Sometimes it's the streaks drawn patiently by hand, slanting across lined paper. Or a filigree crown that sparkles above an open umbrella. You've known its generous waterfalls, its unspoken orders to stay under the covers. There's no escaping it, not even when the sun is high in the sky: somewhere there are clouds gathering whatever the earth exhales as water— a tribe of women stirring, seemingly not tired after months and months of tending their vessels. When they rest, it's then that the rain can be tender; can mean they never meant to destroy anything in you.
There it is, sketched in red- ochre, head lifted and watching. Broad strokes of its rounded back and short legs, found on a karst wall in Leang Tedongnge. Now it's the oldest-known animal cave painting. But why, as I read about it, does my brain think party pig? Perhaps it reminds me of Andy Warhol's Fiesta Pig: ballet-slipper-pink, nosing around in the excess of some post-bacchanalian frenzy. Migration in packs, in the wild, through curtains of berries and matted roots. They're mostly feral, but sometimes give in. When caught and semi-domesticated, penned next to banana groves. As far north as Mindanao and Palawan, they've been found to interbreed with the common pig. Six facial warts and a bristly snout; short ivory tusks. Singed and bled, the white understory of fat renders itself before you plunge a bare arm in, then lift out garlanded organs dearest to the gods. Otherwise, why make a record? Why commemmorate what isn't an offering? No one goes home without a portion.
The subject has a verb but there's protocol to cover before you can properly apply it to an object. On the way, there are little eaves where you can tuck a modifier or adverb. On the way, you navigate a multi-level house. There are low walls which might separate a dog from its bark; the loveless salesman in a story, from the giant insect into which he transforms upon waking. A rabid mob roused to insurrection, from the logic of the law. A few windows lean outward; prepositions as well as the occasional pronoun have been known to use them as slides or escape hatches. War and peace, cake and pickles; diplomacy and treason. You make your way from one element to another, seeking a clear line against hockey sticks and divisive indirection, out of the need to make sense of how exactly things relate to each other.
"...hill stations invariably owed their origin and development to colonialism." ~ Robert R. Reed There being no access at the time, soldiers snaked up the mountain chain with pickaxes, envisioning a crown of cathedrals, quonset huts of corrugated metal; schoolhouses built of stone and pine, where their long- skirted women would undertake the duty of teaching poor native children the difference between primer and bible, naked and clothed. On the grounds of the country club, a sanatorium once stood; there, after bouts of coughing blood, convalescents found a routine of tea, camphor, and bed rest favorable; as well as the cold shimmer of evenings in those hills, streaked like peacock fans. Now, the place which used to be my home all but creaks from within the hollows of over-tunneled gold and copper mines. Moss can only patch what hasn't been gutted by concrete and steel. The lake named after the famous architect spits out mud and boat rides; on its oily surface, a fleet of rotting swans with rusted oars. Inside those hills, perhaps there's still a hurt of cypress wind, the recitation of vesper bells, a love you thought would outstay the dark braids of distance. I took what little I could, when I could. I'll measure it out, try to make it last longer than the trace of a vanished scent.
You're told worry is for things you can do something about; but take care to spend only a fixed amount of time— no more, no less— in pockets of panic and despair. It's almost hard to breathe, watching the mob of white men draped in furs and flags of infamy stroll away from scenes of destruction without reprimand or repercussion. So you try to focus on this small ritual of washing and cooking rice. Between scooping a cupful from out of the plastic box under the sink and pouring the grains sacred to every ancestor into the pot, when they hit the bottom, you try to listen for the brief aria that sounds like rain and not shards of broken glass flying out of a door- frame. When you swish the water around with your fingers just as you were taught (to loosen any bits of pebble or chaff from this pool of pearled glistening), you remember how you fed your brown babies the sweet foamy boil that rose to the top. How to think of the future? On the counter, a nugget of ginger and stalks of green chive wait for the broad knife's swift partitioning. You make the last small cuts and wipe down every- thing. The timer chimes. The thing about revolutions is how they start from dreams of the not yet seen. The thing about change is how the not yet seen are the first to get on their knees and clean up the broken things.
Bare, ash-colored branches; cold without a clean sheet of snow. You pull open all the drawers in the house anyway. You want the old year to let go of its icy grip on your hand. With the other, you beat a frantic tattoo on a metal pot lid. Pelt the past with the red wax of cheese. Shut the lids of its always-looking-back eyes with a gold shower of coins. Croon sleep to it, amnesia. How lucky you rememebered to buff one row of window panes facing east. * Ilocano: Happy new year.
meaning grass remains clipped without need of shearing; and weeds temporarily cease their program of rapid military advance. Farther north, fish swim closer to the bottom, away from newly bulletproofed windows of ice. Larger animals begin to cut their breathing and heart rate. A ceiling of hibernating bats can go up to an hour without taking one breath. But in bed at night, unable to fall asleep, the anxious mind continues to spin from the horrors of the day: a mob battering down doors with their hate; prelates of government flaunting their contempt for the law. Science tells us there's the merest pause before the brain sends warning signals to the adrenal glands. Then it wakes every sleeping cell to present danger. Meaning it becomes impossible to fall or remain asleep.
If it comes back to you, it must be yours. Or it's a trick sequence that only pretends to go somewhere. A hand writes itself; a face bends over its shiny double in the water. And if it doesn't return? Pale flower, arching its neck above ground.
While we were not watching or when we were tired and falling asleep, who turned the key in the lock and threw it into the lake of our deepening misgivings? Who put their lips to the hose and siphoned the gas, so all we heard when we fired the engine was a mindless buzzing like bees? They run up the steps of any sacred temple, dressed in stolen furs. They smash the windows in with their horns. Whatever they touch turns into bricks or bats or stones. They straddle every chair as if it were a sow or a mare. That kind of naked need: a garish yellow on all their faces. Hearts made hard by the long- held fear of their certain coming extinction.
Dear world, do you keep more things closed than open; do you believe a large house with many rooms is better empty than given to poor flocks of shelterless birds or animals limping in from the hunting fields? That trick of polishing the glass on a sliding door— the soft thud of bodies arrowing toward its often lethal surface— light mimics the quality of truth so in this instance becomes a lie, becomes a broken wing or bruised throat.