Gypsum and karst my consonants; 
pine and mountain-fed streams, my vowels.
My syntax and speech of copper-mined and gold-
veined hills; the craggy, rain-soaked vowels 
that won’t stop stippling the ceilings.
My tutors: stonecroppings and terraces, 
ochre-traced sunflowers; the flint-tapping call 
of the mountain shrike. My avatars: stick 
shift jeepneys, five of them crowded into 
two-lane roads. My aubades from hot 
bean curd vendors, the molasses of their song. 
Vesper of unfertilized duck eggs tucked 
into warming cloths. In the oldest café, 
click of chess pieces and rumor of coffee 
grounds mingled with eggshell bits. 
In the distance, ghosts of Dominican friars 
and Kempeitai walking ruined labyrinths. 
My countrymen: low-moving cloud rats; 
carnival queens and Benguet lilies. 
My harbor of monsoons and February 
cabbage-frost. Monuments, mudslides 
and bus graveyards; soft gauze of mummy
scarves. My conjugation of vegetable 
carts, hefts of burlap slung into the air. 
I walked across the city as if from the front 
of a small monograph to the very end 
then turned the pages again, my feet
leaving trails of inky sludge. 

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