Poetry / December 2013 (Issue 22)

Two Poems

by Marjorie Evasco

In the Desert
The soul is greater than anything
You have ever lost.
—Bahauddin Valad, from The Drowned Book
Forty days since the vernal equinox,
A fierce firestorm blasted her garden down,
Blinding her eyes with the sear and scorch
Of desert dust. In the wake of its waste,
She pitches her tent, draws all the flaps down.

She sits on burnt ground, ashes
On her bare head, heart-empty, everything
Taken back. Here, now, the bitter wait begins.
Shoulders hunched in the pitch dark,
She listens for the whirlwind’s visitation.

Surely, it will come into this tent of grief,
Dragging all she has ever cherished, feared lost.
How will her soul withstand the vortex?
How resolve her heart zero to the bone?
  • Editors' note: This is the first time the English version of this poem is published. Its Vietnamese translation (by Nguyen Bao Chan) was published in the Vietnamese Writers' Association literary journal Tho.

It is Time to Come Home
for Leoncio Evasco, Jr. and Procopio Resabal
He has just paddled the banca out of Postan Gamay,
where the branches of the mangrove arch above the water
a temple of dark green silence.

                                  In his heart he keeps the oars quiet.

Delivered back to the light and sound of the world, he sees,
hears, wild emerald doves and orioles stir the river,
dipping their wings for a bath and sunning on a wire
strung across the breadth of Abatan.

                                                         It will soon be sunset.

He catches his breath at the shimmer of wings when the birds
shake droplets loose from their feathers. A light breeze passes
through the nipa fronds on the riverbank; fetches faint sounds
of a church bell calling the faithful to prayer.

                                                       It is time to come home.

As the sun slips behind Maribojoc mountains, he comes
to Bitoon, the deeper part of the river; stops for a chance
to hear the bell thrown long ago by the people of Malabago
to defy anger of shamans, priests, and greed of marauders.

                                     No one owns the bell but the river.

His friend, the wise healer of Toril, tells him the story
one starless night when he heard Lingganay Ugis
ringing. The young men in the river towns also heard it.
Many dived in to see for themselves the marvel.

                        The temple bell lies still on the riverbed.

At the mouth of Abatan children are hook-and-line fishing.
He calls to ask them if they were trying to catch Cogtong,
giant fish guarding the bell. They laugh and tell him: No, but
we’ve seen him flash huge red eyes, whip his very strong tail.

                                      The old bell-keeper is alive and well.

Website © Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2007-2018
ISSN 1999-5032
All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.