by Romalyn Ante
For the first time
after the typhoon
we gather around
the first truck
of relief goods –
swarming a flickering bulb.
Chicken Eggs and Rooftops
Where I came from, kids ate raw eggs for breakfast
laid by home-grown hens in the back yard.
Cacophonous crowing, the cheapest alarm clock.
Gliding fiery feathers, the deepest sunset streaks.
We groped in the nettling nests, cracked the eggs
like how we broke open our childhood hearts –
One early afternoon I challenged my brother
I, too, could fly kites from the rooftop.
Always ‘for the boys only,’ but it was our grandparents
who tended the trees, nailed the tin cover on the house.
Their footsteps cracked across the roof,
the boys saw me climbing the santol tree.
Their eyes glinted like sheen seeds,
lips trembled like parched leaves.
A rapid jerk of the brittle branch,
my scar-stippled leg stretched towards the roof –
Whack! I hit the dehydrated ground.
The boys’ laughter was fluttering chicken feathers.
My cheeks bougainvillea-red; the home-based soil
tended one more generation of home-made war and love.
My lolo gave me a piso.
The coin’s coolness faded
but etched contentment in my palm.
A clink into the donation tin –
a candle was lit, a prayer muttered.
Then silence floated…
Painted saints on the concave ceiling
smiled at the sparrows
hopping on the chandeliers.
Outside the cathedral,
a legless man selling paper boats
smiled at me.
I left home and ended up
thinking about gold pound coins,
forgetting about my lolo.
The silver gleam has dimmed
like the dark edges
of my exhausted eyes.
Silence still floats like paper boats
but loneliness rings like a piso
that drops to the marble floor.
lolo- Filipino word for grandfather
The First Fall
(for the 44 young policemen who died in Mamasapano clash in the Philippines)
Behind the politicians’ corrupted tongues
tangling like wild vines, prickling in their throats,
and the vultures squeaking in the Senate,
was a young policeman who took the first fall.
A blood-tainted rosary,
an empty pistol in his hand, he listened
to the stochastic clatter of gunshots,
to the parched cries for help everywhere.
He lay, static with his fallen comrades –
the harsh glare of early summer grass.
He prayed for a helicopter to appear
from behind the luminous clouds
but then there was only
the silent flight of birds.