It’s not the bullet that makes you bolt, / but the very words /
emerging from the muzzle’s restraint / the classroom in disguise
February 14, 2020
Mga de-lumot na lagas
sa mahahabang manggas
malalim ang buntong
hiningang amoy kupas
Tumigil ang liksi ng mga batang nakatungo
sa kalilinis lang na maiitim na nguso
Palukso-lukso ang hintuturo sa gatilyo
pasayaw-sayaw ang galamay sa tindig ng braso
Kandado ang tingin
sa bawat pag-asa ng bayang pilit makinig
sa kalong ng monobloc tila pagtatapos
ngunit simula pa lamang ng paghihikahos
“symposium” “leadership seminar” “youth forum”
Para na rin, kuno,
sa inyong abilidad.
Sinasanay lang kayo, anila,
na hindi makiisa sa mga grupong
hindi gusto ni ina.
Sa operasyong saywar,
hindi bala ang kumakaripas
kundi mga salita
mula sa pugong ng nambubusal.
Balatkayo ng klase:
“community service” “NSTP” “requirement”
habang ang lahat ay nanginginig
sa lamig ng mga pangalan sa powerpoint.
Sa nagbabadyang hangin,
lalong hindi kumakalas.
Sa lamig ng gabi,
lalong nagdidikit ang katawan
Sa pagtulog naman
nakapikit nang bukas ang isang mata.
Mas malapit na raw sila
sa paghina ng tiktik
Ngunit may mga paghahanda:
hindi lang asin at dasal
ang dala-dalang sandata.
The moss clings to long sleeves.
The deepest heaves escape, exuding
stale breath between teeth.
The agile children stop, bow their heads,
they pause from the scrubbing of the black ends of barrels
Jumping to and fro, index fingers on the triggers,
the sleight of hands fidget and fuss, but the arms hold strong.
the sights they are locked in,
each and every young hope of the nation, forced to listen
to the creek of the monobloc as if a crowd at graduation,
but their destitute lives are only just beginning.
“Symposium” “Leadership Seminar” “Youth Forum”
For your, supposed
just making you accustomed, they say,
showing no sympathy for the other groups
for whom your mother shares no affinity
It’s not the bullet that makes you bolt,
but the very words
emerging from the muzzle’s restraint
the classroom in disguise,
“Community Service” “NSTP” “requirement”
while everyone listening is shivering
from the cold of names on each powerpoint.
In the strongest of winds,
the more the cohesive they’ve become
In the damp of night,
the more their bodies clump together.
Even in their sleep of no forever,
they close their eyes with one eye open.
They say they are closer now
to the written vow of the tik-tik.
But there’s preparation to be done.
It’s not just salt, and prayer
they’re holding, in their arms.
Note: Tik tik is the Filipino word for spy or a creature in the form of a birdlike human. It is similar to wakwak in common Filipino terms. Both are winged humans who search for victims at night. They hunger for flesh and blood, especially that of fetuses.