An Oral History Project

1 March 2018

(A tribute to martial law victims in Samar)

Transitions are tricky to handle.
If only a few days after were merely a habit
in storytelling to render the plot more credible.
So that what came first could be understood
as requisite for another to occur. As such, horrifying
stories are easier to make sense of. As when you’re told
by a midlife woman of her story, who at nine
witnessed her parents’ ordeal from a tight sack
into which she was sealed, an inch of the straw weave
she holed out to see how bodies she had known
her young life could die grotesquely, slowly,
apart from the real life she lived in, while suspended
from a tree she had climbed, more times than she could count,
its canopy the flourish of her childhood, her mother
assured of the growing strength in her legs.
Who could tell how days were to be different?
As that day that began with the usual early sunrise
for the meal that brought them around a table
soon to be the site to their torment. The nearing
raucous of men in search of those who sympathize
with ideas sturdier than their guns filled the house
and hours after, cluttered the implements of home.

By midday, stripped naked of her clothes, her mother
had walked around in a circle of madness, forced
to confess to a treason that in their daily hunger
she barely understood, not an inch of her skin
left unscathed. Her abdomen ripped open
when they could no longer take hold of her flesh.
Her blood streaming into unyielding fields.
Her father fainted after hours of beating, a toe severed
from too much pounding of a rifle butt. In between
the wailing were bodies crossing a threshold.

The sun rose with her still in the air, a fruit too heavy
of its own sap, a knowing she would have exchanged
for anything to go back to those days when the hours
faded without fear. When she didn’t have to say
a few days after to tell the story of her life,
when fleeting forgetfulness could be the only reprieve
of years ahead. But such was to be the plot of her story
as with those others she has soon come to learn,
who had hung from a tree, impaled, or maimed.

Of too much pain, one survives
by taking it in parts. So a few days after is easier
on the tongue as it is on the mind. For how
lives could be told as they unfold, ravaged
before our eyes. They are the kindest words
to stall what could pass off as history,
chronicled now behind this lens to discern
how darkness unhinges, in between the sun
setting and rising, in between breathing,
in the flesh ripping apart, in the minds losing
what it could hold, numbed into
what it could wake up to
a few days after

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