When Speech is Severed from the Hand (poems redux)

When Kafka Died

Between the moon and her eyes
An old movie is cutting in around
Her gaze. He a doctor.
She ‘I don’t know.’  She said to herself.
The train is late.
A friend arrived.
A sorry ending.
In her lungs a troubled sigh
Bends the light on the winder—
A minute universe apprenticing her dream.
Perhaps it’s the sound of the city,
Careful words that cut through
A furious urban valley.
Never as proud as the mountain’s
But they sing scarcely in tune
With the rest of the year:
Leaner shadows of unlocked gates
Tailing on her skin. An empty lobby,
A wall clock ticking to an alien cave.
Like the way she kissed her words,
Or kept her distance from her shirt.
Old trinkets in glass windows, minor
Mausoleums with little price tags
Incautious of destiny—
‘In any case,’ she sighed,
‘They were married to memories.
‘Hacked each other’s taste,
Tucked away in mutual harmony.’
In her shoes and his—
Alas, the city awakened.
Outside the sirens were blaring,
Undead sins lining up for mercy.
‘Kafka died tonight.’ Saying this,
She fumbled through her purse.



The lips. How could they be mistaken for a zebra?
The eyebrows, the undulant firmness.
There are no white spaces
Where blackness waves its serenity.
There are no doors like eternity’s
But the zebra’s your lips that summon
An entire savannah. How could I be wrong?
There are no roads, no cycles of rain and death,
The foil is the zebra.  How could one set it right?
Where thought can summon things from the void:
Climates, heavens, fossils, scents of wild flowers,
The bones of ages wrapped in the living voice of silence—
There a lone zebra insulates the sanity of words.
They become rosy cheeks; the lips are an invitation,
The tight leggings, a pair of inflatables,
The sweet salinity of the main part,
The tiny nasal proclamation of irritable lucidity.
Inside a metal transport these thoughts perspired.
A lady tackled the boning racket of perspectives.



For once
In the life of a leaf
A stem has no purpose
But an aid to magic
Where a river becomes
Night becomes day,
Dullness a playhouse,
Wit a baby,
Whisper a creation.
It happens when a tree
Sheds its tears.
When the leaves meet
Their destiny above the torrent,
Knowing too well
They’ve lost their hearts.
Think of the breeze while we drift
Across the waters.
Make it noble this time,
Imperfectly immaculate.
Imagine ourselves carrying
Refugees in our arms.
The sick, the dying,
The homeless and wounded.
Not the tourists
We used to dream up with leaves.
Not the poets
We cared about becoming.
Not the words with which
To glide without wings.
Timeless conceits our naughty hands
Cry out in darkness.
Not the spiders
On deserted rocks.
Not the shadows
We cast on faraway shores.
Not as lovers relieved of their destiny.


Kafka and his double

He touched her and his hand reached something.
Sensed more than porosity.
He knew he had to lick his fingers.
Counted to ten and counted the times
He shrivelled at every finish.
But you were not there, even so, your mystery.
The indifference of you. He said to himself.
Wasn’t it you who were alien to all words,
All traces of grammar, figures of saying?
Those you wrote best at the needling of gender.
Those words that make love.
Whose words are they? He asked.
Your ghost. Your ghosts. He said it again.
Oh, woman—
Why only time can touch you?
Why freedom your ultimate repose?
Soul your utter lunacy?
God your plaything?
Why only darkness can make of you?
No light strong enough to shed a tear for the sun.
What space denies you, time offers you to cross.
What failure can blow your zeal?


From Pylon (Poetry Journal) published by the Polytechnic University of the Philippines 2015

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