Thursday, November 2, 2017

All Souls’


The day of the dead is short respite for the living.
The tumult of life is stilled by the remembrance of the dead.
The living remembers the dead as the silence of the grass.
The grass is the dead ever present among the living.

The dead have not forgotten that life is breath and water.
They hover in the air, waiting for rain.
Water is the prayers of the living for the thirsty.
The living sometimes forgets, the dead ever remember.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Madrigal


I listened
To a madrigal—
Fire, fire, fire,
They sang
So brightly,
I imagined
The song itself,
By flames.

Originally published in Eastlit (August 1, 2015)

The Fire Next Time (2013) by Marcia Soderman

Friday, October 6, 2017

Song of the Solitary

For Father Pat Giordano, SJ

The moon abides invisibly in a day painted white.
At my shoulder a dark green shadow is floating, the sea.
Breakers rush toward shore, roaring lions inside a wind tunnel.
Peering within myself, I see bottomless water.
Stillness enters the space between two swells of breath.
Waiting is a desert journey, a dry mountain disappearing into the skies.
Solitude, a dove, hovers, bearing a gift.

Originally published in The Penmen Review (May 27, 2017)

Trwyn Du Lighthouse

Monday, September 4, 2017



Tonic more powerful than music or spoken words is silence.

Solitude is the companionable presence of God.

A conscience at peace is a good night’s sleep.

Coffee is a beverage you drink with your nose and digest with your heart.

After the snake sheds its skin, it’s the same snake.

All play and no work makes Jack unemployed.

The path to Heaven is cratered with bad intentions.

A thousand words do not paint a picture.

Study the past in order to break with the past.

In practice law is not a well-wrought urn but the purveyor of tortuous vagaries.

Originally published in The Penmen Review (April 10, 2017)

Blue Train

To John Coltrane

I listened to your blue train sauntering by...
Rhythmic, not marching but the two-step
Of a bird in a courtship dance, switching feet...
Coolly, fresh waters of a brook...cloudless cobalt blue sky...
Curling stone sliding, deep diver gliding...
Bass, low rumble of savannah elephants;
Cymbals, soft rain, silver pom-poms;
Saxophone, lead, flashing a deck of cards;
Trumpet, sharp, blending harmonies;
Piano, lively, dueling with the brass;
Saxophone, once more, announcing a theme one way,
Declaring it another, opening, closing doors...
Approaching the station...wheels slowing, whistle blowing...
Weaving in and out, a boxer feints, dodges, scores—drums.

John Coltrane (1926-67)

Monday, August 28, 2017



Hero and bayani do not have the same meaning. Bayani is a richer word than hero because it may be rooted in bayan as place or in doing something great, not for oneself, but for a greater good, for community or nation.

Old heroes were those who contributed to the birth of nation. Maybe the modern bayani is one who pushes the envelope further by contributing to a nation in a global world.


Old heroes:

New heroes:


Through Executive Order No. 75 issued on March 28, 1993, former president Fidel Ramos created the National Heroes Commission, which is tasked to study and recommend national heroes to be recognized for their character and contributions to the country.

The commission was also tasked to evaluate, recommend, and come up with the criteria to determine how a historical figure qualifies as a national hero.

The committee came up with the following criteria:

- Heroes are those who have a concept of nation, and aspire and struggle for the nation’s freedom
- Heroes define and contribute to a system or life of freedom and order for a nation
- Heroes contribute to the quality of life and destiny of a nation

Additional criteria were adopted by the Technical Committee of the National Heroes Committee on November 15, 1995:

- Heroes are part of the people’s expression
- Heroes think of the future, especially of the future generations
- The choice of heroes involves the entire process that made a particular person a hero

On November 15, 1995, the technical committee of the National Heroes commission chose 9 Filipino historical figures to be considered national heroes:

- Jose Rizal
- Andres Bonifacio
- Emilio Aguinaldo
- Apolinario Mabini
- Marcelo H. Del Pilar
- Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat
- Juan Luna
- Melchora Aquino
- Gabriela Silang


In a 26-page pamphlet entitled, “Why Ferdinand E. Marcos Should Not Be Buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani”, the NHCP disputed Marcos’ record as a soldier during World War II, saying that it is “fraught with myths, factual inconsistencies, and lies.”

The commission said that Marcos “lied about receiving the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Order of the Purple Heart”, a claim he supposedly made as early as 1945.

The NHCP earlier said it was the US Medal of Honor that Marcos claimed he received, but the commission on Monday, August 8, clarified it was the Distinguished Service Cross, along with the two other awards.

Marcos’ supposed guerrilla unit, Ang Mga Maharlika, was also “never officially recognized and neither was his leadership of it,” said the NHCP.

US officials, added the NHCP, “did not recognize Mr. Marcos’ rank promotion,” from major in 1944 to lieutenant colonel by 1947.

The former president’s actions as a soldier during WWII were likewise “officially called into question” by the US military.

Along with other sources, the NHCP referred to two documents from the Guerrilla Unit Recognition Files (1942-1948) in the Philippine Archives Collection.

The Ang Mga Maharlika file “contains letters, memoranda, reports, and accounts relating to the guerrilla unit Maj. Marcos claimed to have founded and led.”

Meanwhile, the Allas Intelligence Unit file “pertains to the organization led by Cipriano Allas, which claimed to be the intelligence unit of Ang Mga Maharlika.”

When a historical matter is doubtful, like Marcos’ WWII record, the NHCP wrote in the study’s executive summary that it “may not be established or taken as fact.”

“A doubtful record also does not serve as sound, unassailable basis of historical recognition of any sort, let alone burial in a site intended, as its name suggests, for heroes,” the NHCP added.

…Published on July 12, the pamphlet was the result of NHCP’s study as part of its mandate under Republic Act 10086 “to conduct and disseminate historical research and resolve historical controversies.”

Indio Bravo (1880) by Juan Luna

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Seven Times a Day


The series of poems, “Seven Times a Day,” is inspired by Psalm 119:164: “Seven times a day I praise you.” Each of the component poems is composed in tribute to the themes—somewhat loosely interpreted—of the seven hours of public prayer in the liturgy of Roman Catholic monasticism. In chronological order, the hours and their respective thematic interpretations are:

Vigils, the spirit of watchfulness;
Lauds, praise;
Terce, beginnings in the spiritual life;
Sext, patience in trials;
None, conversio mores;
Vespers, thanksgiving;
and Compline, consideration of death.

Because Jesus Christ passed away at None, the ninth hour of the day or 3:00 pm, the theme of this hour is repentance and conversion, conversio mores.

Solomon Dedicates the Temple at Jerusalem (c. 1896-1902) by James Tissot


2:00 AM

No dogs bark at this hour,
Desolate as an abandoned field burnt by summer,
Forlorn as shaving curls on a workshop floor long unswept.

I hear a motorcycle roar along a distant road,
Harsher than the sound of sawing wood.

Then silence thickens like a paste sealing
Joints and crevices of a room
Gradually deafening to the slightest vibration.

The world is asleep, I am awake.
Time heaves like a resting animal.

Now is the moment to descend into stillness
Deep as darkness enfolding underground rivers,
Delicate as a tissue broken by a cough.

I am solitary as a metal tool
Seeking the warm grasp of a skillful hand.

Before the smallest beginning of a noise tears like flint into the fabric of the night,
I will take long draughts, cupping my hands in the springs of tranquility.

The world is asleep, I am awake.



Gloaming is gradually pushing night away.
Day sweeps his arm in a wide arc, left to right,
Casting a spell like a magician.
The sky submits to his behest.
Darkness retreats faster than low tide pulling back its forces,
Fading until morning is a garment washed many times.

Dawn is a gray man stroking his beard streaked with white clouds.
Blue and pink light spread like a river entering a delta.
Moon and stars now gleam faintly, soft as kindness.
Daylight is spilling over the window sill in gentle waterfall.

The house begins to stir like a living animal.
I hear tinkling utensils, clattering plates, sloshing glasses.
Coffee is percolating like a gurgling snorkel.
Birds let loose warbles sinuous as wrist movements of a dancer.
Clearing throats repeatedly, roosters do not understand
Only once is necessary to remind everyone day is here.

Din is rising, tittering like the audience before a performance.
Someone turns a squeaking faucet, drilling water into a pail.
Commuters gun their engines. Motorcycles roar, punching holes in paper.
Chaos breaks out like a bull bounding free from a maze.

Colour Study - Warm Cloud by Ken Bushe


Morning steps forward...

Morning steps forward, freshly washed, newly fed, tautly wound like a limber bow,
Ready to spring, tumble, wheel, pull at oars, throw the hammer, leap the long jump,
Slice fine fillets smoothly in water, upswept, propelled by a parachute of air,
Sling saucers aloft like pizza dough, snare them spinning on sticks, hop,
Flip bowls from foot to head, head to foot, right to left, left, right, back again.

Clouds near Newburge by Ken Bushe


I eat dry bread…

I eat dry bread in the desert:
It tastes like a cake of dust.
I breathe in and out powdery clouds:
Nostrils singe, snorting fire.
I swallow my own saliva:
Thick paste coats my inside throat.
How will I sustain my journey in this land
When my mouth is filled with sand?

I falter inside a steel kettle, sparks popping about.
Black footprints flame at the edges.
I am dried up, a gourd rattling seeds.
Heat waves deceive like the devil.
Thirsty, I lick at a mirage with my eyes.
Twisting, I glimpse the taskmaster sun.
Hands astride hips, he glares mercilessly,
Glowering white noon death rays.

The sky is livid, a clown murderer, crimson lips, grinning.
He spills sacksful of hot ash from above.
Hordes, buried alive, scratch at the insides of a wooden coffin.
Spiritless as the burning air gone lifeless,
I am dark as a moonless, starless sky,
Staggering in an expanse unbounded beyond extreme sight,
Devoid of any atom of hope,
Despair, a universe expanding endlessly. expanse unbounded beyond extreme sight...


Afternoon has lost its fierceness…

Afternoon has lost its fierceness like the death of summer grass, dry and crackling underfoot.

Dappled shadows fuse, separate, and coalesce—grayly shifting furtive forest animal.

Faintly the wind rises, gently kicking into circular motion fronds spinning in the liquid eyes of ponds.

Branches wave back and forth, swings, doors opening and closing, leaves entering and leaving.

Black asphalt roads glow, windswept dark coal fed by hot billows firing an old bronze censer.

Orange cats, writhing, lithe, play on jade grass, shiny crabs jostling, toys scattered at day’s end.

Trees, outspreading dream catcher nets, poise against the horizon, tracing graceful fractals against the sky.

Daylight reddens, crushing pink roses against white cheeks of clouds.

Weakening, the hour bathes in vermilion blooms drifting in the darkening ocean.

Threatening black outbursts, thick clouds close to shore migrate toward the sun now deepening crimson with fatigue.

Remotely, obscured by a diaphanous curtain of rain, boats fade in and out, motes on a planetary visage.

Pummeled by distant turbulence, outlying storms, swirling fists, hurl violently into a far constellation.

The Crucifixion (1457-59) by Andrea Mantegna



I love the wooden beauty of darkening afternoons
Softly varnishing the oldness of the sky,
Weathered like the brows of studious hills.

Stillness dwells in the air like a great thinker,
Pondering forgotten equations, hidden runes.
Clouds are flecked with the fires of beaten copper,
Skies limpid with the blues of pale oceans.
Shadows weave fingers through grass looms
As fields gaze blankly at the sun.
Birds grasp at the last utterances of a prayer,
Day vanishes like a broken pot.

Dusk is redolent with the aged interiors of sleeping cabinets, richly inhabited.

Evening Sky Study by Ken Bushe



Night begins in disquiet, pacing back and forth,
Disturbed by spoons crossing swords with forks
Banging on plates as against shields,
Clinking glasses like missiles pinging helmets.
I hear the low rumble of a stream of water
Drumming the bottom of an aluminum sink.

Beyond the wall, cars whoosh by like subway trains.
Passersby in threes or fours titter like birds.
Two houses down, a woman is hollering faintly at a bawling child.
Cats scrambling after prey kick boxes bumping together as they fall.

A small animal is making a tiny scraping noise inside the ceiling.
The wind rises, shakes leaves, dislodging one fruit,
Thudding on the roof, bouncing twice,
Rolling audibly. Two more follow.
The house folds his hands, sitting silently for a while.
Everything is slowing down like floating brushwood.

The clock is ticking but not on the wall. I am a time machine
Oscillating to a gradually disappearing frequency.
I listen for the pop of ratchet and spring pulling the hammer backward
To strike the bell once, twice. I push off, sleep pulling at the oars.

Grandfather clock face (detail)