Eighteen

In Diciotto anni doppo there was a brief scene where the two estranged brothers, Mirko and Genziano, were walking by the shore just when the dawn was about to break. They were on their way to Scilla, their final destination. The colors were just blue and black, and the palette was utterly striking and melancholic. It's the time of the day you spend with very special people. It made me wonder how the world could give off that color.

Broccoli vanishing

Gardens are a nice problem to have. Our plants can be unruly, but they are as clever as poems. I was able to shape the creeping rangoon like a shed. It consumed our clothesline - and it’s fine. It went all the way to the roof. When in bloom, its white-and-pink flowers smell wonderful at night. They smell like those expensive, garden-inspired Hermes perfumes. The shade the vines offer is thick - its leaves only lets in little light, dappled patterns in the afternoon, great with coffee and cigarettes. My wife and I sit under the leaves, marveling at the vines. When it rains the drops pass through layers and layers of leaves, and like tiny umbrellas they turn the drops into harmless needles. The sound of this tickles the ears. When people talk under the leaves felt like they were listening. If it had a mouth it could have been humming an indistinct song. Almost no one believed me when I said I subscribe to the idea that plants are sentient beings (I first read about this in The New Yorker): they may not be able to talk or whimper, but they can feel. I left an ube and a singkamas on the garden, only to see their flagella-like roots on cement branching out, looking for damp surfaces. Their tendrils, too, searched for light, and its lengths spanned as taller as I am. This afternoon I uprooted a malunggay tree that was felled by last week’s habagat. This was the second malunggay tree that was uprooted - the first was a lot smaller and more manageable. I feel sorry for the insects who called it home, but it was blocking our front door. This one had a thicker trunk, so I couldn’t manage to pull it off of the soil without snapping its branches by hand, one by one. There was something nice about playing tug of war with the earth. It was… oddly satisfying. I tossed the branches the empty lot next door, hurling them like javelins.

Bliss

Why do I find these women
enchanting? a philosopher
on risk-taking dying while taking risks.

a world-record freediver who dies diving
in deep sea, body never found.

The list could go on, probably.
I couldn't blame them.

Maybe it's the ultimate bliss:
dying

for what you believe in, doing
what pleases you?

if the freediver had a black box, would she say she wished
she didn't dive that summer day?

had the philosopher known she would drown
saving children, would she think it's worth the risk?

did they die wanting to go back in time, stomach squirming
in regret?

I didn't know my friend was tasked
to design the ICU unit

where she would die

had she known,
would she sketch those tiny little rooms

in between big rooms to act as buffer? would she install windows
to let light in to touch her face?

would she name the rooms the way
they named her?

Dirty sauce

I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries
- from Personal by Tony Hoagland (via Poetry Foundation)

Krungthonburi

These days when I'm away from my family for business, I feel really sad. I think of those missed days when my son goes to school, or when my wife cooks really good meals. Some days, I'm busy, but at night I think of them. I call them. It's a small sacrifice when you put this beside my Mom's. I think of people who have suffered way, way more than me and thought: I should be thankful I'm still here. I should be thankful I have these opportunities.

Jackdaw

Came across this blog while reading a Donald Barthelme interview (jackdaws were mentioned, and the built-in iOS dictionary didn't suffice). Wonderful explanation! I would love to sign up for a dictionary which could throw in anecdotes and lexical nuances and etymologies, all brilliantly and casually written.

My shoulder

Other than the occasional hunting trip or birthday, Sugrobov and Kolesnikov didn’t socialize much. But they were close, bound by the triumphs and anxieties of their work. Kolesnikov confided to Viktoria, “This is my second hand, my shoulder, this is a person whom I trust fully. God forbid, if something were to happen to me, this person won’t abandon you or the children.”
- from The Double Sting via New Yorker, such a thrilling read on widespread and systemic corruption in Russia

Hearses

Eventually every photograph is a photograph of a dead person. The camera is an idling hearse. 

Patrick Pound

Pranks

A kid - probably age 9 or 10 - called my office phone twice just now. The first call he was away from the phone, shouting 'I'm scared to talk to Tito Nato!' in Tagalog. There's the blare of children music - it's like a noisy toy was placed right next to the telephone? It almost scratched my eardrums. It's reminiscent of Crystal Castles' I Am Made of Chalk.

The next call, he asked if he could talk to Tito Nato. The same music - a children's rhyme? - was playing in the background. I said sorry, wrong number. He laughed and said, who's this, then? I slammed the phone and got back to fucking work. At 6.38 PM.

No dice

From Michael Robbins' You Haven't Texted Since Saturday:
I’m sorry
I brought a fitted sheet
to the beach. I’m sorry
I’m selfish and determined
to make the worst
of everything. I’m
sorry language is a ship
that goes down
while you’re building it.
I like how sincere it is. I like how it reads like an elegy - how it is an elegy to someone who has gone just recently. (To where? It doesn't matter where.) I thought the line cuts were just fluff, but maybe it hints at how impulsive and spontaneous the tone is, how energetic and mournful at times. It reads like someone is pacing back and forth, thinking of things while looking at the floor, at the ceiling, at odd angles. The poem isn't scared of dropping details, no matter how random. (I've been to Jay St - Metrotech, and it's a quaint station in Brooklyn.) I like how the protagonist searched Wikipedia on the practice behind Tibetan prayers, how it proved him wrong, and how he could never rectify himself. I also liked how this detail hinted at the protagonist's age - or maturity. Going back: the fact that he sends his prayers made me think the person who is being addressed in the poem has already died. I like how IL FUMO UCCIDE is smoking kills in Italian, how death looms within the poem. I like the color the phrase "dad's army jacket" adds to the poem: it's drab olive and brown, boyish, pixie cut. (I could go on: elfin, smoker, scribbler, fickle-minded.) I also like how random the apologies are - and how each compounds in weight and magnitude: from fitted sheet to selfishness to language. That's also my favorite line: "I'm sorry language is a ship that goes down while you're building it." It's how futile words become the moment you encapsulated ideas into words - and I assume the same logic applies to elegies. When I subscribe to my reading and go back to the title, the title is cast in a sarcastic light: you know why someone hasn't texted since Saturday. Or perhaps it's an attempt to make the life-changing trivial. Also towards the end the poem has taken a new tone, although I'm not sure how to put it: Spiritual? Calm? Or: redemptive. Or: exonerative.

Twins

It's been an hour since my son's toy started whirring and making airplane sounds in the background. Our conversation occasionally drowns it. We were driving by Teterboro airport. It was May, and it was raining. It's one of the scenes I want to relive again and again: the car was cruising over the Hackensack River, dark and sleepy. This was the last night we would spend in Ridgefield Park: we would haul the luggages at the back of the car, and we would stay three days in Edgewater, and leave for the airport. Weeks after we've arrived, my wife's brother asked: Haven't you thought of staying there and live with your family?

It's complicated: there was Trump's immigration policy. My sister is already a US Citizen, and I believe my mom is undergoing the same process towards citizenship. My Dad's next.

But there's also uncertainty: it's not easy to live in the US as a Filipino, most especially in the Trump era. I've been in New York five or six times in the last ten years, and I find the city wonderful, and even if I've developed a certain affinity towards the city it will always be foreign land to me. Being a tourist is different from being an immigrant. For one, there are things to be gained and lost: maybe a Paris Review subscription, once and for all; a bare-bones apartment; fresh figs. But what about my career?

To take root in a foreign place is to deal with an entirely different set of problems, and I'm positive that no matter how first-world those issues are, they will be just as complicated and taxing.