Patria, 2


Photo from Pinoy Weekly

In loving memory of 1986


This is how you lose your soul,

groping for answers in your

matchbox of memories,

your mind aching for

remembrance, your body

swimming through a tide of forgetfulness,

blissful, fleeting, like everything you are

and all you’ve sought

to become. Yes

this is how

you lose your soul,

conjuring phantoms in your dreams,

fabricating heroes,

then waking up to find yourself

a stranger stripped

of history.

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Crucifix sculpted by National Artist Jose Abueva, Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, UP Diliman. 

From this angle, I see you
both dying and alive
the sun striking the contours
of your face
half of you in shadow
half in light
hanging silently
from the stone ceiling
its raw surface cold as the sky, these days
when rain seems to sputter
in bursts of sadness and joy.
From this corner, I hear you
telling me what it means
to carry your death
within my body
like the weight of wings
pinning me down
and lifting me up
in flight.



The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Caravaggio (1601-2)

With you, no mountain
would move. Yet see
how far he goes
to keep you:
this man,
whose wounds you know so well.
And now your knees falter
at the voice that has once
called you out
of yourself, an entaglement
of boats and nets.
Unless you enter into this torn flesh,
you cannot understand
what it means to bear the weight
of a thousand souls,
you cannot understand
what it means
to touch eternity.



Salvador Dali, 1939 by Carl Van Vechten

Last night, I dreamed of you, dark-haired and mustachioed,

lying on the surface of your glass-floored theater.

Tristan and Isolde was playing somewhere, and I saw

that the music was coming from your chest.

You asked me if this was a dream,

and I asked you if you were real,

and you responded, “Surreal”.

There you were, dandy as a swallow,

speaking of time and memory

and catastrophes, though in your heart

I saw you pining for your Russian muse and a paintbrush,

as though these were all that mattered in the world—

and seeing my mind, you asked, what else, what else

is left of life but heart—but alas, Salvador,

this was where life failed you,

for the best of all possible hearts

cannot stop clocks from melting.

So there you were,

your clocks were melting,

and you started melting,

and that was the point I knew

that this was a dream,

when you began to point to something I cannot recognize

dying before my eyes.




Spoliarium by Juan Luna (1884)

Today, I lose you

again. And how surprising,

how it happens: always

like a nagging thought

at the back of the mind,

confronted with a peculiar euphoria

clouding the reluctance brewing

in the part of me that holds claim to


with a furtive glance at the past

before drifting into

the abyss of uncertainty, the future

looming like an illusion,

like a cloud of opium telling us

the things we like to hear best, then

dooming us to



Today, I am losing you, and it is night,

and this is like

stopping moonbeams from shining

past your window.

You search the room

for signs of sanity: chairs and tables and piles of work

and poetry books that tell you

this will pass, the things you lose

will not matter six years from now,

or three decades from now,

when you have gotten used to it,

the monotony of their absence

becoming the new normal.


fire in up

Photo from Rappler c/o Chad Booc.


Ours is a world that thrives on


these are the axes

of change

and continuity; points

of rebirth.

Not that we want them.

So much of life’s tragedies

happen beyond our wanting.

For what is the human will

against the dogma

of impermanence?

These are the sort of things that


by the force of inertia, the way

sound dissipates into silence,

the mortality of things


to the consequences

of being.

Gravitational Wave, A Poem

This is the way such collisions go:
sound fading into the darkness
of inifinity,
floating past the silent
its echoes ringing through
a billion years’ worth of
its resonance outliving
the moment of

Because this is how it is
with waves, one force
enfolding into
another, rippling through
the boundaries of time and space,
their meaning reduced to
a cipher,
a faint chirp
breathing through platinum
reflectors, like the faint cry
of an aftershock,
though what has happened
has happened–
the collision,
the wave,
light and space shifting
their contours to accomodate
the tragedy:
two black holes
engulfed in each other’s

Girl before a mirror


Pablo Picasso, Girl Before A Mirror (1932)


The thing about Picasso, you were telling me,

is the wholeness

of his fragmentation.

We were gazing at the image of a girl

before a mirror, and in my mind,

I was wondering which was the girl,

and which the mirror,

two strangers gazing at each other,

and you prattled on about

cubism; modernity




I nodded as though I were comprehending

everything: the burst of a dozen colors

among the jagged puzzle pieces,

the girl,

the mirror,

the girl inside the mirror,

whichever self is more real.

In the specter of confusions,

the world is clarity,

and the self,

a blur.

Shooting Star

It was my first time

to see one of these

strange and beautiful

creatures of the sky

coming from nowhere,

falling somewhere

no one knows exactly

how they live

and die, at least

for us non-astronomers—

we know so little of shooting stars,


to marvel at their

spark and insignificance;

they light up the sky

in a second’s flash, then leave it

pitch black,

not a trace of the fire

that consumed it in

a moment’s ecstasy;

when the moment ends,

it is just one more

shooting star,


they say it’s much larger

than you or me, yet God

knows why, though it falls right

before our eyes, it never

seems to fall

on us.


Humanity washed ashore

for Aylan

The sea contains your secrets now.

The sea, in its tragedy and calm,

has put you to sleep and cradled

you back to the clenched fists

of a heartless humanity.

How borderless is this world

that offers no escape

but the sea?

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