Julius Marc G. Taborete

filipinx Oedipus

the only way
to cure people’s
heart is
to gouge your
eyes out

and exile—

(and empathize)
says the Oracle,

Asclepius’ myth
          Asclepius’ demise meant that a mortal man can reach only one certain limit
          in the natural order of things and it is forbidden to him to exceed this limit

A dream is one harmful thing.
I was a harmless six-year-old
sputtering senseless words.

White shirt with a miniature stethoscope,
given by Papa. It kept falling,
but I always clung to it.

We played doctor-patient
pretenders. Tended his life and my
stuffed bears, nursed from here to there . . .

until now . . . but
here’s a doctor’s advice:
put a swab inside, thrust, and wait
for disgruntled moans. Slowly
pull out, catch the colorless liquid.
If it bleeds, rest. If not, wait
for the result—and keep
on repeating until tons
of sweat trickle
down your coveralls.

Asclepius’ myth is similar, too
I was given a bare elixir to dream, yet
to live was another;
senseless words are harmful.

10 hr

. . . here’s a 10-hr uniform for September,
heats up like an unsung August protest,
sweats like July’s national address.
Or maybe that
tightens up like empty June promises, later
breaks down in May working holidays
and isolates all alone in April,
then gets discriminated by March.
That has been the same difference last February.
Here’s a “Thank you, frontliners!”

(counts up to 7 seconds)

. . . with(out) pay.


Keeper of the Unkept

By Ghermaine Marie M. Micaroz

I was once given a book clothed with ragged covers—
The thick pile of dirty pages almost unattached to its spine.
Some of its parts were brutally torn by its past handlers,
But the beauty of its words still left me sublimed.

It was not well kept, nor was it appreciated by others,
For they told me it was ugly and nasty—lacking beauty and color.
I didn’t listen and continued to read;
My soul be lost and the metaphors were my lead.

I savored every sentence—everything just hooks,
And I started to know who I was as I started to know the book.
It was surreal and I kept it forever and beyond,
For the book was you—it’s now an eternal bond.

Oh, My Mandarangan

By Vincent Carlo Duran Cuzon

I was on the way
to the peak
of the great Apo
when I saw you—
Oh, my Mandarangan.

You were seducing me
to be with you.
It was a sacrifice of my time.
But your eyes were gleaming.
I obeyed.
Oh, my Mandarangan.

I lost sight of the peak.
I followed your trail
for the longest time.
How I loved the warm vents you showed me
And the fogs we created.
Oh, my Mandarangan.

I decided to move out
from us.
I tried to focus on the peak again.
Oh, the long struggle.
I tried to get closer to the peak.
But I wanted you.
Oh, my Mandarangan.

Now, I’m trying to get your attention
Let’s begin—again.
Take me to the warm vents.
You just summoned the cold—
Cold winds of Apo

And from a short distance,
Darago is impaling me
with fierce eyes.
Oh, the stupid me.
You should have told me.
Oh, my Mandarangan.

I regret
That I chose the peak
Over your warm vents.
How I wish to be there
With you,
Create the fogs we loved
Oh, my Mandarangan.

It hurts.
Thank you.
How I wish you would
Don’t look back.
Oh, my Mandarangan.

Jose Comes Home

By Estrella Taño Golingay

Tonight, he prays for the blessings
of the gods. As he clutches his M16
rifle, he gazes at the sky and searches
for a miracle. He sees no stray
meteor shooting by. No star.

Only a blinding light quickly searing
the night sky, at times, a deaf drum
falling into pieces and sharp knocks
loud enough to reiterate stories told.
He bounces back in full gear.

Wish! His heart racing under
his shirt. There is no one
to witness the last fray except
the classic fall of his only star
and the volley of lead.

There were more he remembers
As he’d dodge them hurtling by.
Run! his comrades urged him
and his falling into a deep sleep.

His family gathers for him
tonight, gnashing their teeth
on questions floating over
the draping of the flag.


By Elyzah A. Parcon 

test me
my waters have remained constant
rippling, reaching
as far as the eye can see
into the horizon;
the water surrounds me

my knowledge is useless
when drowning
in these waters
I can only flail desperately
as my movements create ripples
out into the ocean

all these efforts
all in vain
all in my vein
blood rushing out
like the sea; light, then heavy
then strong
this time, the waters are red
and they reek of iron

test my waters
they’ve been stained
crimson with my lifeline

Two Poems

By Innah Johanee Alaman



Still with the haze of dawn,
the light and darkness play
tugs of war in the high-
vaulted sky. The east light wins
this time, staining the sky with hues
from today’s morning palette:
blue, rosy pink, and gold.
The sun’s first rays reach me
at ease—its light strikes
through my window, peeping
through the sudden, awaken me. Slowly,
my room’s filled with
the sun’s fault-finding
heat, revealing last night’s mess
I have, arranged without him.
Mornings are such
nosy perverts.



A body, at fifteen, unwrapped, raw
between split robe, quivers
before the intimate eyes of her lover.

A body, at fifteen, moans mute
in photos. Her soft limbs, small mouth,
stroke scenes in the minds of the uninvited.

Every inch of her skin exposed, posed
is viewed over and over again,
like an animal in a museum, most
beautiful when preserved—
only dead.

Her photos tell a tale of a nymph taken out of the water
caught in a web, sprawled like a carcass,
suspended in the air on an invisible thread.
The predators are out, feeding
on the fragile innocence on the web—
the rotten smell of their lustful gaze
penetrate her. But the web knows not
of the nymph, the bruises and scars
hidden beneath the paleness of her skin.

They look at her lips
when they use her lips, share her lips,
only to speak of the taste of her dirt.

And the web knows not of the predators
who feast on the nymph pleading
don’t come don’t come
yet they come.

Just as Silvery

By Marc Jeff Lañada

In front of the medicine-chest mirror, a generation apart,
or at least the collective days that finally brought me here,
I am but an image, alive and pensive, that refuses to budge,
to realize that the material composing the reflection
is quite different now, maybe a little rebellious now.
More often than not, there’s always sunlight
hopping from one surface to another—too many routes
but flashes before my eyes nonetheless—reminding that
the skin has to keep outgrowing itself over and over.
Like nostalgia that begs to be visited: How can it be done
when old images can already live on their own?
I lift the razor to the plain stretch of my jaw lathered
with foam, slowly slide the blade, checking progress
strip by strip, somehow hoping to see a wound.

Might of the Kind

By Joebert Palma Jr.

Ravaging like omnipotent waves, here, the stark Darkness
              creeps, stalks, and feeds on the fragile cliff that we are.
A synchronous dance, a way to Death, a treacherous kiss,
              we gladly take it in, but tomorrow’s not far.

We bathe in a crimson lake that doesn’t stain our togas,
              for this lake is ethereal, our dry skin divine.
Send all the unknown faces in windowless bodegas.
              Call the Animals. Witness the might of the Kind.

Allow the Shadow to cover this land, to flood this plane
              of people with no faces who hid in their cage.
Sing their songs, remember their names, but bury their children, and
              the offspring of their children—fruit of the sage.

Let the benevolence of the murk hide their battle scars,
              to silence their mouths before they unleash their cry.
Slit the throat of Kumander Liwayway, to end her wars,
              so as to impale her womb so she wouldn’t try.

Here, in the stillness of the air, out in the cold open,
              we plow this barren earth where they used to run free,
                            to plant these Seeds that will eventually feed our children,
                                          whose youth invigorates their need for mutiny.

Yet here, in the stillness of the cold air in the open,
              their shut eyes awaken from a now distant dream.
Liwayway bore her own children, taught them how she lived then,
              how she fought Life for life. Life trembled when she came.

But the earth is still soaked with the blood of the lost faces,
              fueling all the grieving with a peaceful rage.
They marched and marched until no one cared to track the traces for
              it is in resonance can they only break their Cage.

The stark Darkness is still vast and owning, still ravaging.
              Its ebony talons are masking the blind trail.
Liwayway’s children marched and marched and then came the Morning.
              Darkness screeched and curled. Its spite won’t leave this vale.


By Andrea D. Lim

for H


Our arms that shared the chilling language
of letting out before letting go lock our present selves
to the presses of each other’s heads onto our chests
minutes after midnight in front of a studio room mirror, under
the dim yellow light. This is a forgiving Sunday hour
for faint shadows shaping the human only late encounters
can trace away.


I am the first to dare gaze at the ground where
the edge of our conflicting want, the feet attest, has the feel of crossroads.
The surface finally suffice. My eyes shift direction to our reflections,
the disheveled bed hair, skin-deep reaches and plunges, two bodies taking a place
through giving in to its chance for the temporal haul
of an endless whole.


You are on the receiving end, looking above
my head. You take the time to discover more inches,
to be the one to see for ourselves that you are now
higher than me. I used to be taller than you
when we were closer to our inner child
and had the time for open-ended narratives.
Now you are proud of your ruling, grinning
thoughtfully for history’s sake, for what comes
more during comebacks.

I tilt my head to your side, just enough to arrive
with a slanted face. In for all, I was shaking—it must have been
the coldness of inner pitch-black space, the weak refusal
from being filled this way, or the emptiness
that must be contained.


So you just take place, you holding on to your ways
of freeing me from the fixation with crashing at checkout time.

The bags are packed before you came, still. I may not yet be
tucked on the window side of the bus but my growth,
rooted between knowing better and minding the current, dawns
on the crevices of my heart. It does not shy away
at the height of honest desire.


And so you win, still. The heart tends to an aged love, but you,
you have outgrown me.



Ode to the World’s Oldest Lullaby

By Marc Jeff Lañada

What do I make of all the blue waves that inhabit my memory,
   Waves ridging, crashing, then cut briefly by my dorsal eyes?
    Without human touch, a perpetual instrument was made,
     Wanders across latitudes and beyond the territories of sight:
    World, as it first was, again, rediscovered. Forget the sparrow
   Whistling at dawn, the choir of honking cars, the morning radio;
 Where sand meets the infinite foam lives a melody, weaved of
Words my tongue cannot choreograph. The performance begins,
Whether dawn or dusk is pooling in the ocean, and stays there.
  What do I make of all the blue waves that inhabit my memory,
    Waves ridging, crashing, then cut briefly by my dorsal eyes?