from the Gift of the Presidency, excerpts

One day, my office assistant, Marlon Elle, asked me if I ever tried my shadow feet on the then recently constructed ‘bay walk’—another new facility inside the campus—facing the infamous Pandacan Oil Depot. I said to him I tried them on a much familiar ‘bay walk’ along Roxas Boulevard, formerly Dewey Boulevard holding off the Manila Bay where my father first taught me how to swim. That was when it had salt water that tasted salt. I wonder what it tastes like now.

Marlon told me that though it couldn’t match the bay walk that I know, at least the campus bay walk shares a common feature with the real McCoy—they are both unfortunate in terms of having to hold out the stench of their aquatic host.

If I like the sunset view along the Manila bay walk, I might find something at least similar to a creative epiphany of the sublime if I stick around the campus bay walk and wait for Rainier Maria Rilke’s angels to whisper in my ears ‘something’ to write about. Make no mistake. The breeze must smell bad. But I hate poetry written under the pretext that the Muses could only whisper to your ears when the breeze smells fantastically good. If poetry is finicky about the right place to get oneself inspired by the Muses, what about the beat poetry of Ginsberg and Kerouac? Poetry doesn’t say a bay walk should have a river by its side like the river of Lethe where one forgets how to make poetry. The trick is on the river itself. The river is so good you can forget about poetry. But there is poetry. And the river must always smell something.

That day I smelled something by the river below the ramparts. I guessed if the campus bay walk had a poetic power other than its physical use in holding off the river tide, it is this—a short tale was conveyed by the unclean winds. It was a plot to assassinate the president.

(Copyright 2010, Manila, Philippines)


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