Two Mindanao Poems

by Generoso Opulencia (Poetry)

(These poems were first published in the Mindanao issue of Ani in June 1990.)

Epiphany

for Nene

you smell
of the cogon hills of Tupi
after the burning
and the rain
where first blades
of rice seedlings
renew the burden of
that fiery star.

you smell
of our child’s
becoming.

*

Ars Poetica

Go to the root of things.
Stalk them as they surface
and tip
wordless like shoots
in your mother’s gabi patch
unguents for stomachs
afternoons in long March.

Watch them.
Watch as beginnings
close upon ends

and October noon
when storms find shelter
under shaking gabi leaves
with a brazen snake entangled
among a mother hen and her motley brood
you’ll have joys
stinging in your guts.

In the Presence of My Enemies

by Generoso Opulencia (Poetry)

They sup the sun.
Their streams flow
cubits up the sky
through trunks, twigs
and foliage
to nourish and heal
by their essences
our infirmities. So long as
there are rainforests
to ax and to hack,
this our earth
need not
self-destroy,
I,
a botanist
from the north,
have been commissioned
in this forest
deep in Mindanao,
to have
all of them
felled
dismembered
on behalf
of the hungry maws
of progress.
I am casting my suicidal cloak
in the presence of my enemies.

On Your 68th Birthday

By Generoso Opulencia (Poetry)

I believe in the scent of sainthood
of those tortured by men,
demons or lifelong self-denial.
I believe in the unique scent
that each nook in the house
exudes.
And our home is filled
with your warm scent:
our dining-living room
where meals are served
on plates that you have cleaned
the silverware that you have
carefully chosen and arranged;
the rooms where our grandchildren’s
playthings are put in place
after each play;
the vase on the window sill
filled with sweet white things
from the garden.

I don’t know when our meals
will be served no more
or our great-great grandchildren
play with virtual toys,
your garden becoming a history.
Only, I know that ten thousand years, zillion year
won’t wipe away the scent
that you have infused in me.

Rorate Coeli

By Generoso Opulencia (Poetry)
(For Dr. Zd)

The sound of peltings
on leaves, grass, and roofs
is slowly coming in

As we share the blessings
of the sea and the fields
in a bowl of steaming
tamarind broth.

We talk of funerals
mutual acquaintances
the Papal visit
judgments from
workshop seats.

Views of the sea from
a hillside dwelling:
flinging the past
piece by piece

Till we joy in the drowning
raw acquaintance with the
evening breeze after the rain

(Editors’ note: Rorate coeli is the opening line of the Advent hymn “Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant iustum,” which means “Bring, heavens, dew from above, and, clouds, give rain to the just.”)

Oras sang Panira

By Generoso Opulencia (Poetry)

Sa ila tapangko
Sa sanag bombilya
Mga manog-isda
Gaisip sinsilyo

Garhom sang kargador
Gatulod karito
May kahon sang isda
Liwat pailada.

Sa hulugasan sang kamot
Waay untat ang tulo
Sang gripo nga buslot.

Si lola ang mata
Sa katuyo pula na
Gatabon sing dahon
Sa salin niyang utanon.

Diri ako sa iya sa gwaan tinda
Gabitbit sang wa’y unod nga basket ni lola
Gahulathulat sa iya
Kag gakulukanta

Kay dugay-dugay maniro
Sang pispis nga dalagko
Sa nami kong damgo.

To a Son Learning the Art of Cooking

By Generoso Opulencia

(This poem won the first prize in the 2000 Home Life Poetry Contest.)

Every herb, red, yellow or green
has its proper cooking time—
You are beginning to know
as we pour
okra bits into the pan
of carrots, onions, shrimps
and sliced white gourd:
a goodly smell from fatherly bond this noon
that seems to know no bounds.

Your mother’s finishing
her laundry
at the steps of the kitchen
door

in the shadow
of shroudlike sheets
shielding her
from the sun.
as you carry the pan
away from the fire
I recall
your grandfather
one week now in his grave:

how he’d pour pail after pail
of clear well water
into the tub
where your mother
was rinsing our clothes.

Regarding Flowers from La Trinidad

By Generoso Opulencia

(This poem won the second prize in the 1999 Home Life Poetry Contest.)

A heron perched
above emerging fog
this faded cerulean bundle

arrests
in a wink
the heart

a world of dew on granite steps,
below tiered pubescent slopes
sweeping upon
the molding cross and the fish-eyed
crucified

that stares at windows
beyond smell of pine needles
and crumbled twigs,
bringing the chill
from high places.

Four Kinaray-a Poems

By Generoso Opulencia

 

Sa Hunasan
(Kay Nene)

Pamangkuta ako:
“Daw ano ang gugma
mo?”

Kon ang aton kabuhi
tulad kang kalalawran

Ang gugma ko, Nene,
imaw dyang hunasan.

 

At Ebbing Time
(For Nene)

Ask me:
“What kind is your love
for me?”

If our life
is the ocean

My love, Nene,
is this shore
at ebbing time.

 

Dyang Kuti nga Itom

Dyang kuti nga itom
Nga nagsapot kanamon
Gapatamsak sa yahong
Kada tana mag-inom.

Mga papel sa hilithilit
Wara patay ang gusnit.
Pinamarhan sa anglit
Wara patay ang kuhit.

Dyang kuti nga itom
Garalambid kon abuton
Gadawhatdawhat kang di makita
Nga bola o baringon

Gakayakaya, gaturutakilid
Gakamraskamras
Sa akon kagidkid
Nga dara ayhan

Ang nagatigpasaw
Nga bugna kag bulong
Nga dugsing
Kang taga-ibabaw.

 

This Black Kitty

This black kitty
That has made hers our home
Smacks at the bowl
Each time she drinks.

Scraps of paper from odd corners
She shreds to pieces.
The fish stew in the clay pot
She pokes at without ceasing.

This black kitty
Writhes when in a mood
Stretching at invisible
Balls or dried dilis to boot

Lying now on her back
Turning now on her side
Scratches my mange
Perhaps bringing

The splash of healing
Gift of the playfulness
From above.

 

(The poems below have been published in Mantala: A Quarterly Journal of Philippine Literature.)

 

Ang Sulat ni Dandansoy

Sa gakudogkudog kong kaugatan
Ang karamig kang salog tang kawayan
Daw wara gid pag-iban.

Gabaragtik sa banggirahan
Ang mumho sa gatarangkas nga dulang.

Ang kaluoy, Inday, sa aton ugsadan
Nga katong una marimasa
Kag masurusapdingan
Kang buta mo nga lata
Kada kaw mamahid
Kang imo kahig sa ugsadan
Ay, karon daw manunggal ron
Garulubid sa kauhaw.

Palangga, tama ron ra nga pagsunggod.

Ang tanan nga bubon
Nga ginkutkot mo sa dalanon
Akon palapilapion
Kang luha kong asinon

Agud lang sa imo
Kauhaw kag kaluya
Indi ron kaw kaisrot
Rugto magpadayon
Sa Payaw kang mga payaon.

Pamaypay lang kanakon
Hay alay-ayon ta dayon
Kag rugya dar-on.

Untaton ron nakon ang pagdayandayan
Kanday Goryo, Istring, kag Imang
Kag baklan ko it bag-o nga banig
Ang aton baratangan.

Palangga, bisan sapsap ron lan agwantaha

Hay sa pira ka adlaw mangita ko’t obra
Kag patasukan ko ikaw it imo nga bomba
Dya sa tambi sa tupad markopa.

Inday, balik ron.
Hugasi dulang ta kag koron.

 

Dandansoy’s Letter

The chill from the bamboo floor
Doesn’t seem to ebb at all
From my rattling bones.

Leftover rice has dried up
On clay plates piled high on the washboard.
The mint, my sweet, by our doorsteps,
Once robust,
Which your can
Brimming with water
Touched every time you wiped
Your feet
Is now shriveling from the thirst
Like wormwood vine.

Darling, enough of that sulking.

All the well
You’ve dug along the way
I’ll fill to the brim
With my bitter tears

So that
Consumed with thirst
You’ll have no more strength
To crawl back
To Payaw of childish days.

Just wave at me,
I’ll carry you back here
Tenderly.

I’ll stop loafing around
At Goryo’s, Istring’s, and Imang’s
And I’ll buy a new mat
For our sleeping room.

Beloved, be satisfied with sapsap

As one of these days I’ll get a job
And save enough to drill you a water pump
At the back porch near the markopa.

Inday, come back now.
Wash our plates and pot.

 

Ang Kuon ni Kabo Isko

Ang kuon ni Kabo Isko
Nga nagapaninghawak pa:

Ay, Insiong,
Ang kaaburido mo indi dyan ipaupok
Sa imo patdan nga nagatarap-uk.
Pus-angi kang imo ispading
Ang bagol kang imo engkargado
Asta mag-aragsik ana utok
Sa mga bata mong gapurunsok.

Ugaring lang—
Dyan man angod kanimo
Ang risgo magralagapok
Hay wara kaw’t mahimu
Sa anang kagarok.
Gani utda ron lang
Ang imo turuslok.

 

Says Foreman Isko

Says Foreman Isko
With arms akimbo:

Ay, Insiong,
Don’t aim your anger
At the sugarcane tops
Unload it with your machete tip
On the administrator’s pate
Till all his brain scatters
Over your crowd of children.

On second thought
The risky things you do
Will all come down on you
As nothing else can help
To set aright his crooked ways.
And so, to make things simpler
Chop off your pecker.