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.

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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.