Midnight Shifts

Our cigarettes become aborted babies
in an ashen, glassy womb.  The TV

Newscaster talks to our napes
about the latest developments in eastern

Europe and the rest of the warring
civilized world.  Our ears

Are keen to every slap
of playing cards.  Our eyes are sharp

But see nothing beyond
the moving curtain of smog

Around us.  Mosquitoes have
their own ways of passing

Time while fulfilling their urges
as we keep the itch

That they leave,
tiny bulges that won’t

Turn into babies.


This was written in June 1990 and was published in the May 1991 issue of The Asian Literary Journal.  I wonder what my friends who live in eastern Europe think of this.  The accompanying painting is by Van Gogh.  He didn’t know I was going to use it.  But I suppose this is his way of reaching back from the grave.  (Canned laughter please)

About matangmanok

Jim Pascual Agustin writes and translates poetry. Sometimes he tries his hand at essays and stories. In 2011 the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House in Manila released BAHA-BAHAGDANG KARUPUKAN (poems in Filipino) and ALIEN TO ANY SKIN (poems in English). The same publisher released his most recent poetry collections SOUND BEFORE WATER and KALMOT NG PUSA SA TAGILIRAN. In 2015 a new poetry collection in English, A THOUSAND EYES was released. His first collection of short stories in Filipino, SANGA SA BASANG LUPA, was released in 2016. UK publisher The Onslaught Press launches his latest poetry collection, WINGS OF SMOKE, worldwide in February 2017. View all posts by matangmanok

23 responses to “Midnight Shifts

  • christiankane

    Nicely written. Generally social awareness pieces come out like artistic schlock, but this worked very well.

  • matangmanok

    Thanks Christian. I hope you find enough interesting stuff in my little cave to visit again.


  • christiankane

    I’m sure I shall… the Van Gogh is a nice touch. Feel free to check in on my stuff at any time as well.

  • matangmanok

    Great. I have been to see some of your stuff. Will be back there hopefully another time to give you some feedback too.

  • Secretlee

    Hi again

    I didnt like this as much as some of your others. You know my tastes though.. I like the ones that roll smoothly off the tongue rather than the clippy way this one goes. That doesnt detract from the crystalline glitter that makes all your poems sparkle.

    I wish I was able to write the way you do. I have about two poems, both of which you’ve seen at one point or another, that I can say I’m proud of. I wonder how many of yours you are proud of? Must be in the hundreds at least…

    *breathes ‘bastard’ under her breath as she smiles and turns away*


    PS I saw Rexen has been to see Front Teeth! She wouldnt bother replying at all if she didnt think it worth the effort – so you must be good!!!

  • matangmanok


    Honestly, this isn’t one of my favourites either. But it’s here.

  • matangmanok

    Oh, you made me laugh with “bastard”!

  • Secretlee

    I know I know… I’m so funny. Glad to hear your laughter echo over the seas… ;-))

  • matangmanok

    Still laughing… 😛

    “Rexen” sounds like a pharmaceutical product (sorry, random thought), like the name of a cough syrup. Do you think she’ll (he’ll?) return to this little cave?

    About your “only two” poems – nothing’s stopping you from writing more, right? 🙂

  • Michael Raymond

    First time I’ve seen this one, I think. A treatise on the world going to hell in a handbasket while most of its inhabitants are preoccupied with the remnants of their last meal clinging to their shirt.

    “and the rest of the warring
    civilized world”

    — an absolutely brilliant juxtaposition of words.

  • Secretlee

    You’re slipping Jim.. She.., of course, will certainly be back at some point or another.. Try to remember that different people have different levels of obsessiveness. If yours is sitting at the keyboard plugging away so that you might create the poetry that you do… Others might be just.. going home and being a simple, but brilliant and beautiful.. farmgirl… think about it. Rexen… latex… its a little opposite.. now I’m rambling… I should go now…


    • matangmanok

      Secretlee (oooh you just want me to keep making the same mistake typing the RIGHT spelling),

      I have tons of notebooks back home – and some here – proof that I don’t just sit in front of the keyboard. 😛 har har har


  • rexen

    i do look here u know

  • ecko


    I like this piece. The metaphors just jump out at me. I especially enjoyed the visual (after I realized that I wasn’t looking at a reflection of myself before my first cup of coffee in the morning…lol)


    • matangmanok

      John Ecko,

      Actually that’s a portrait of me when I made a time warp jump by mistake. Vincent needed a model but couldn’t afford one. And at that time I still smoked. Gave me an ear for the two-hour pose. He works fast when he’s starving. 😛

      Ok, actually I gave him back the ear. I could’ve ended up with three ears on my next time warp jump back.

  • Secretlee

    *Note to self.. do not leave posts on forums when drunk…

  • matangmanok

    Note to self… ignore ramblings of drunks. Including self.

  • Secretlee

    You crack me up. hahahhahahhaah funny funny man. I dont think rexen is offended.. she knows me too well. You are so funny…

    Its great to hear ecko say something nice about this piece. It deserves someone to be nice to it. The poem makes me think of it, as the kid at school who always gets teased. This poem is the runt of your litter… maybe you should dig up some of those old manuscripts, send them to me for typing and collating? I’d love to learn how to speak your language.

    And yes. All I ever want out of life is to see you make repeated, consistent and annoying typos. So I guess that means I’m successful.

    See you soon. Still laughing.

  • angifarmgirl

    So where is everyone?????

  • matangmanok

    Hi there. Haven’t heard from her for a while, but our common friend in the US got to speak to her over the phone (remember those gadgets? hahaha). He said Secretlee had a computer die on her.

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