Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Marne Kilates

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.

Potted Cacti


erect tongues

turgid with sap


with spines

they lick

the desert air

straight out

of Mother’s


Zane Grey.


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.

War Correspondent

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.

No comments: