Sometimes Suicidal, Mostly Booze

by Jermaine Dela Cruz


Drink responsibly: don’t spill it.

They said what doesn’t kill us
makes us stronger.
I guess I was strong enough
to overcome the idea
of ending my life
haunting me like a predator
clawing its way through
the rubble
of my conscious belief
that life indeed is a gift
so precious, I don’t think
I deserve having.

They said a half truth
is a whole lie.
The truth is
I am half afraid of dying
and half afraid of living
for I haven’t figured out
which is worse:
living or leaving the ones
I care about.
So I resorted to drinking
as a sort of escape
from this catastrophe.

They said suicide
is a permanent solution
to a temporary problem.
I say alcohol
is a temporary solution
to a permanent problem.
Intoxication is the best
antidote to pain,
lost in space
grasping, babbling words.
It disconnects us
from ourselves

They said numbing the pain
for a while
will make it worse
when you actually feel it.
but what is more rewarding than
the fleeting sensation
of happiness,
of guiltlessness,
of chastity from
caring and crying,
loving and trying?
Waking up with a blinding headache.


Perpetual Friction

by Michael John Otanes

(This piece first appeared in the Roots section of Rambutan Literary.)

When father died inside our house, mother
muttered neatly-folded words to him so
they would spark, like fireworks, in his heart.
For almost every day in three years,
mother had been hoping for his resurrection;
and so she decided not to cremate
his body. In truth, she enshrouded him with
white blankets (to turn him into a pupa,
she told me), hang his corpse in the
ceiling of her room—and she would sing hymns
and dance around it. Then on her
knees, and with her head up and closed eyes,
she would pray in silence and in devotion while
rubbing her hands against the cold
thing, so hard that, sometimes, it got warm.
He’s alive! she would chant. He’s alive!
But father has not gone outside even once. Months
later, grandmother paid a visit to us one fine
day, and said she saw father being nestled
by another arms, in an open field. Mother’s
brows met. As soon as she uncovered
the pupa very carefully, and saw nothing
inside it but ashes, she broke down to tears. Like
stars, she noticed, she could not reach
the ashes. Then she reached for my
hand this time, said sorry, and whispered
that, at last, she knew now why father
died, just as she untangled the
rope tightly looped around my neck.

Breakwater Girls

by Saquina Karla C. Guiam

(This piece first appeared in Dagmay, the literary journal of the Davao Writers Guild.)

Little girls, little girls
Dancing by the breakwater
Their faces bloated like balloons
With electric plugs tucked behind their ears
Their eyeballs starting to fall from their sockets
Smiles turn to sneers
Maggots crawl all over their skin
Skin and bones visible through the naked eye
Blood on their clothes never lie
And whenever people pass the breakwater by midnight
Little girls with decayed teeth, torn-out clothes, electric plugs by their side and holes in their chests
Will come out to play with you
And make you wish they were locked in their baggage.

Two Poems on Extrajudicial Killings

By David Jayson Oquendo


(This poem first appeared in the blog Kill List Chronicles.)

I fear that my life rests on the trigger finger of a stranger I am to entrust my safety into,
and that my face
and my body is a target that once resembles another could bring me to my doom,
and that I am in the middle of a war I never wished to be a part of,
and that my family and my friends are in that war,
and that we are divided,
and that our mouths no longer create the sound they used to,
and that our ears are becoming more eager to hear gunshots,
and that it has become normal to kill and be killed,
and that if you did nothing wrong, you don’t have to worry,
you’re just going to accept that you’re going to get killed
either by the government or by someone you do not know,
and it’s okay.
Tell me, please, if you’re so adamant on making me shut up,
if you’re convinced that there must always be a trade-off,
that the world operates in binary logic,
tell me,
if this is war, where do we evacuate?


Death By Fear

(This poem first appeared in the zine Resbak.)

This will be the picture you will paint
with the tips of your fingers, indelible
as the ink that will seethe through your nails:
Blood trickles down the concrete roads—
traction stronger than asphalt, thick and black.
And then it flows like a river.
In the middle of a valley of lifeless bodies,
lives transfigure into numbers in an infographic,
names and memories morph into statistics,
eyes hazed with fear are zeroes
to the kill count rounded to the nearest thousand.

After that you lift your hands off the canvas.
You will look at me in senseless wonder
and then you will ask me what it is that I want,
tell me, “How is it that you complain of change
if change is what we always yearned for?”
and I will answer, fist clenched and yearning,
that I want to be alive,
that every dead man ID’d with a cardboard
packed in a garbage bag and duct tape
might as well be me,
or my brother,
or my dad.

And I will tell you that I want peace of mind.
I want home to feel like it and not a prison,
not a place where our words hold no power
under the night sky, permanent, serrated
its cold whimper a lullaby for children with no homes
empty of pity, where at gunpoint our lives begin to lose value,
where our minds will stretch in prayer
because our fingers will be unable to move
where our necks will pave way for the noose holding our epitaph,
where no one will know how fear is deadlier.

Two Mindanao Poems

by Generoso Opulencia (Poetry)

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


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


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.