Auditory Cortex / April 2018 (Issue 39)

Tiempo Muerto

by Rae Rival

Fifteen days of work for a thousand
during boom of harvest.
Fifteen days of work for a hundred
during tigkiriwi—crisis period.

Nanay Lani takes home two
twenty peso bills and a pocket-sized
paper bearing a list of borrowed rice,
noodles, soap, and canned food
from the landlord's sari-sari store.

During kabyaw—milling season,
Nanay Lani takes home a thousand
for selling sugarcanes in bulks.
Night watchers and grass cutters
are non-productive so they are paid
two hundred to five hundred every
fifteen days during tiempo muerto
dead season.

 First Prize Winner:
"Tiempo Muerto" by Rae Rival (Philippines)

Lian-Hee Wee's commentary: Hearing and reading this poem takes one into the rural settings of the Philippines where one is reminded of the idyllic agricultural past that is buffeted by colonizing powers of Spain and the United States that bring in the woes of economic struggles and the mix of culture and religion. The poet wove seamlessly translations of key terms that are in themselves a part of the poem so that those not familiar with the Philippines hear and feel the language while not being alienated by it. The poem makes no call for action, but incisively presents through the poet’s experience and observation aspects of Filipino lives that triggers reflections, not only on how one views the Philippines but also so much of the Asian experience might not be different. Whatever you think the sari-sari store is, was there not one in your memory that would hold the same, yet different, stories? [Read other Auditory Cortex poems.]
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