Two Poems by Ricardo M. de Ungria

31 October 2012

The two poems here are my most recent productions, written when I was winding up my commitments as bureaucrat and testing again the much-missed pool of ink for living lines and resonant images. My concerns here are countrified and rural, more natural and airier, and unwilling to prove anything to the world out there of social media.

‘Continuing Love’ and ‘A Kink of Burning’ were written for Agnes Locsin, who turned them into dance. The former was featured in her tribute to her mother Carmen some four years before her death in 2011. It was a mini biography of Mrs. Locsin as told to me by Agnes. The latter had a stanza translated into Filipino and also featured in her latest work ‘Dahon: Ikalawang Galaw’ (‘Leaf: Second Movement’) early this year. The poems are therefore about death and life and art and woman and creation, and the energies of natural elements around us that will outlive our shining human moments — themes that continue to fascinate me since I first started to write as a boy with a broken heart.

Continuing Love
Written for the Agnes Locsin dance A Love Story, in honour of Carmen D. Locsin

1.
From thick vines hung from trees
let go by hands,
from rocks by the banks
crammed with coiled springs for wet feet—
it is all wings and arcs 
cleaving wild air 
into the cool waters of Mintal river.
Loose planks bridge here 
to nowhere shakily.
Towers of unseen worlds rise, 
built tale upon tall tale.
From treetops where footraces ended, 
the earth is more than grass
and clods of dirt—instead, a wide bilao
of hills and mountains, rivers
and houses and trees trees trees!
The sky is more than a roof 
if you pry the branches apart.
God lives also in the trees,
and the leaves breathe with him.
No other school teaches that.

2.
Of all the fruits and flowers 
and fish and fowl
that take life from the land
and the waters and the air
from Mintal to Calinan
and beyond to Marilog,
and even to Silay and Iloilo,
none turns the day around quicker
to its point of lightness and heat 
than the sweetness without
husk or shoreline that is
human love.
Love the leap in the air
without shadows 
over walls and trees and craters
torn open by bombs.
Love the stroke of midnight and fire 
announcing orchids
ahead of bicycles and breasts. Love
keeps the hands of dreams warm
in all directions. Love 
the stillness that won’t stay still.
Or slip away 
like a ship in the night. Love 
be still. 
	
3.
Caught in their own melodies of growth
and yearnings, 
they move apart and out
to come into their own—
the living forms in the dance and the garden, 
and the children, marking time 
on a tightwire, eventually unheavened
under all kinds of weather
and sleep. Meanwhile,
they are flung open to receive
lessons pried out of the rock
of astonishments
and the words that pile up
without end
on the way to school and
later, work.

4.
The hues and slowburn of sweetness 
flush in one durian fruit;
the sure sail and dip of 
eagle wingtip, deadly swoop, 
and rip and tug of beak;
surge of fish and leap of cat; 
pull and push of root and treetop; 
burst of sap spiraling
inside trees and leaves and shells;
ebb and tiderush, rot of bones
and stars—
                  so too
in the flex and swing, 
bend, stretch, twist
to near cracking, slack and
spring and intimations of
the body pinned by pain
and drip of death, 
or wet with anguished joy,
lurk of hope, laughter shared
and emptiness. 
                         Surface
tensions bruised by beauty
brief. 
         Rippling.
                        Tingle 
in the soul between
measure and
                      release.

Here shall be space 
for spiriting forms 
of loss and love and longings
into their human likeness
and reach,
to teach the body
praise, prayer, possibility.
                     Come, speak 
the speech of the body,
and pass on the dance. 

5.
Harder on the heart is 
the going away than being gone.
Being gone has walked through walls
and changed the wine to water—and now
the wall can break itself down
to dust and spilled water
dry up without smoke.
Going away shrinks all windows and doors 
to the size of the unspoken.
A life gathers into a face before us, 
and starts to close its eyes.
In the dimming light 
we stand as on a jolt 
of tide-sucked sand,
our balance shifted, 
our own face flush with the breath
slipped out of the one becalmed.
Then, the one thing left to do, 
the only tender thing to do, 
beyond the anger and consent,
moving to its own secret music and
not made smaller by pain,
is to climb up God’s tree
and nibble on her breath, 
or get the broom and sweep
without thought
or excitation
the shadow rolled out
on the hospital floor 
tile by square 
white tile.

6.
God lives in trees and speaks 
the languages of winds,
shadows, light, laughter.
Always the birds bring in new seeds
and the waves new water—as if
they have not done that before, as if
they had not always done that 
as before, as if they were not here 
in the beginning after all. 
New buds flower, dry up, and drop
from their stems. Suddenly,
a big shadow is upon us, and in a snap
the truck moves on and light springs back
on old familiars.
Frisky little bodies plunge into the water 
and the waters receive them.
The work of memories and affections 
is the work of water, earth, and fire.
Were we where we were, 
or will we be where we’ll be?
A hand takes us, and we take the hand.
We feel the earth push back our feet, 
and we move on
to feed the birds, or watch
the goldfish breathe out ripples
on the surface of the dug-out pond.
A Kink of Burning

1.
Breath of wings. Sighing of lovers
lost to the winds. Sigh of the wind then. 
Breath unspoken. About to speak. 
No mouth to word dead loves,
                                    only—listen! 
A premonition taking wing 
                                           bigger than trees. 
Through spires of skylight
                                           —through treetops
—through bird tongues swimming on wakened leaves. 
The dead cling to music and the rains come. 
Breath on ears tingling. Supernal. Breath of dead loves.

2.
Water jets down bald mountains
and wraps the fevered earth with thick muddy blankets.

3.
Among the morning branches a kingfisher— 
Is it? Was it? On a leaf a butterfly 
Stunned by the wildest flowers 
Of faith and desire. Therefore: 
                                                 Feeling
is all that remains
at the back of the head when no one is looking.  
Weightless with lost names
And the fish-breath of solitudes.

4.
Forgetting, then, the last ablution.
Prayers drift past the blooming lotuses
Like ashes from some unsmothered fire
Groping for various shapes of desire.
A wild river flows up past trees still standing,
past words that have given up on words.

5.
A pair of long-parted lovers
recovered to each other’s attentions,
breathe a nakedness and a body 
to the moon in their minds. 
They find the fullness of longing
shot through with holes, 
and its emptiness filling up the scooping hands. 
Shorn of old obligations and allegiance 
that invaded romance not just once,
they lick each other’s thighs, nipples and breasts 
without the faithful words I love I love I love.
Themselves unmoving like roots 	
In each other’s arms, yet
Moving past names and renamings 
Of old resentments and judgments,
they cleave to each other without memory or hope, 
creating without god a sweetness 
inextinguishable and tender
the way a feather of fire holds on to fire
and takes wing, blazing with singing.




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