sitting down, engaged in the nature of the passing minutes, or simply composing my soul to catch a thought, am I the same person who fumes at being held at a red light while the old lady who just cut me off at the last corner speeds safely onwards through the yellow?

When I create, am I the same person who destroys?

I work in one of the Nursing Homes that dot the Florida landscape; my desk looks down, across a counter, on the occasional geriatric wreck they bring and leave to the careful eye or two while they go fetch other patients. Today, Sylvia, the silent 80-year-old, was all by her lonesome, gingerly perched on her wheelchair, oblivious to the future, perhaps watching her past ebbing backwards from her Now .

The calls I had to make buzzed me into a clutter of appointments and consultations, and I quite forgot the shy withered lady on the corner. A small sound, abruptly loud in a lull, jerked my head up from my pre-occupation, instantly focusing on the sole grey-haired paradigm in my line of sight, quickly reminded of the last subjective thought I had before time started scrolling faster down the screen of little tasks that were my workload.

An odd, inarticulate call; a stray whisper cutting across the familiar hum of fax machines and chattering walkers-by. A sibilant inhalation ripe with seeming inquiry.

Sylvia! I thought. Just another cantankerous lady in her twilight years, slipping inward into memories and days gone.

I rose, went around the counter, walked slowly to the little ancient person. Her wrinkled hands, as usual quivering in minute agitation, were clasped together in front of her scrawny, sagging chest. I crouched on my haunches, right in front of her, emptied my mind of all prejudice, reached both of my hands out to hers, held each of hers with one of my own, crooned an unintelligible hum, but spoke not a word. I looked into her rheumy eyes the same way I sometimes looked into my own some mornings in front of some mirror. Sylvia and the weight of her years weighing down my own, entwined in mutual reassurance, or was it mutual loss — I wasn’t really thinking; lost in some weird unspeaking communion. As my memories unrolled in that second, hers must have unfurled half as fast. I only had her unblinking regard to measure that instant thought. Still, from my perspective, mine seemed, and now, the stronger one, if only because I felt like my body lent out some intransigent strength, to hers, a wish and a wanting to hold her firm until the trembling hands stilled. And after another minute or two, they did; slowly warming up.

She blew me a soft moue as I rose and gently slipped my hands off her grasp, murmuring how I had to go back to my work. In my frame of mind, trying to find words to express what I had just tried to do would merely confuse my soul.

“Thank you…,” was a breeze I almost imagined wasn’t there, until I turned my head and watched that small, dry mouth shaping the last syllable.

“Sylvia..,” I mouthed back. Thank you, too. I thought that last out, a gratitude I couldn’t explain.

When I’m sitting down, engaged in the warfare of passing minutes, and thinking about how I’m going to be able to make ends meet come paycheck time, am I the same person who occasionally flirts with seeming helpless guilt as I, equally mortal, commiserate with mortality barely sustained by memories fading as quickly fast?

When I hook words together to frame the thoughts just passed, in some obscure counterpoint or outrageous parallel, have I also been changed in some Freudian way that will serve me no better in my twilight years?

When I turn off the bedside lamp, to get under the covers for the night, would I still be the same person who rose up early this morning?

Threnody

The minute
consumed him in its eternity…
a fluid instant rapt
in the struggle of images,
and for words to mount them;
a cascade of tastes, of scents…
the thread least tenuous an embrace
easily chosen,
snug on his procrastinate soul.
In silence berthed,
as soundlessly nursed;
the grey of a dawn disgorging
impressions and colors,
towards inevitable noon.
A perturbation fleeing; pushed,
pulled, vomited, swallowed,
at last falling into the tremolo
of a soul weary for its child;
a child lost to the dance
of clouds and sunsets,
lost like kisses too tender for pain
but too quick, oh so quick, in the parting.
Finally lost to the nuance
of memories –
once perfect, now mingled, broken
to pieces –
the man’s tongue could no longer
(not anymore, no)
roll out
to the caress of air
and another child’s touch.
From there the dreams
were done, gone from lack of flesh
and touch; and I,
fleeting as my fancies, my lies,
my truths gone sour,
needs now knit
gibbous threads to the black,
the pattern mourned,
the child to the grave;
gone
but for the silhouette of songs
once joyful, then sad,
but dancing there…
daunting ghosts to the child,
who never really found the man.

Spaces Between Tears

When you decide the spaces
between points and poems,
between emphasis and the need for air,
do you consider the eddies, the ripples of action
and reaction,
similar, or opposed to your own,
in the hearts of others?

Have you not ever wondered,
when there is so much difference,
how you could see so much,
how much of you could be equally perceived,
in some inconceivable fashion;
how another’s longings seem to echo
your own wordless screamings,
the very same
heart-rending, soul-fraying way?

I have always wondered how we can see
each other’s poetry, seeing as how
we often go blind to our own rhythms,
often refuse to see the way we race
to the different drum has left
those who love us
behind,
and only uncaring critics, indifferent cities,
strangers
you greatly seem to care about more,
holding you back from some insanity
only you, and them, can see differently
and yet agree on, oh most ardently.

When you decide punctuation
between bottled messages, do you consider
the tides, the sussuration between waves,
the particular gravity of air above,
the elemental forces
with which you, and your messages
must overcome, on their way
to beaching?

When you cry, are you giving up?

Leaving Hope

Driving home slowly, South on rain-drenched Haverhill, waiting for another light to change. Looking forward to pay-day next Friday, hoping there would be enough after the bills were paid. Worrying at a bone, getting older just that little bit more.

You ever felt like that yourself?

Does it bother you to do so? Does it make you feel more aware of your body, its limitations? Does it make your mind weaker? Do you cut it off when you can, this kind of thinking that might set you off towards the nearest shrink, setting you back a few days more that you need for momentum to get ahead in the blue-collar world.

I have a friend who’s a fast reader, one might say; just like me, self-trained to rush through the details to the meat beneath, focused to the bone. Like me, she’s probably latched on to a system that worked to get through her days, to get her to the top much sooner. When the first Ludlum novels came out, it would only take me 3 hours straight to finish one book and move on to the next of the series. We’re so much in a hurry to get through, to complete our projects, to get home to the wife, the husband that much sooner, to be able to do something else before collapsing onto the bed tired and replete with a sense of calculated completion.

Suddenly, I didn’t want to be in this car, this time, this place, this great big country of opportunity, the Monday to Friday grind, the occasional visit to some restaurant whose fare was good but made expensive with an orchid or two perched on a bean sprout and portions measured by the centimeter, this routine of sectioning my life into paydays.

I wanted to be back in the bonnies, without a phone, without a care. Let it rain, but Lord, how I want to be under it at coastal Mindanao perhaps, back home in the Philippine islands, drenched and penniless and alive, salt-scented air wafting my nose, waiting for the tide to come in, letting the simple day settle on my soul.

To stretch the moment with a thousand images of living, one frame after the other, in real time; that scent of salt by the murmuring sea, my toes dug into soft sand, all my pores open to the languor of the morning or early evening, a loved one silent at my side, living the same joy, all sense of conflict in mutual abeyance, all words unnecessary, the moment neither needing explanation nor confirmation.

Just awareness to life. To living.

Instead I’m at this stop, watching his guy standing at the curb by Haverhill off Southern, holding up a sign, chest-high, saying “Finally found work but still have 2 days to go before my first pay-check.”

A horn blared behind me, cutting off my reverie.

Sorry guy, I might have had found a bill or two somewhere if I’d been mindful, just to share with you and perhaps add to your misery a little bit more with the giving, but my mind wandered elsewhere during the seconds I might have been able to.

Have to move on; I, too, have some more days to go before my paycheck.

I breathe as I release the clutch. In some ways, leaving hope behind.

Once, Love

Love is finding someone to hold, never to own; the missing part you never had, the one you wished you’d found just after you discover you were not meant to be alone, the part you would never have recognized if you’d chosen another way but the one you now follow.

Love is a face, a smile, a soul in the distance; a movie, a play, the melody you hear you could have written if you were halfway as expressive, slugging it out with choices made, and their consequences, often far from where you’d rather be.

Love is someone who listens with her whole self no matter what you speak about; whose eyes pick up every movement of your hands, every gesture of your soul.

Love is the time you find to give away; the wonder of words you’ve always wanted to say, the beauty of finding the one to say them for you instead.

Love is a meaning you achieve by the watching; more, by the doing.  It is the hurting you never inflicted; the journey you make going away, the path you follow coming home.

Painting

There’s a parking spot just east of the bridge on Southern Blvd that crosses into A1A. I remember doing the crossing on a lazy night a day or two ago, when the lights over the water was suddenly a picture so captivating that I just had to pull over to see. 

I got out of the car and stood and stretched for a while, just opening myself up. Scooted up against the warm hood until I was sitting against the windshield. The air was scented with salt and, together with the sound of the waves lapping at the shore, the lights across the water took me somewhere in a hurry.

What is it about a line of skyscrapers on a summer night that makes you feel a romantic melancholy, excitement even? 

The thought was passing but, as it passed, it begged future reflection, and I filed it away somewhere where it couldn’t spoil the vestigial glow I was feeling at that moment.

I preferred there be no questions that night, and I sat for a while on the hood of my car under lambent stars, just being one with the sparkling minutes.

I painted the night, putting into the canvass of my senses all I perceived. The flavor of salty water on my bland existence, the sound of the waves underlying the occasional drone of passing cars and unknown intentions, unnumbered lighted windows across the water standing witness to passing transactions and fleeting lives.

After a while, I started for home.