by Troy Cabida
It was after mass ended
when the priest decided to kill us.
Not with gentle verses that induced enough guilt
to pass along one more five pound note or songs of praise,
but with a word of condolence for those affected by sudden news,
And as he opened his mouth, the sound
echoing through the entire church,
images sprawling itself all over my mind
like an old film strip: the crying, the mis-
matched children and the lingering sounds of the untamed oceans,
find themselves all over London through images ignored,
from BBC News, banners on London buses
to the little promotional posters found on the tube,
which states over 9,000,000 innocent victims have died as
Typhoon Haiyan hits Philippines
That morning we were trapped within God’s corners,
that morning the Filipinos in London weren’t
healthcare assistants and basement workers
but abandoned parents and children, armless and souls cut in half;
they absorb the lyrics and hone the music to match their
soaring emotions, soothing their crumbling hearts,
fighting through images grim, bloody and drowned
through a long and choky sob, curdling through the core.
Compared to the nannies and nurses that morning,
the lyrics that came out of everyone else’s mouths
I place the selenite spiral tower
right next to your portrait, brown and aging,
and seeing your smile again alleviates the pain from my shoulder.
For some reason, I feel simultaneously
like a foreign guest and your little brother;
coming to visit means you having to take a break
from your orb form, dancing around your garden of Eden
and adopting that same human face in the frame,
where your big eyes can look at us while we eat and
tell you what’s been going on with us – sorry we haven’t visited much.
All around the cemetery
there are chickens pecking at the ground
and a dog tied to one of the gate bars
of your tomb house, acting more like a bouncer today
than your childhood friend.
With innocence that glimmers like fairy dust,
you can taste the true flavour of content here;
would you still give off the same energy
if you were to skip death
and moved with us to England?
You probably wouldn’t have a selenite tower, that’s for sure.
The years away might have been so cruel to him
that he now carry airs of nonchalance, grown
unattached to the guys, uninterested with the girls,
blasé to all things norm,
preferring to sink into his iPhone, the balikbayan
fights through the heat in his boots,
the eyes all around him, the absence of a big black coat to hide in
no thank you to street food; they wonder under breaths and folded arms;
just how homesick is he?
In fact, so unavoidable the change in his eyes that the locals,
old playmates whose games led them to more than scraped knees,
suddenly realise how old they are and put a clean shirt on.
Truth is this new insensitivity numbness snobbishness whatever
they’re all so offended by is just the childhood shyness
that’s come out and grown up; London taught him to be fireproof,
to be a heart motherland Manila can never break again.
Who We’re Writing For
Who are we writing these for?
That Cainta girl clutching onto her beau from Chelsea,
wearing faux leopard skirts out in the February sleet,
clad in broken British English?
Or the guy with the snapback
busy sending out his new mixtape
where he scats spats about the hard Enfield life?
It’s probably for the tired mother,
wearing white, brown uniforms, blue with polka dots on weekends,
trying not to scratch her ripe, yellow skin.
It’s also for the father with the migraine
turning on the on button again, waiting for the crude, cocky buzzer,
demanding his time for those who’ll never understand.
These words are also for the alien children,
stripped from the hot cement, dark playmates and candies for a coin,
leaving them only one thing left to play with: their first winter.