Poetry / July 2018 (Issue 40: Writing the Philippines)

The Language of Silence

by Vincen Gregory Yu

"Children displaced by the fighting in Marawi City play inside the temporary learning space at the central elementary school in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur." —Photo by Fernando Sepe Jr. for ABS-CBN News.

Nobody wrote prayers for dead cities,
so the children were quick to learn
the language of silence. Say nothing
when a tank rolls by. Say nothing
to the men in camouflage. Here a boy
perfects his pauses, sings through gestures
bearing little sense. The brevity of goodbye
rolled with the twirling hands of let go.
On cracked pavement, two girls, mirrors
of each other, cake their soles with grime,
begging the ground to keep them
from flying. Too late: Their wings,
luminous as the mosque's golden dome,
spread wide, and soon they are dancing
specks on an iceberg sky. The boy
opens his mouth in imitation
of a bomb's roar, but what he means
is the opposite of run. What he means
eludes utterance. Eyes fixed on the cold
vermilion moon, wishing for the swift
swish of flight, he crouches low
against a dented lamppost. Remain,
even when the nights are never sound,
rain pooling in muddy craters, umbrellas
and slippers collecting in potholes.
Soon the world will dismantle itself,
rid of syntax and syllables, territory
marked by measured sentences,
and there will be no one to build
fires, fetch water, whittle wood to spears.
Soon, the patter of running feet
on cobblestone, before the stillness,
heavy with the land's hushed desires,
and in that stillness, a new city,
smaller than an embryo, its cry
louder than the last monsoon.
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.