October 1, 2010

R.A. Villanueva


Blessed are you, maidens of the one hundred and eighty afternoons
You of the cough at the first inhale            You of the cut
school for the seashore
You of the sequined nails, the powdered
eyes, the breeze of lilac and lavender
You of the still-open door

Blessed are you, child of the broken
heart, the half-healed ventricle
You, the chamber voice, the madrigal
lift, the harmony and hum                           You of the pink
You of the dark black ink

You of the grandmother’s abattoir
hidden among the exits of the New Jersey Turnpike
You backstroking Ophelias and #2 pencils

You of the boardwalk tattoo, of the snapping latex, of the pierced
tragus, of the soft cartilage            You
of the essays in arabesques, the hearts above
the i’s, the diary left out on purpose, the origami messages,
the whispered consonants                             Pray for us

You who roll
your eyes in their painted sockets who
affix his last name to yours on your notebooks
Pray for us

You who can still pick and choose                You
who manicure your faces full
of the spark and sweat of future days
Pray for us

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets

Rattle Logo

September 28, 2010

Angela Narciso Torres



Emerald mounds rise from the deep,
their white shoulders shedding turquoise
waters. When we scoop the wet sand
fine putty sluices through our fingers.
Our heels sink inches with every step,
leaving blurred footprints where small
crabs fine-pencil disappearing tracks.


By dusk the tide has receded a hundred feet,
revealing the ribbed sea bed, ghost-pale
in the gathering dark. Scores of starfish
dot the rippled sand, white limbs etched
in gray, splayed under the night sky—
a universe in reverse. Ian, shirt flapping,
lifts a sun starfish, purple knobs radiating
on luminous limbs. We huddle around him,
our cheeks flushed with twilight.


Driving through the country with windows
down, we count nipa huts, their thin walls
woven from palm, dark and light fronds
alternating, a diamond pattern framed in bamboo.
Air infused with green—kamogong, acacia, tanguile.
Dogs bark, a rooster tied to a gatepost scratches
and pecks, cocks its head. Children in faded blue
uniforms wave shyly, their feet coated in red dust.


Rain falls in fits and starts. A drizzle
filters the air like gauze, taming the warm breeze.
Wind brings muffled cries of faraway children,
the hum of cicadas, drums from a fiesta
enfolded in the wash of waves. Across
the verandah, two gardeners in yellow shirts
are sharing a meal of fish and rice.


The waves tell of beauty that comes unbidden,
approaching as a lover walks through a door,
each time familiar yet heart-stopping.
Hermit crabs scuttle sideways on the sand,
their paths crossing and uncrossing, shells
of lavender and coiled pearl plucked
from caves of night. The sea has the calm sadness
of what cannot stay: a waxing gibbous moon,
our sons, bent over a pool of silver fish,
their cheekbones limned with watery light
thin shoulders barely touching.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets

Rattle Logo

September 26, 2010

Joël Barraquiel Tan

               for michael p.

sometimes when
drunk     feeling young
again     limes & mint
rum & white sugar in mid-laugh
i look out of the bar’s
grand window into
the narrow whorish
street    catch my reflection
—a thing that approximates
in its dull shadowy way
the softening curve of my
jaw the rounding slope of
my shoulders, once heroic
that ridiculous look on my face
it occurs to me my soul
is slowly leaking
spiteful hiss of air
no one else notices, i suspect
the beautiful men i
call my friends    call on
me to dance         so i dance
with other beauties, mostly
ghosts  now            dance until the rainy jags
give way to the cold fog summer
thrill to the same gossip
i’ve been hearing for years
now        drink spirits right out
of the bottle       openly in the streets
watch the ball-gagged slaves
walk their bearded masters
& repeat the same clever
thing about true democracy
imagine my family
getting older & fewer
now  in another city
& the same love breaks
inside                    me i say a
silent prayer because this
is one of the few ways i know
to really love     despite all the
poets who have dedicated work
to me      i imagine the span of my life
as muddy terraced steps              high above
the mute dream of childhood  under that
the first tongue kiss then the years of raging
leading a charge across Sunset
as downtown burns           i
peer down lower                                    the decades
30s, 40s, 50s, & so on in  tidy sure
steps       i am furious & afraid.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets

Rattle Logo

September 23, 2010

Jun de la Rosa



A cyclone smashed into Madagascar,
hit the island a second time
three days later; a ferry sinking.

The news brings to us cyclones,
while beach stories are told
among sisters, during storms.


Hurricane slammed the Florida coast.
Chasing it required large amounts of food,
and a megaphone.

If a woman dives into a river
and no one is there to see it,
the body, hands first,
still makes a cutting sound.


A storm swept out to sea,
beyond Northern Japan—
later lowered to tropical storm,
downgraded to tropical depression.

What a wonder how water
can take so many forms:
a lady turning into a bride,
then a nagging housewife.


Indonesian plane skidded off the runway
under heavy rains, split into two,
came to rest near a cemetery:
100 yards of prayers.

Water nears,
from Madagascar to Indonesia.
The pond in the garden waits,
expecting an angry mother.


26 people swept away
by raging floodwaters in Nueva Ecija;
villages buried in a sea of mud.

And water has found us—
with windows closed,
we only know storm
by the sound it makes
against the roof, a swinging door.


Death toll rose
with the super typhoon named after a man.

Later, water will be poured into mugs—
boiling, black, without sugar:
small servings of the storm,
silently brewing.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets

Rattle Logo

September 21, 2010

José Edmundo Ocampo Reyes


René Magritte, oil on canvas

On the calculous clay, two pennies
stare down a lone dime,

while a matchstick pretends to ignore
the cigarette it once kissed. Someday

the oak wall on which I lean
will warp and shed, splinter

by splinter, long since forgotten
by those who erected it. What is

the point of news, when in the end
all we are left with are scraps

that no one can decode?
I sigh, longing for streams

of stock tickers, Monday-morning trains.
O to escape the tyranny of inaction!

To unlace and take off my feet,
and run to the office bareshoe!

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets


José Edmundo Ocampo Reyes: “When I was a high school senior, my class would make weekly visits to a nearby public school to tutor a group of sixth-graders. Towards the end of the year, I decided to bring my students some poems. One girl innocently uttered one of the wisest things anyone has ever said about poetry: ‘Poetry is an encyclopedia.’”

Rattle Logo

September 14, 2010

Misael Mesina Paranial


Six p.m., and the evening
traffic homeward has gone amok.
The opening salvo: an explosion

throwing rush hour into disarray,
sudden rain of shrapnel seeking
solace in warm bodies.

Days ago, the city turned out
to see who kisses the longest.
Today, kisses seemed superfluous

among the burnt dead, caught unaware
or the shell-shocked, wounded
in the aftermath of bombs

exploding everywhere:
a loaded bus, a parked tricycle,
a lone package outside a food stall.

Pressed for sound bites,
our Man in Uniform swallows
his intel reports and concedes,

“Well, you know, it’s very difficult
to safeguard every place.”
And as if to punctuate his remarks

the ruined legs of a boy
dangle out from a rescuer’s arms
lifeless, useless.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets

Rattle Logo

November 19, 2009

Mike Maniquiz


Today, as the locals love to say,
is so cold the wolves ate the sheep for the wool.
I open the bag.
The contents of the sea come frozen
and packed in plastic from Taiwan:
squid mantles cut into rings,
triangular fins, peeled shrimps,
octopus tentacles and mussel meat.
Garlic and onion sautéing
take the sound of rain.
I pour seafood into the wok
and the smell takes me to the sea.
I ride on the waves of brine
to a place bigger than all this white.
I am in America, cooking Italian,
a Filipino, outside is snow.
Frutti di Mare won’t go over pasta
but rice. This is my version of it.

The watery-sweet scent
lets me know rice is cooked. I lift
the lid and find pasty grains stout
and clumped, take last evening’s rice,
dry, left standing uncovered in my
kitchen all night. I grab a plastic ladle
and scoop chunks into the still
steaming cooker. Worlds ago
my grandmother reminded me never
to put yesterday’s rice
on top of recently cooked:
something about life
not prospering as you keep
putting the old above the new,
the old pressing down on the new.
These days sun is hard to come by,
rare as stalks of fresh green onions,
as I keep opening the door and walking
into the past, into old man weather,
a colonizer whipping my back.
My heart is a warm plate tonight.
Outside the snow is like cold rice.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets


Mike Maniquiz: “Poetry is water. Let me explain. When I started writing, the results were initially gratifying. But as I got deeper into it, reading more poetry and writing poems that tried to shout back to poetry I was reading (Merwin, Vallejo, Levis, Hernandez, Wright), I found myself unsatisfied like a tree whose roots have to dig further down to find water.”

Rattle Logo