Two Poems from the Philippines

Close up photograph of pollen on a plant

 

Farol de Combate 

This is how, while darkness 
drew my profile with its little finger 

I have learned to see past as Montale saw it, 
The obscure thoughts of God descending 

among a child's drum beats, 
over you, over me, over the lemon trees. 

– Ilya Kaminsky, “Praise” 

 

I. 

Mituwak na tuod ang uwan ug gianinaw ko 
Ang kagabhion nga miasdang sa among lungsod. 

Sa akong gipasilongan dinhi sa payag pahuwayan 
Taliwa sa kabungturan, nakita kong gihiwa ang daang  

Mangga sa dakong kilat nga mikanap sa kasadpan, 
Gigukod sa nagdagan nga daugdog sa kasingkasing  

Sa diwata sa kalikopan nga mibati’g kakulba-hinam  
Sa panag-tagbo sa alisngaw sa huwaw ug sa bunok  

Sa uwan, dala sa amihan karong ikasiyam nga buwan 
Sa akong pagbalik sa akong naandan nga pinulongan. 

 

II. 

Mopauli ko sa akong banay, dala kining bungahoy 
Gikan sa bukid nga akong gitamnan ug kalian-laing 

Kahibulongang kahoy nga akong nahimamat dihang 
Milangyaw sa ubang dapit sa gatuyok nga kalibotan: 

Maalimyong peras, lunhaw ug lipaghong ang aping, 
Masidlakong limon, dalag ug makapapas sa kauhaw 

Sa ting-init. Tadlason ko ang karaang sementeryo 
Diin ang akong kaliwat gapahuway sa kagabhion.  

Dili nako sila pukawon sa ilang hingpit nga katulog, 
Kay sama nila, lumalabay usab ako ning kalibutana. 

 

III. 

Didto sa kilid sa atabay nga gikubkob sa akong apohan, 
Nahibaw kong gidan-agan na og usa ka farol de combate 

Ang akong dalan padulong sa among pinuy-anan,  
Nagtamod sa kinaunhang balaod sa panag-silingan: 

Tabangan ang usa’g usa kutob sa mahimo sa inadlaw- 
Adlawng buhat, kay kon mapawong ang suga sa gabii 

Lagmit mapandol o madalin-as ang lumalabay, basin  
Unyag mahulog sa atabay sa kadaghanan, mamatay. 

Inig labay unya nako sa atabay, motimbag moinum,  
Pasalamat sa silingang midaig sa farol sa kinabuhi. 

 

Farol de Combate 

 

I. 

The rain falls lighter now and I gaze  
At the dark descended onto our town. 

From this mountain shelter I saw 
The old mango tree struck down 

By fierce lightning from the east, 
Thunder rumbling in the heart 

Of the guardian of the land, who thrills 
To the meeting of the drought’s last sigh  

With rush of rain brought by the northerlies  
This ninth month of my return to my language. 

 

II. 

I will go home to my people, bringing fruits
From hills I had planted to marvelous trees 

I had met in my travels in other lands 
On this revolving earth: fragrant pears,  

Their fresh flushed cheeks, bright lemons, 
Yellow and thirst-quenching in hot season. 

I will go across the town’s old cemetery 
Where my ancestors sleep in edgeless night.  

I will not wake them in their supreme repose, 
I am transient like them, simply passing through.  

 

III. 

I trust that beside the well which had been dug 
By my elders, a storm lamp had been placed,  

Lighting up the path toward home, the lamp- 
Lighter minding the first law of neighborliness:  

To help one another as best as one can in daily 
acts of living, for if the lamp were put out, unlit,  

Someone passing by might stumble or slide,  
Fall into the neighborhood well and die.  

When I pass by the well I will draw water and drink, 
Give thanks to my unseen neighbor for the light. 

 

Translation from Balak sa Binisayà 
By the author 

Pollen

for Corazon Jamero-Logarta

 

This is the time when the spirit has no need of teeth,
and in the time it takes pollen to light,
the wild world tames us . . .

– Linda Hogan, “Gentling the Human”

In the space of a fortnight a nasty cough
took lodgings in my lungs, I curled fern-
like in bed, not to sleep, but to keep awake
to the motions of poetry throwing filaments
of light, the way a resident spider brings
bright symmetries to being from its almost-
invisible body. These slow motions the orange
jasmine in the front garden also musters
out of its two-and-a-half foot trunk, shivering
in the wake of the northerlies blown across
the steppes of Siberia to Southeast Asia, as if
it knows near blossoming time has come, 
its clusters of white already in the arc of dream,
the gold flecks riding on that morning fragrance
of sun, or on the legs of a drunken worker bee.
It is possible to sense this now a chrysalis, 
the gathering strength needing the full dark 
softness from which to unfurl, bear new fire.

Marjorie Evasco left Manila to regrow roots in her home island, Bohol, in the Central Visayas of the Philippines. She continues to write in two languages, Binisaya and English, care for a garden, and plant trees. She’s committed to work for literary and cultural development and teaches graduate school.

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