Shanty On A Lot Vacated By A Bank
As if overnight the universe decided
The mighty high-rise must return to dust.
At least it was a boardroom verdict dictated:
“In real estate we could no longer trust.”
And so it came to pass, Ortigas was
Minus one tower, and in its place a hole
In the sky: “Ghost of the house of Midas—
Money’s end leaves a hole in our soul.”
But life goes on and more real was the pit
Left by the foundations: at its edge had sprung
Up the shack of the last worker who won’t quit
After the demolition. And so there it hung
By the lip of the swamp: ramshackle entity
Rising, reigning: Shanty Shanty Shanty.
turgid with sap
the desert air
The revolution eats its own children.
The elections are a feast of fools.
Mornings lurch on the highway like most,
Except this one feels most condemned.
It ages before it is born, it burns out before
It starts burning. Growing cold among
The fumes, it is tired, head-hung, hung-over.
The papers tell us what we most expect.
We behave like we usually behave:
The lights change (the only changes we can
Expect), and we swerve and cut into each
Other’s paths, without so much
As a by-your-leave, except in our favorite fishwife’s
Expletives. Because we are all so alike,
We condemn each other with our choices:
We fling our curses about like spit,
And we are stained, stunned, tainted.
We cannot tell the taste of the blackened air
In our mouths from our own irredeemable
Bad taste. Blind, berserk, bigoted,
We ride this phlegmatic slick
In our bestial cage, in an agony of wheels.
At Mt. Samat War Memorial*
Under the Cross,
into the bowels of Mt. Samat,
my son and I descend,
into the caverned memory
of the war of our fathers:
Their pictures smile at us,
or stare in the distance,
their heavy feet stir
the dust of the Death March.
I muse on the noble causes
for which men go to war,
my son admires the guns
that defended or killed them.
* Mt. Samat is in Bataan province, the Philippines, site of the
last battle before the surrender of the U.S. Allied Forces in the
Far East (USAFFE) to the Japanese.
It was a time when hometowns
Were sleepy, the world was far and its wars
Didn’t intrude in our living rooms.
(The last war we knew was our parents’,
Of which they now seldom spoke,
Having, it seemed, given up on their losses.)
But you roamed our streets in your tattered
Olive-drab, relic, it was said, of Vietnam or Clark,
Its pockets stuffed with the debris of other lives.
One hand cupped to your mouth, the other
At your ear, you were calling perhaps from some
Raging battle. Your voice mimicked the crackle
Of static Your eyes darted, your voice cracked
(The children mocked or watched you wide-eyed).
Was it rescue or assault? Was it swamp or desert?
In digital glow the breaking news
Interrupts the talk show host. You are babbling
Out-of-synch on the videophone.
You shudder with each blast, behind you
A city burns. You are embedded
In the invading force that assaults my living room.