Poetry / May 2009 (Issue 7)

Four Poems

by Fatima Lim-Wilson

The Laboon, or The Wave that Eats People

"The Moken miraculously survived the tsunami because they knew it was coming."
--CBS correspondent, Bob Simon

When the waves first fled,
Tourists scampered
Toward the sudden shore,
Drawn to the wonder
Of starfish and seahorse
Roiling in the sand,
Caught in the frantic dance
Of the once submerged.
The Moken began to wail,
Setting off their own warning
System, waving to all
To run for the hills.
Not once did they throw
A backward glance
At their drifting boats.
Their forefathers'
Lore of terror had given them
The instinct of elephants.

The tremors still hundreds
Of miles away, were running
In their veins.

Dolphins, in frantic formation,
Fled. Cicadas tunneled
Their way back underground,
Leaving forests sepulchral
In silence. In the blue jeweled sky,
The littoral birds raised
An orchestrated ruckus.
Only the Moken heard
The birds' battling
Hours later, over the bodies
Of those strollers
Who had been searching
For the perfect shell, perfectly
Of what the Moken dreamed of
Years and years earlier:
The gathering swell
Of an upturned hell,
The juggernaut of waves.

Off the Island of Boracay

Upon the sky-tinged seas
Floats his home,
Boat of birth and burial.
His mother rocked him to life
In this bangka, she hummed
As he swung with the moon's
Summon of the waves.
If she threw him then
Upon the waters, he would
Have sought the womb
Warmth of ocean,
Dandled by the depths,
Clear-eyed and piscine.

As the bangka follows the wake
Of the sacred turtle, turning
With the compassed sun,
His father aims the crooked trident,
Just once. He laughs, waving,
Holding up for all to see,
The feast of a single
Puffer. As they share
Their palm-sized meal,
His grandfather reads
The weather in the welter
Of innards, in the intricate
Almanac of bones. All fishing
Is done for the day.
As for tomorrow,
The next morning's meal will find them,
Surrendering to the shudder of spear.
They have no word for 'worry.'
Or 'want.'

The Dance of the Childless Women

--Feast of Santa Clara
City of Obando, Bulacan Province

In Obando, the bees pulsate to the beat
Of the tubercular drums. Drunken, they drift,
Legs opulent with pollen
From one bloom's boudoir to another
Vandas, medinillas, gumamelas,
Ecstatic to the point of near paralysis.
I try to learn from them, how to swoon
Without surrendering the queen's command.

Of a heavy heart, frisson of shame,
Give me rhythm.

I let loose my cascade of hair,
Unfurl the folds of my skirt
So diaphanous, the rooster
Reels, falling off its swollen
Stump. Blessed by barrenness,
I float, heels sprouting speared
Wings. Let them gawk
The yapping neighbors
Who could only offer
Flimsy sympathy
And faded scapulars.

Mesmerized, they marvel
As I dance the debauchery
Of my desire, all the while
Smiling, for I am crushing
The severance
Of snakes, still slithering
Beneath my feet.

The marching band's
Pulse is a dirge.
Statues, stories tall,
Of saints crowd upon the flotilla,
Treading upon
Each other's capes. Escaping,
Offerings of blooms
Break off
Limp stems. My feet bleed
Upon the beheaded
Flowers, the engorged bees.

Séance with Salvacion Consuelo

--Feast of All Saints
Island of Capiz

You see, it began with the house.
Mother's sorrow seeped through the halls,
Snuffing candles. Smoke rose
In the shape of our absent father. And the floors
Were so cold, my feet could not help but float.
Behind the walls, it began,
The summons of whispers. At first,
Mouse-soft, then growing in insistence,
So many skeletons grinding their teeth,
Each with a story more frightening
Than the others. They taught me how
To make music with my bones,
Even as I sat, deathly still.
Hands tied behind me, my eyes bound
Like our sealed windows.

I sent out the tap-tap-tapping messages
Of a long dead brother: "Let Mother
Know I was always happy, and always
Eight years old, still wearing the sailor suit
She made, still skipping stones on a lake
As blue as the flowers rising suddenly
From our kitchen table now tilting
And reverberating with the rhythm
Of our shared nursery song."

News of my ghostly gift spread
And they came by the hundreds,
The always bereft, begging
For morsels from heaven. I fed them
With echoes of rollicking laughter
Spilling from the drowned,
The scrawled hearts' letters
Burning through
The mirrors of my upheld palms.

You ask, but how do I do it?
How do I fill the room with perfume,
Bird trills, the kiss of a cold breeze?
It is simple, really. I am one of them,
The dearly departed, ceaselessly
Searching, upturning
Memorials of stone.

But too mesmerized
With your own mourning,
None of you see
Through the ghostly veil
Of my flesh. None of you
Hear the cuckooing cacophony,
Of a broken mechanism:
This mockery of a heart.

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ISSN 1999-5032
All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.