Schrödinger’s Kitten

After I blunt Ming’s grapnels
with files and buffers, she wolfs
down the meat off the pull cup.

In the open yard where I grow
blush Parfait, beside the bush
is a toddler crouching to squat.

Covered in dusty indigo, she can
be easily mistaken as a tall pile
of trash if not for her breathing.

She digs with bare hands to push
out her dumpster lunch, her nose
gasping for air on the blossoms.

For cleaning herself, she gathers
the sundried leaves she can reach
before filling up the shallow hole.

Grating the dirt under her nails
with a thorn, she then walks away,
her dress swaying into the sunset.

The windows closed for the day,
I sit on the sofa as Ming struggles
in her box, a bowl of water nearby.

In Each Other’s Arms

Between the tree
and the window:
the lust of a child.

His father promised to take him
to a brothel for teenage baptism,
but that was before he was shot.

Her ritual at nine
teaches anatomy:
a woman’s torso.

His mother died after childbirth
so he has never suckled breasts,
and nobody can tell about vulvas.

A shadow drawn
by the moonlight:
the child’s pining.

She knows the sob story of the boy,
so she does not mind the disquiet
of foliage and the quiver of boughs.

The lamp stays on
to cast a silhouette:
the woman’s edge.

She has been nursing her own ache,
her husband left for a younger one
and it is the only revenge she knows.

Operand

I know all about subtraction—
                                                 the half smile on my face,
the stillness of my shaking,  
                                             the sudden voluntary hush.

 

Adding is what I do to go on—
                                                  my allowed age that lies,
my bold rouge that pouts, 
                                          my heels that stand cocksure.

 

I divide myself into dissociations—
                                                         a seeker of my angels,
a jasmine blossoming at night,  
                                                  a girl who wants to live.

 

Multiple hands itch for my skin—
                                                       grubby nails scratching,
wet fingers leaving their stains,    
                                                   fists giving me dark blues.

 

I hide my desolation that is exponential—
                                                                   under the sheet,
in the middle of the darkest room,  
                                                       inside my closed eyes.

Curves and Cleavage

I force myself
to think they are oranges,
what you conceal
and others call puberty.

A boy below who does not
know anything
about climbing a tall tree
can only look.

I have several hairs
growing on my thick skin,
the inches I hide
now stubborn and long.

A girl rushing the redness
of her bow lips
needs not reveal her name
but smile a little.

I can ask no one
how to silence with a finger
or how to respond
to the pulling of your hand.

A bulbous avocado ripened
on the fruit stand,
the coins spared are enough
for skin and milk.

Shape of Grief

What I can still recall
feeds my hunger,
first my mind
struggling to piece
together my thoughts,
then my stomach
rumbling the sound
of faint weeping.

For the steamed rice
on a plastic plate,
my mother’s feet
both giving up to sink
in the mud ground
when she shooed
a mob of April birds
driving her away.

The chargrilled fish
on a wood stick,
my father’s fingers
paddling wind waves
until he could hold
onto a sea rock
before the tide came
to swallow all.

In my bright room
still dark on my skin,
my uncurled toes
burrowed on the foam,
a sphere of liquid
yielding in my hand,
I sip it whole,
salt my quick lunch.

Afternoon Intoxication

My elbows on the wood slab
for leaning on the patio,
the awning tight for comfort,
I noticed a child nearby
playing with rocks and stones
like a fixated geologist
awed by the earth and its lava.

Stubbornness is the logic of spit.

I watched with the keen eyes
of an anthropologist, no noises,
not even a sigh, wondering
if he could explain to me now
the strange texture of dirt
that welcomed itself to his skin
or the long absence of rain.

The empathy of saints is a lie.

He leaned his back on the flat
stingy surface of the ditch,
the remains of the dead estuary,
to watch the clouds deflate
or count the thirsty passerines
hitting the concrete facade,
the force of their seasonal panic.

What stays on the throat is bitter.

My last sip from the iced can,
the kick of malt and hops shamed
the uselessness of my smile
when the orphaned child saw me,
malnourished flies staying on
his lips and digging for last words.

Squeezed lemons are not cliches.

Dance and Dunces

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”

— Shakespeare

 

As though the people deserve to suffer the ugly physicality of his unwanted existence or he’s a proud aging porn actor who can still perform, every time President Rody Duterte rudely presents himself to the public, I look at him from head to toe without missing the facial pores that always nag to be noticed and the patchy shape of his stomach that fails to fool even when concealed with a loose plaid shirt. When he cusses God or anyone who aggravates his paranoia, which a daily dose of Fentanyl can’t allay, there’s always this question in my head pestering me for an answer. I know the madness is there, but is there a method?

My initial inquiry shows that the President’s thick accent that prologues the coming out of his brutish words, the lewd unfolding of his middle finger, and his face capable of expressing the different forms of anger, from wimpy to seething, fit together like the instruments in the orchestra. I still have a lot of readings to do to understand the man who courts loathing and pursues censure. I suspect, however, that to demystify him, I have to examine his rowdy sycophants online who idolize him like a deity, rockstar, and hero merged in a septuagenarian body and mind—prone to erectile dysfunction and dementia.

My honesty condescending, I’m sympathetic to Esther Margaux Uson, who is widely known as Mocha although she’s as pale white as an albino suffering from breath-stopping constipation. She’s the china doll of Duterte supporters, and they know the drill that dolls do come a dime a dozen without brains. She’s no exception, but her fans don’t care. Maybe she’s really good at bloodletting and turning the knobs of a microscope since she has a medical laboratory diploma from UST, but politics as an intellectual vocation is a field for thinkers who know the difference between a school of thought and a school of fish.

Uson’s skills in public relations are truly exemplary. They should be the reception protocol for hotel guest service representatives to mimic if they want to be likable. She can post the sound of her phlegm, and she’ll get a thousand likes on Facebook. She’s that good, too good, in fact, that her fawners are always mentally ready to accept her cough as a piece of poetry. Her most effective political strategy is to have no strategy at all—flipping her hair like it’s a profound philosophy taught in a university and showing her teeth like she’s ready to quote some philosopher but can’t pronounce his foreign name.

I can also understand if RJ Nieto of Thinking Pinoy doesn’t know the concepts like clinical importance and statistical significance in drug trials. He majored in Math but didn’t finish it, and his institute didn’t offer clinical pharmacology and forensic pathology as electives. He’s trying to discredit the whole of Dengvaxia as if it has no use in medical science. It seems to redefine thinking as feeling is also his goal. That’s how confident he is, although I suspect his knowledge of efficacy and effectiveness as defined and used by clinicians is almost nil. To him, his emotions are enough, and rationality can go to hell.

Regarding highly specialized sciences like medicine, my rule of thumb is always to leave them to experts, who extensively study and practice them day in and day out. I’ll give it to Nieto though when it comes to gossips. He juices them up better than Boy Abunda, drops hints better than Lolit Solis, and spews saliva better than Cristy Fermin. He can make up a nasty story about a menopausal woman getting pregnant or giving birth to a catfish, and still his readers will swallow it whole and buttered with no question asked. The most amazing part is that he calls it journalism. TMZ should hire him—simply, world-class.

Sass Sasot is a different kind of social media animal. Her blog “For the Motherland” is her zoo. It’s a one-woman show for the sixteen million credulous Filipinos who appreciate baloney, bunkum, and balderdash rolled into one, her mind. What’s baffling about her is that she recognizes herself as a scholar. I guess she’s the new definition of that word revered in the academe. She has two diplomacy-related degrees from Leiden University, which she mentions as often as she slants her mouth, but they fail to impress many, including those high school senior students I know who think reading her is more than a chore.

To other Filipinos who hate the drag, sameness, and stupidity of telenovelas, Sasot is an alternative entertainment. Logicians love her mastery over the use of fallacies. She can stitch a dozen in one statement. That’s a talent. Historians admire her innovative treatment and reading of history. It’s way below, from Ryan Agoncillo’s noontime show. Creative writers, too, adore her prose. Hers is a good sample of bad writing that’s readily available. I find it rather noble, showing the people how irrationality, insipidity, or mediocrity looks like. Certainly, she’s a curious study—someone who can cause migraines.

Considering Sasot’s credentials she displays like how one labels leftover food before freezing, in big bold letters, I want to expect effortless brilliance from her. If that’s as impossible as riding a unicorn or befriending a Martian, then the shallowest intellectual depth is fine. I sometimes ask what the Philippine social media will be like if she suddenly becomes a genius who revisits her prose, throws away her spit-stained thesaurus, corrects her embarrassing fallacies, and deletes her incoherent rants. Perhaps her incompetent editors won’t be happy. It’s not because they’ll miss her, but unemployment is just not pretty.

Of course, Sasot intellectually evolving is a brain fart, the wishful thinking of my fertile mind. She needs to stay dumb to remain relevant among her readers who consider her grammar so impeccable that she should revise Strunk and White, her supporters who think ad hominem is the key to wisdom, and her defenders who are used to her incoherence that’s babysitting music to them. For cohesion, she can’t go astray in the orchestra of dummies. In order for the mental choreography to work also, the three dunces, Uson, Nieto, and Sasot, must dance to the same beat—a method, indeed, in their madness, like Duterte’s.