Merlie Alunan in GOING HOME TO A LANDSCAPE

MERLIE ALUNAN HAS TWO NEW BOOKS OUT.  SCROLL ALL THE WAY DOWN, TO THE FIRST COMMENT.

Dear Merlie,

Self is deeply apologetic that you never received your author copies for your wonderful poem in GOING HOME TO A LANDSCAPE, the Filipino women’s anthology published by Calyx Books.  Now, self is heading to the LBC Office in Bacolod with the books you should have received, ages ago.  But before she mails the books, she just has to re-read your poem, “Odysseus Cripple at Bantayan Island.”  It touches self like never before!  Here it is, for the edification of dear blog readers:

“Odysseus Cripple at Bantayan Island”

The light, the light here how pitiless
it burns from the vast skies at noon.
All day the heated wind
presses its salt kiss on the skin.
Bantayan Island, not such a way
from home, West of Leyte where I come.
Straggler though I am, this isle still
is my own — the starveling dogs, the armies
of sandcrabs guarding their holes,
the children too, brown and thin
with sunburnished hair, lilting seasounds
in their speeches, my bittersweet familiars.
Not that one — white and blue-eyed traveler
hefting himself by his two good arms
on crutches of steel, dragging his body
on shriveled legs inch by careful inch,
Odysseus cripple, wandered from his own
ice-locked continent to this atoll
east north west south of nowhere.

He squints past the breakers
to the rims of farther shores,
his bald pate with its blonde fringe
glistening in the cruel noon glare.
Dense on that very chair, on borrowed space,
he sits in a cripple’s infinity of patience,
speaking to no one, and thus
not a word spoken to him in return.
Children gape at his odd gait
as he makes his way slowly, painfully,
under the shadow of the palm trees
meeting nobody’s eyes.
What’s to gain by asking his name,
whence he came, why he’s here?
Inquire by dint of what resolve
he’d vanquished space for these shoals?
When he leaves (obliged, who knows,
by some splendid Nordic design
that he alone may satisfy), anyone could see
it’d be a simple matter for wind
to blow sand over his tracks.
The sandcrabs scamper to their burrows
in their perpetual habit of reticence
as he draws by, but they’d be back
to resume their sovereign claims in a while.

Stranger too, I will pass on as he does,
never perhaps to return. Still, after us,
over this island at nowhere’s end,
this light, this constant peerless light,
would pour down merciless and blinding
from the vast and eyeless sky.

6 Comments

  1. September 28, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    How much longer are you in the Philippines?

  2. September 29, 2011 at 7:07 am

    For a week, that’s all . . .

  3. December 6, 2011 at 2:03 am

    Marianne, I am happy that things turned out the way they did. The book came into my hand in a more personalized way, better than the impersonal system of the forwarders.

    We got to see each other face to face in that Conference in Cebu, and we got to exchange a few words. In these days of virtual existence, such
    live contacts have to be cherished.

    More power to you and your stories. A new collection of my poems came out from the University of Sto Tomas Publishing House. Tales of the Spiderwoman. Also The Dumaguete We Know, a collection of essays, was released just a two weeks ago by Anvil Publishing. I hope these books find a place in your bookshelves.

  4. December 6, 2011 at 2:09 am

    Dear Merlie,

    I need to get those books!!!

    Gee, I’m so thrilled. I’m an acolyte. Do you always stay in Cebu or do you ever go to Bacolod or Iloilo 🙂 Let’s do readings (Shameless, thy name is Marianne!)

  5. November 22, 2012 at 9:56 am

    If you happen to be in the Philippines in Bacolod or Iloilo, let me know. Life’s too short and too few people around to go crazy with–poetry is craziness in my part of the world. Hope this gets to you.

    • November 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      I will take you up on you offer! I was just in Bacolod. I would love to visit you in Cebu!


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