Manifest Destiny (Infinite Loop)

~ erasure poem based on The First Voyage Round the World
Antonio Pigafetta, 1874


                                                on the 
day of the Eleven Thousand Virgins         we found

                     the peaceful sea          surrounded by
mountains covered with snow

                                                   within the Bay
where in the night we had a great storm

                                 went further on and found a bay

us we thought                          we saw       two ships under
all sail, with ensigns spread                    Afterwards

              inside this strait we found       two mouths

                                          one of the two
        whom we had taken              died

                     the captain-general sent   the ship named     Victory   
                                    the people  
                                 were to place an ensign on the summit
with a letter inside a pot

        : and he caused a cross to be set upon a small island

                                in it we found
a good port                good waters, wood all of cedar,      fish 

                            there is not in the world a more beautiful country

           when we wounded          this          people
        immediately afterwards they died

                women      cried out and tore their hair
for the love of those           we had killed

These people 

                   adore nothing, and 

                                    go naked

Manifest Destiny (Infinite Loop)

~ erasure poem based on The First Voyage Round the World
Antonio Pigafetta, 1874


                   arose this custom in this place of eating
the enemies of each other

                                 ; they eat him bi by bit,
                       they cut him up into pieces,

                                                          and eat it
              in memory of their enemies.

           These kind of people                                  are not
very black, but rather brown

      and there are           an infinite number of parrots

                                         . There are also           pigs
which have their navel on the back

                                          but their
wives they would not give up for anything in the world.

It is to be known                         it had not rained for two months
before we came           , and the day            we arrived it began to rain, on
which account the people                    said                  we came from

Manifest Destiny (Infinite Loop)

~ erasure poem based on The First Voyage Round the World
Antonio Pigafetta, 1874


                 he who            kept         first watch, on the
following day

                       the end of a river

                                          many little villages
from which to enter                              a port

                        Near     the cape

days                           where we sojourned  

                           once a day at the hour of
midday, there descends a cloud 

a great abundance of water distils
                     the animals, both domestic and wild,

drink of it



Manifest Destiny (Infinite Loop)

~ erasure poem based on The First Voyage Round the World; 
Antonio Pigafetta, 1874


                       (         illustrious and     very
reverend      ) 
                      permit         me to see
and suffer 
                             but also      desire

                              By which

I wished to go; 

                    therefore          by night
               a torch          of burning wood

thick cord of reeds
                well soaked in         water

                                   two lights

                     the studding sail

                an answering signal 

Enrique remembers Melaka before disappearing from known history

Primus circumdediste me” 
~ motto on Juan Sebastián Elcano's coat of arms; 1522

Windless, we languish for days 
in the straits. Magallanes is gone:

dead at the hands of warriors
in Mactan. His resting place, 

the watery deep; or the Datu's yard,
where doubtless he served as trophy

until they gave what was left of him
to the wild boars, to ants. 

you are so close by! Your shadow or shape 

almost carries in the humid air. Perhaps 
I only imagine so. When going down the hold,

your mingled aromatics enfold my face: buah
pala, buah pelaga from Ambon and Ternate. 

Bunga lawang, its small, hard, fragrant 
stars; bunga cengkih, the dry nailheads 

we crushed with our teeth to sweeten 
our breath, coming before the sultan.   

And I was curious about how the smooth
pod case bore mark after mark, how I 

could  trace with my fingernail 
the lines that spread 

                            in circles outward.  
Melaka, my mouth remembers the veins

of kaffir lime leaves, the nostalgia of duan 
pandan. I have learned to say these names in other 

tongues; or at least bring the mouth as close 
as possible, before the words vanish the way a small 

craft can plummet over an edge. In the silence,
we hear only water's pure, untranslatable voice. 


(MacArthur Memorial & Museum, Norfolk)

Behind glass, away from salt-
trimmed air: the General's silver 
service in a velvet-lined box. 
Silver spoons, heavy-handled knives, 
tapered forks. I wonder about the servant 
described only as most loyal: how did he 

carry all this through the streets 
as Manila fell to rubble, as horses 
splintered in panic from carriages, 
as bombs dropped from the sky to anoint 
the waters of the bay with flame? Did he
dig a hole under a balete tree, under 

a caimito; then return one moonless 
night in peacetime with a quiet shovel? 
It appears that not one piece is missing. 
It appears he wanted to return this to  
his master--- The word in the vernacular 
is Amo: like love. But different. 

Dimples at the Chastleton Hotel

(Isabel Rosario Cooper)

               Every man's fantasy,
                                 girl in a box,
              girl in a robe, girl  
                                 in a lace-trimmed gown; never  
          a raincoat, never a pair
                                 of boots or sturdy walking
                shoes. Girl waiting 
                                 among heavy cane-
    striped and mahogany furniture
                                 sorting telegrams and notes.
          Girl eating room  
                                 service for four years
               with a silver knife
                                 and fork, ordered by no less  
     than the General himself. Yes
                                 I am that girl of the first
 grainy screen kiss, only fourteen
                                 when tipped back
             and the camera caught
                                 what people liked
            to call the first lips-
                                 to-lips. When he said
         I shall return, I thought
                                 it was me being addressed.


Now stippled in white and pink,
the arms of pear trees and magnolia.
Soon the green garden hose will uncoil,
a creature waking from winter. I wash
my hands in early morning light: it smells
a little like bread or paper. I'll try
to come back to this moment later,
when in the evening it is all stasis
or anger or partition, the wound
not looking at you, you not looking
at the wound and what dealt it.

Small prayer in some aftermath

Bathala, now we must see how to wind our griefs 
       into a pullover whose sheen reminds us of days 
and nights of rain: long months when we huddled 
       in one room, tending each other in the remoteness
of your silence. Now we must remember where to find 
       clumps of fiddlehead fern and collect 
unbroken soda bottles that aren't stuffed 
       with gunpowder and twists of rope. In the street, 
there might be stray grains that couldn't be swept up 
      after the farmers' wives stormed the warehouse, 
asking for their due. There might be feathers
      fallen from the bodies of birds after the blast.
Bathala, the children and mothers gather them up
      in their skirts and pockets and add them 
to their archives: all must be accounted for. 
      We would expect no less, ourselves.


Ode to Elizabeth Ramsey

She had a gap between her two front teeth,
and her signature song was "Proud Mary."
In the '60s you came to know her after she
won a singing contest on Student Canteen.
Had it been part of your vocabulary back then,
you might have used "Afro" to describe her head
of wiry hair. You might turn out the way she did,
too, if your father was a Jamaican marine
stationed in the Philippines, and your mother
from the Visayas. You might think comedy a way
to deflect attention from the features everyone
loved to point out jeeringly--- skin of darkest
brown it was almost black, a lipsticked overbite
glowing under stage lights. "Negrita," they'd call
almost lovingly; but you'd strut across the stage,
belt out the rock & roll and rhythm & blues until
their seeing drowned in thunderous applause.