A poem by Marlon Hacla, translated from the Filipino by Kristine Ong Muslim

When you left, researchers began to dream up theories

about how you and I came to be: a few watchful midday waves

and scenes exacting redemption from the sea. A series of creation myths

weighed down by tragedy and some calculated doubts. But I do not

also know. I could have collected a broken television set,

some rice grains, a stranger’s nude pictures, and I can just as easily

set up a new version of history. I am now repairing

the hinges of your door. The windows take turns letting in

the shade, the curtain tampers with the paleness of light, someone gives

away his name for the old wall against where I pushed you, where

I stroked your collarbone so I can feign interest in your figure,

so I can, for a short time, pore over your skin before I fill you

with my interpretation, before I depress you with ideas that contradict

what I want to smooth out among the parts moistened by the night.

Meanwhile, rain pours another set of questions.

Guttural whispers were passed from one leaf to another,

the garden blossomed with impressions, and there was a likely opening

of a thousand once-lidded eyes to peek at whether or not it is time

to wake. The nipa thatches are weeping. I am burning

receipts and confiscating mirrors. Let me

use your notebook because of this muddled-up situation

ongoing while the world covets a shape to call its own, while there are screams

from faraway objects, while the surface of the sea banters

with the hush of its groundswell, which is maybe its special way

of carrying out its vow that although it knows wanting

of the turbulence of the forces, it needs to spin, it needs

to pursue its own wonders to advance

its own beauty, for the sake of those who drown themselves

in its soul. My beloved Ysabel, I am putting the final touches

on new cracks of dawn while you are still not here. I am chronicling

the damages I have inflicted while you are still refusing to talk.

I am picking camias blossoms and have just finished

a repartee with Lara and Violeta. I have just been to a chair factory

since we were robbed again while my back was turned. Still here

are your sentient rocks, the flutes, though among the stolen items was the severed head

of Saint Diomedes, unfortunately. I inserted a rubato

in the shrill wind to bring this afternoon to an end. I am mortified

by the unabashed blueness of sky, but it is truly the one thing that livens up

my statements, even if I am perpetually shushed up, even if I keep losing a part

of my soul. Unclothed, I am now hearing voices

and I feel better, it feels like the thrill of unearthing new

treasures, like I am making a big step forward in the discovery of your

fears, one solid foundation after another is added to my proficiency

in conveying my ideas. I want to show off to you how I can now be mocked

using only a few simple sentences and a short

tabulation, I will translate it into discourses on suffering.

Handpicked units of infidelities. Floral blanket to cloak

two bodies twitching slowly, moving precisely

toward the innocence of sleek flesh, back to the silvery stares

that track the dark’s explosion of secrets, briefly hesitating at the first sign

of panic because just like a new opening in the bark of a tree,

it will sing sonatinas until it finds the one it is destined to kiss.

Now, I rub my lips with the glow from a mound

of lit candles. I smash plums against the wall. An old woman burns

next door the dry leaves I have swept into a heap in my backyard,

clouds capture other clouds, widows rehearse

their dance between the stars. While you still haven’t sent me

a letter, I watch how the view sings about its long-gone thrills,

watch the contented sighs of the shoreline, cut up

pictures about the end of the world. I have not ceased from sharpening

my tongue. I still go about matching sounds with images

in an attempt to make sense of my own

fate. One corner in your wardrobe closet serves as the joint where leaves

of my remembrances spring out. I gave new names

to the things you have left behind: Maria for the comb, Felicidad

for your five handkerchiefs, Clemente for your yellowing

diary, Herminia for your discarded chemise.

One of those things I truly take pleasure in, like the slow, gentle strumming

of guitar strings, like a woman’s body sinking

in a lake. Like a pair of hide to rouse

the celestial systems of interrogating the ghosts

of our waning strengths. Like how you used to call me Mighty

Warrior in a distant past, when death was still unheard of and we still take

instructions from the stars. Three dances of merriment are performed

by banana trees. Today is Auntie Maring’s funeral

so tomorrow, we will look for doves, we will prepare

stories about hauntings, roses that have stalks longer than ten

inches, and ten cases of beer for the suddenness

of the late night. This world has furthered its bedlam.

A ruby pulses inside a pocket and then stops, pulses

again for a few seconds, and remains still for a long

time until it is touched once again with the wonder that there is

such a thing that can wound dreams, but on the one hand,

it is a wound as well if you closely inspect all aspects of the nature

of the reflected light it carries: rays of bliss, devotion

that remains unstructured, bloodied bird chirping at a mirror. Thin

and pallid wings folded over and over and flapped again

for a hundred times to create a deafening drone as

harbinger of the changing shape of our history.

I already miss being among sacred things, may you allow

me to pack up my things in search of you. I folded in the luggage

the entire altar, I saved up strings of ylang-ylang

and readied with plans for keeping them

fresh, I only need a stray breeze and some drops

of rain and I can already make visible the areas that hide your

traces. The moment I sense, no matter how slightly, your light

being near, I will propel fireworks with a hundred

different colors to the sky, and may you reply with a never-ending chorus

and I will run to you willingly, as you willed.