Lost tea / June 2014 (Issue 24)

Pictures of the Floating World

by Jonel Abellanosa

If you
are the breadwinner, you
are jolted by its arrival roofs announce.  You
rush out, risking salted fish to fizz to embers,
kettle to hiss and spew coconut milk,
to unburden clotheslines.

Returning, you
see the snoring still sprawled.  You
drop your sartorial rage, your
whitened, sun-dried, wash-and-wear discontent,
hosiery of regret and innocence remembered
dull against the dream-burdened floor.

The wall's subfusk: The clock
saying schoolboys will arrive anytime like
exhausted runners in a four hundred-meter dash.

If you
are a researcher from the DENR, a semblance
of white noise jolts you.  You
look around for everybody.  You
save the files properly.  You
step out of the office to ease your
neck; light a cigarette to thaw
artificial cold swathing your
body like ague.

Outside, it has reached crescendo
connoting, based on experience, a near ending.
A thought interlude of something you,
trusting the morning, decided not to bring.

Looking at the plaza from the town hall, you
imagine underground clogs and blockages.

If you are an eight-year old, you
start to shiver, suck thumb as the other hand
keeps the garterless from falling.  You
are stuck in gray matter flowing, risen
like kundalini to hide your
shins but not from imagined moccasins.  You
have been wondering with what
to replace the shoelace you
lost – to ease the other hand.

Your partners in play wade among flotsam,
deaf to angry voices competing with
drowning trikes from Capiz windows.

Like entering satori, you smile, your
eyes trailing a yellow Volkswagen beetle
pushed among pushcarts of hot peanuts and tempura,
the owner smiling a wry thanksgiving
for bystanders' muscle.

If you
are a college student, disembarking the jeepney
at the terminal with great relief, you
take off your
polo, use it to wipe your
hair and body, forgetting you
put in its pocket the lotto tickets you
have to give to your
father at dinner.

If the three of
you are huddled hungry in a nipa hut,
you take turns protecting with
your hands or with one of the T-shirts —
the candleflame and the secret samadhi of plates.

If you
Are side dish of gossip, perhaps this cliché
is neither fiction nor poetry:
That you lost your job.  A year later, your
Freyja left, with your
twin Fauntleroys. It was only a matter of time,
neighbors said, before whatever — would drive you...


You smile in the candle's noetic light. You
clear the table: plastic plates, T-shirt, shorts
and underwear like islets. You
should have hours ago started working with
the plastic pitcher or dustpan.

But you
believe the arrived has the heart to also leave.
A longneck bottle of cheap rum, heavy on your
head like pieces of carenderia paper with your
signature kept among money in the till, makes you
believe in the Savior’s soliloquy: The spirit
is willing. Monotony seems to prolong, nay
encourage, what housewives would call
self-hypnosis, while you
lie spread-eagle under a tearful ceiling.   You
play oblivious to the risen with mind and soul
to wash whatever away or like eudaemon, to embrace.

If you are sleepless in your bower, you
open your
favorite book and listen to the poet
in a banquet of candlelight.

A cold finger traces your spine luring
centipedes from under your
skin: It isn’t the poet you

If your
husband and only child were found
three days after that infamous shipwreck
two years ago, this is your
third night in a friend’s cottage.
She was shocked to see you
a skeletal, monosyllabic paraphrase of the
incandescent plum glowing pink last year at your
kid sister's wedding

To bring yourself from bed to bamboo bench
in the veranda requires will and strength
And the world is
the sound of something steady
the wind’s vibraharp the leaves' ashram bells
the sound of nothing behind nothing — you

are jolted by the post glowering

see the garden's waggery of verdigris

"Poor savage, doubting that a river flows"
                                            —James Merrill

If you
are still listening, can you hear the Big Dipper's mandala?

Can you hear the mimosa
imitating the earth's heart chakra?

  • Editors' note: This poem was first published in The Philippines Free Press (January, 1998), which is now defunct.
Website © Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2007-2018
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All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.