Lumad – native or indigenous

“…news here …signifies little
but to say that something comes” ~ D. Bonta

This means to know

a chant for putting in the seed
a liniment for aching bones

This means to sew

a constellation of beads on dark woven ground
an intricate braid of horsehair for a collar

This means to coax

a lash of fibers stripped by hand from reeds
a rope to fix broad screens of leaves to house posts

This means to hum

a low supplication when crossing the plains
a prayer to ward off the evil ones and hurricanes

This means

a ritual for the birth of the child
a sacrifice of animals for the ones who have died (so many)

This means

a lake in the hinterland bordered by plantations
among them Dole Del Monte Unifrutti Sumifro

This means

a harvest of riches they’re told they do not own
a tube of sugarcane Cavendish bananas palm oil cacao rubber

This means

among the rare flora and fauna at daybreak
a priestess touches her forehead to the water and the earth

This means

a palm criss-crossed by marks and the labor of years
a child’s hand leathered like an ancient’s

This means

a type of plant whose flowers open their throats only at night
and the song of a mythical bird that could turn you to stone

This means

a stranger crossing into their villages eats of their food
and in this way wears their mantle of protection

This means

a five-note warble high in the trees
another one for coming danger

This means

a space grows wider every day from constant erasure
a memory collapses from its magnitude when there are no vessels left


In response to Via Negativa: In Cuba.

(Lord’s day). Up and spent the morning, till the Barber came, in reading in my chamber part of Osborne’s Advice to his Son (which I shall not never enough admire for sense and language), and being by and by trimmed, to Church, myself, wife, Ashwell, &c. Home to dinner, it raining, while that was prepared to my office to read over my vows with great affection and to very good purpose. So to dinner, and very well pleased with it.
Then to church again, where a simple bawling young Scot preached.
So home to my office alone till dark, reading some papers of my old navy precedents, and so home to supper, and, after some pleasant talk, my wife, Ashwell, and I to bed.

born to no language
in church we are again

a simple bawling ache
of dark precedents

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 5 April 1663.

In these islands the light begins
to burn hottest toward noon.

A drought since January, which further
parched the land and thinned the crops.

Farmers, the poor; lumad, or
indigenes— One could not really tell.

And how does it really matter?
In another life these could have been

the people a few history books say
may have eaten from plates of beaten brass,

may have borne ingots of gold on their chests
when foreign ships slid into these inlets.

Most of the land is taken, and the air
is stale as the chemicals in the sea.

What’s brought them here: their hunger
and despair. I’ve never understood the logic

that goes by the name of protocol— We’re told
when police fired guns to disperse them,

they went on their knees in the street
to illustrate the weight of their need.

Calamity funds & 15,000 sacks of rice,
safe in some government warehouse.

At weddings, it used to be that one
would throw handfuls of rice

at the laughing pair emerging from
the church. But now that’s considered

wasteful. Soap bubbles are blown instead,
or confetti showered on their heads.

Bullets have the elongated shape of rice
grains; they explode but will never expand

on contact with bodies made of 73% water.
A grain of rice expands to 3 or 4 times

its volume. 2 cups of rice, according to some
conversion tables, could feed a family of 6.


In response to 1 killed, 13 wounded in farmers' protest in Kidapawan.

Up betimes and to my office. By and by to Lombard street by appointment to meet Mr. Moore, but the business not being ready I returned to the office, where we sat a while, and, being sent for, I returned to him and there signed to some papers in the conveying of some lands mortgaged by Sir Rob. Parkhurst in my name to my Lord Sandwich, which I having done I returned home to dinner.
Whither by and by comes Roger Pepys, Mrs. Turner her daughter, Joyce Norton, and a young lady, a daughter of Coll. Cockes, my uncle Wight, his wife and Mrs. Anne Wight. This being my feast, in lieu of what I should have had a few days ago for my cutting of the stone, for which the Lord make me truly thankful.
Very merry at, before, and after dinner, and the more for that my dinner was great, and most neatly dressed by our own only maid. We had a fricasee of rabbits and chickens, a leg of mutton boiled, three carps in a dish, a great dish of a side of lamb, a dish of roasted pigeons, a dish of four lobsters, three tarts, a lamprey pie (a most rare pie), a dish of anchovies, good wine of several sorts, and all things mighty noble and to my great content.
After dinner to Hide Park; my aunt, Mrs. Wight and I in one coach, and all the rest of the women in Mrs. Turner’s; Roger being gone in haste to the Parliament about the carrying this business of the Papists, in which it seems there is great contest on both sides, and my uncle and father staying together behind. At the Park was the King, and in another coach my Lady Castlemaine, they greeting one another at every tour. Here about an hour, and so leaving all by the way we home and found the house as clean as if nothing had been done there to-day from top to bottom, which made us give the cook 12d. a piece, each of us.
So to my office about writing letters by the post, one to my brother John at Brampton telling him (hoping to work a good effect by it upon my mother) how melancholy my father is, and bidding him use all means to get my mother to live peaceably and quietly, which I am sure she neither do nor I fear can ever do, but frightening her with his coming down no more, and the danger of her condition if he should die I trust may do good.
So home and to bed.

a sandwich for dinner
in a car park

there is a test every day
of how to live

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 4 April 1663.


I walk through the corridors of my self, tricked
out in ego uniform. I trail the end of a night-

stick along the vertical bars separating me into
isolated cells to contain my many selves I have

judged unready to be seen in public, ones rumored
to have erred, others likely to appear inadequate.

In order to keep so many confined here to my own
private Alcatraz, the ego-guard in charge of them

can also never be off-duty, never has permission
to take a break, to rest, relax the tense knots,

the kinks that over-vigilance works into muscles,
into sentences, into nights that might otherwise

hold sleep and starlit dreams. I have lost track
which of my voices was confined to isolation when,

how long each has been down here, and for what
offense against the relentless despot in my head.


And here the despot comes! Flanked by pretensions,
he descends partway down the metal stairs into

the darkness of the prison, come to announce his
latest plans for all the inmates, how they might

earn the right to see the light of day and breathe
fresh air again. But first, they must make their

obeisance and express their willingness to work
as conscript labor on the despot’s latest project.


The nightstick dragging on the bars is a mallet
pounding on a xylophone. Taken alone, each note

is sharp and harsh, but as each one hangs sullen
in the air, other notes gather near it until

the tones are stacked and sandwiched like shades
of colored light, a chord of rainbow, sundogs.

“…one chapter is not torn out of the book,
but translated into a better language; and every

chapter must be so translated…” Slowly, one
after the other, the inner inmates turn their

faces toward the despot. His mouth still shapes
commands, but any sound he makes is drowned by

these new harmonies blending from the cell-bar
xylophone notes. The air begins to vibrate with

hope, tones soften from xylophone to marimba,
are sustained in shimmers, promises, and inner

whispers that race from cell to cell until all
voices in me are raised in affirmation: there

are no mistakes and no mis-givings, and nothing
but nothing only nothing remains hidden forever.

In response to Joseph Lisowski’s “Shadow Self/Dante Dream 10-13” and Dave Bonta’s “Surveillance Society,” with help from John Donne.

Waked betimes and talked half an hour with my father, and so I rose and to my office, and about 9 o’clock by water from the Old Swan to White Hall and to chappell, which being most monstrous full, I could not go into my pew, but sat among the quire. Dr. Creeton, the Scotchman, preached a most admirable, good, learned, honest and most severe sermon, yet comicall, upon the words of the woman concerning the Virgin, “Blessed is the womb that bare thee (meaning Christ) and the paps that gave thee suck; and he answered, Nay; rather is he blessed that heareth the word of God, and keepeth it.”
He railed bitterly ever and anon against John Calvin, and his brood, the Presbyterians, and against the present term, now in use, of “tender consciences.” He ripped up Hugh Peters (calling him the execrable skellum), his preaching and stirring up the maids of the city to bring in their bodkins and thimbles.
Thence going out of White Hall, I met Captain Grove, who did give me a letter directed to myself from himself. I discerned money to be in it, and took it, knowing, as I found it to be, the proceed of the place I have got him to be, the taking up of vessels for Tangier. But I did not open it till I came home to my office, and there I broke it open, not looking into it till all the money was out, that I might say I saw no money in the paper, if ever I should be questioned about it. There was a piece in gold and 4l. in silver.
So home to dinner with my father and wife, and after dinner up to my tryangle, where I found that above my expectation Ashwell has very good principles of musique and can take out a lesson herself with very little pains, at which I am very glad. Thence away back again by water to Whitehall, and there to the Tangier Committee, where we find ourselves at a great stand; the establishment being but 70,000l. per annum, and the forces to be kept in the town at the least estimate that my Lord Rutherford can be got to bring it is 53,000l.. The charge of this year’s work of the Mole will be 13,000l.; besides 1000l. a-year to my Lord Peterborough as a pension, and the fortifications and contingencys, which puts us to a great stand, and so unsettled what to do therein we rose, and I to see my Lord Sandwich, whom I found merry at cards, and so by coach home, and after supper a little to my office and so home and to bed.
I find at Court that there is some bad news from Ireland of an insurrection of the Catholiques there, which puts them into an alarm.
I hear also in the City that for certain there is an embargo upon all our ships in Spayne, upon this action of my Lord Windsor’s at Cuba, which signifies little or nothing, but only he hath a mind to say that he hath done something before he comes back again.
Late tonight I sent to invite my uncle Wight and aunt with Mrs. Turner to-morrow.

the old monstrous god
of bodkin and thimble

broke open till all was out
I saw no paper question it

as silver as music
the water here

we find the town beside the fort
a contingency unsettled in sand

news here in Cuba signifies little
but to say that something comes

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 3 April 1663.

Last night I woke again
from fitful sleep and heard
the wind’s high whistling—

white-throated, mouth pursed
on its way from one end of that
unimaginable island called infinity

to the other. Which is to say,
I’ve heard before this song
it sings, always an octave higher

than the notes I ping on the rim of my
dented cup. And if it is indeed infinity
that feeds this cycle of wailing, this

song conjuring elegy upon elegy,
where does it learn to make things up?
Night opens its caves of hungry cries

in search of any warm breast
to drink from— With effort I remind
myself I’m not being called by name.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


I dream of bread
that will not rise,
dough in a bowl shaped

like a lotus, or a boat.
On all sides, the indentations
left by your fingertips—

Still your apprentice,
my fingers film with skins
of foam. How much heat?

How much sugar? How best
to dig out the stone
that lies in its heart?

One tap and the egg
is a house that cracks open,
never to seal again.

I push the spoons
and forks back into
the drawer. I swing

the salt shaker over
so the grains fall,
distinct, onto the table.

Up by very betimes and to my office, where all the morning till towards noon, and then by coach to Westminster Hall with Sir W. Pen, and while he went up to the House I walked in the Hall with Mr. Pierce, the surgeon, that I met there, talking about my business the other day with Holmes, whom I told my mind, and did freely tell how I do depend upon my care and diligence in my employment to bear me out against the pride of Holmes or any man else in things that are honest, and much to that purpose which I know he will make good use of. But he did advise me to take as few occasions as I can of disobliging Commanders, though this is one that every body is glad to hear that he do receive a check.
By and by the House rises and I home again with Sir W. Pen, and all the way talking of the same business, to whom I did on purpose tell him my mind freely, and let him see that it must be a wiser man than Holmes (in these very words) that shall do me any hurt while I do my duty. I to remember him of Holmes’s words against Sir J. Minnes, that he was a knave, rogue, coward, and that he will kick him and pull him by the ears, which he remembered all of them and may have occasion to do it hereafter to his owne shame to suffer them to be spoke in his presence without any reply but what I did give him, which, has caused all this feud. But I am glad of it, for I would now and then take occasion to let the world know that I will not be made a novice.
Sir W. Pen took occasion to speak about my wife’s strangeness to him and his daughter, and that believing at last that it was from his taking of Sarah to be his maid, he hath now put her away, at which I am glad.
He told me, that this day the King hath sent to the House his concurrence wholly with them against the Popish priests, Jesuits, &c., which gives great content, and I am glad of it. So home, whither my father comes and dines with us, and being willing to be merry with him I made myself so as much as I could, and so to the office, where we sat all the afternoon, and at night having done all my business I went home to my wife and father, and supped, and so to bed, my father lying with me in Ashwell’s bed in the red chamber.

the honest body is wiser
than any word

a presence without any reply
but the world

no novice to concurrence
it gives great content

and I am glad to be so
having done all my lying

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 2 April 1663.

Prompt 1: Take a draft or poem that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Unstitch from what isn’t working. Step away and refocus. Begin again.” Luisa A. Igloria, “A Poetry Prompt a Day: NaPoMo 2016

in the beginning is a list of nations
of the world followed by their capitals:
Afghanistan, Kabul;
Albania, Tirana;
Algeria, Algiers;
Andora, Andorra la Vella
all the way to Yemen, Sanaa;
Yugoslavia, Belgrade;
Zambia, Lusaka;
Zimbabwe, Harare

where others may see in their minds’ eyes
beauty queens in swimsuits with sashes diagonally
draped across their voluptuousness,
in my geography lesson i roll those
countries’ names and capitals in my mouth,
taste them on my tongue like savory
and salted flesh seared to medium rare

thus did my yesterday begin, redolent of burnt wood, crackly paper,
a tinderbox of a building exploding on All Fools’ Day,
thus did our yesterday end with a volley of gunpowder meeting defiant
farmers’ flesh on the dry plains south of my country’s Manila