Know your name
Clear thoughts from
With 1500 pesos I arrive at a divine place
where the four corners have split:
from the sky lovely white figures
sing soprano melodies,
from the air the north wind whispers,
“it is you, not I, that strips you naked,”
from the sea the whales bellow
as Siyokoy with their long, green tentacles
tickle around them whilst the Kataw
giggle and manipulate the water,
creating underwater ice tornados.
But I am more concerned about the corpses
which rise from the ground
with nails longer than Diwata’s hair
pull at my feet open mouths sound like
screeches, infernal goddesses cursed
for swearing a false oath and
a 9-foot Kapre with a brown, hairy beard
smoking a ganja pipe sits regal
behind a desk made of Parian marble,
he asks, “Dear Traveller, do you know
Now I am a small frame, not even five feet,
his presence encroaches me. Which name
does he want? The name I was born or
the name I was born to be? Does he
want the name I left or the name
I have grown into? My heart jumps and
I think in this place with over-saturated
colors and sharp lines and intense heat
it might be possible that the nails
of these corpses who scrape at my feet
could pull at my belly button
until the skin and the muscles tear
revealing maggots hatching into flies
instead of caterpillars morphing into monarchs.
My mother said: Ngoho, remember your name.
Malinao, remember your tribe.
I take my time to carefully ponder,
contemplative studies have taught me
how to breath, but his left eye twinkles
knowing whatever answer I give
will be wrong and it is easy
to tell that he does not mind
I can taste the comeuppance
of last night’s supper
and red wine on my tongue
as words vomit into a story
my birth mother taught me:
The night Arimaonga ate the moon, our ancestors danced,
beat drums and prayed for the moon’s return. It was black.
There was no shimmer on the water. Our ancestors did not
see the Moros cross the sea with kris and barongs stained
red. They killed all except seven women. They took them on
their lepa-lepa. And the women wished to die so they sang
canticles. And in the canticles were such clear thoughts the
lepa-lepa sank. From the sea floor rose an island and the
birth of our people.
The Kapre laughs and slams down his pipe
the way fishermen slam octopus against Parian
Marble to tenderize it enough for eating.
“Your skin is the only brown that matches me.
Everything else – your teeth, your tongue –
are white. Have you already sailed
the River Lethe? Thou shalt not lie.
Tell me your story.”
Grandmother said: “Your great uncle will take you to Jordan. There you will meet Aristotle and he will take you in an outrigger canoe across the sea, away from the mangrove forests and our bahay kubo, yes, but you must understand, Ninoy Aquino was assassinated. There will be a revolution soon.”
Kapre throws up his arms
his left eye still twinkles
his smile like Alice’s Cheshire cat.
“Drink! did he say? And forget
your life so you may be born
into a new one.”
The earth growls beneath me.