“Landing on Negros Island”

by Manila Critics Circle National Book Awardee for Poetry Emmanuel Torres:

Landing on Negros Island

Down there lies mock plenty: sunstruck
Vistas of cane, an air
Of pastoral repose, Amorsolo country
On hold for a landlord’s easel.
Loads of plump mangoes on a bullsled
With a village lovely aboard
Await the maestro’s touch.
Look how a woman with child afield
Hurries with the lunch
Of sacadas in a shade. The basket
She ferries across
(Dissembling rustic charm)
Could hide a .45
Tucked under fishballs, rice and barbecue.

There, by a limpid pool,
A holler of naked kids
Streaks by. There,
Under a sun hide and seeking
Behind clouds and high bamboo, wives
Spank laundry. Out of ear
Shot while a macho among the maidens
Spins a lure on his guitar,
A thing like driftwood,
A body half nude, battered beyond
Recall, stalls at a snag of river
Rush. Electric wire
Strangles a neck already broken. Cane
Stiffens at the scent of blood.

In the harvest sun of the smug, a rage of eyes
Glints like new sickle, no longer dimmed
By documents of dynastic greed, by moon
Marked titles casting an ancient spell
On those who must cut cane, and haul cane,
As did their forefathers between fiestas,
Toward a Cavalry of backbreak and bagasse.
Generations of tears have soured the succulence
Of every stalk, a long stalk raised
Against each peon child to scar him for life.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have landed
Of so many struck down by a hand
Signing papers. Even at noon, ghosts
With nothing to lose arise from vast estates.

    from The Smile on Smokey Mountain and Other Poems (Office of Research and Publications, Ateneo de Manila University)

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