Tag Archives: Alien to Any Skin

Three Now Alive on DEAD SNAKES

dead snakes logo

Most places that accept poetry often have a note that they only accept unpublished material. A lot of my poems in previous books would love to find new readers in other homes and so it is a joy to find places like DEAD SNAKES.

Three poems from ALIEN TO ANY SKIN just got accepted there. Please visit DEAD SNAKES and leave a comment to show your support.

Enjoy!

 

 


Versions Old, Revised,…Final?

moth wings blurred up

 

In January 2011 my two books were born: Baha-bahagdang Karupukan and Alien to Any Skin. I was elated to have those two books published (both by UST Publishing House) for it had been a long gap since the last collection (Salimbayan, 1994). Soon after I wrote the first draft of the following poem. This one eventually joined a new set of poems that would become Sound Before Water (UST Publishing House, 2013), a much slimmer volume than the previous two which contain poetry from over 15 years. In a forthcoming review of this new collection this poem gets mentioned for the oddity of its title. I am posting this version – the one that is now in the book, as if being in book form makes it final! – perhaps as an invitation to adopt my paper children and make room for them in a new home.

It pains me not to be in the same country where these paper children are born. All I can do from where I am is tell as many people online how much I wish and hope the best for them. I will post a link to the review once it is available. For now, I share this with you.

 

How to Sell a Child Door to Door
for Karu and Skin, my paper children

tell them this child has no parent
and can only bring joy
to its new home
bring light and promise
into the room
as it silently sits
in their hands

even as the world burns
outside the window

tell them everything
they want to hear
that might make them smile

anything just to get
this child’s little foot
in the door

do not bat an eyelid
should the child
gasp at fragments
of moth wings
by the kettle

no one invites sorrow
into their lives

-o-


My poem, “Glimpses,” a finalist at Goodreads.com

I was never the popular kid. At least my poems get noticed. Then again, after the judges have selected, this one becomes a popularity contest. Oh well… 🙂 Care to vote for this one?

Poll
100560

GOODREADS MARCH NEWSLETTER TOP FINALISTS’ POEMS — PLEASE SELECT ONE!

CLICK HERE TO READ THIS MONTH’S FINALISTS

* Voting is anonymous and choices are listed randomly.

Thanks, as always, to our judges, Meg Harris, Dan Simmons and Ruth Bavetta for selecting six finalists from this month’s group!


To Remember

anti-war protest rally in London image from wikipedia

To remember is an attempt to piece together what can never be one again. The time, the place, the scent of flesh once beating. Today marks the invasion of Iraq. It seems the rest of the world has forgotten.

The following poems appear in my book Alien to Any Skin (UST Publishing House, 2011). Should I thank GW Bush for writing them?

Just This One

Art. 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she
has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures
of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
The Fourth Geneva Convention

When someone says “Think about the bigger picture,”
I hide. My life has the legs of an ant. I find the resilience
of pebbles more inviting. They smooth themselves on riverbeds,
current rushing over their backs, pushing them to cling
with other pebbles or grains of sand pounded to near nothingness.

There are so many of them, too many to count. Each one
has something the others do not possess. Perhaps the thinnest streak
of brown, the sligthest indentation, the faintest crack.
Even when they are broken they are never the same. Caress
the jagged edge of this one with your index finger. Just this one.

July 2008
-o-

The Day the Dead Tree Fell

years of fear
have come to this

roots unearthed
longer than the arms of men
pointing skyward

the drone
of foreign planes

a hollow in the ground
deep enough
for a coffin

the silence
of loaded guns

all those fine veins
where something
used to flow

November 2008 – August 2010
-o-

Questions
for the leader of invading forces

When you put your shoes on this morning,
do you remember which foot came first?

Does someone tell you when your collar gets stuck inside your shirt?
Do you let that person touch you?

What colours make your eyes stop searching?
Are those the ones you like or the ones you hate?

How many people have you met that had an extra finger
and wasn’t shy about it?

Have you ever held a firefly in your palms?
Was it warm? Were you alone?

When you close your eyes,
whose face lingers?

What was the first word you learned to write?
Did you use a pencil or a crayon or a borrowed pen?

If you had a dog, would you name it
after the person who blew up your house?

Is there something on my forehead
that only you can read?

Can you tell if someone is lying
or just scared?

Will my name be on a piece of paper?
Spelled correctly?

August 2008
-o-

Going Retro: The Victorious Army of Gobbledygooks Penetrates the City

“Why do they hate us? We’re setting them free!”
A foot soldier

They were expecting
sweaty hugs and kisses
from dark veiled women
and their adoring children.

Ears cocked, they anticipated the struggle
of the local band in playing
their beloved anthem,
as if it were not foreign.

But only hollow,
sporadic shouting of men
who gathered from nowhere
welcomed the forces.

The army was laden
with a quick,
calculated victory,
craving for popular jubilation.

Instead, this caricature of a show
put on by these nowhere men.
Stick figures in the desert sun,
sure of only one thing:

Tear down the giant statue
designed originally
by a previous generation
of gobbledygooks.

This show had been triangulated
for the world to see
moment by breathless moment
on their most trusted TV.

And then what? An awkward silence
as the statue grates to a stop,
refusing to crash down. A monologue broken
by coughing in the background, off camera.

Days later when the local population
finally came out with their voices raised,
the victorious gobbledygooks felt
strangely welcome, unable to decipher

Joy and ecstasy from utter hatred.
It is only now with proper translation
years later that we have
a clear understanding of gang rape.

December 2008
-o-


Seven Poems at OUR OWN VOICE 42, March 2014

I never gave much thought about borders and national identities twenty years ago. It seemed pretty clear to me back then that where you were born defined who you are and how you viewed the rest of the world. It was a simple way of identifying who was “the enemy” and who was on your side. It was narrow-minded and simply wrong.

Now I see that the concept of nationality can and has been used by those in power to turn us into pawns against each other. It is no more than an idea that is easy to throw around because it is in our nature to recognize and accept more readily what is around us as the norm, and that what is outside of that limited experience is something to be wary of.

Yesterday I heard that dreaded word again in a news report: xenophobia. That discussion will have to wait another day. For now I would like to share some news.

I intend to share a number of poems over the course of this month (March 2014) as my way of celebrating the books that have been generously put out by various publishers through the years. Some days I may provide links to poetry published online and other days I will just post the poems here. I have my own personal reason for this. Maybe I’ll explain that at the end of the month.

The first installment comes out today. It is from an e-zine that features poetry from the “Filipino diaspora” – a concept which to me feels like a cousin of “nationality” to a certain extent. I am and I am not. The grains of sand between my toes do not have passports…

The poetry e-zine Our Own Voice has featured my work a second time. Four of the seven poems are from Sound Before Water, one (with an English translation) from Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran, and the last two are from manuscripts in progress. (NOTE: as of this writing there is a layout problem with the first poem, “Air from Another Moment,” which I hope could be fixed by the end of today.)

I encourage you to leave a comment on the e-zine’s website. Even to say how you hate my poems and why. 🙂

Our Own Voice March 2014


The announcement I nearly missed

It turns out that yesterday’s Cape Times where Karin Schimke reviewed my book, Sound Before Water, had a small announcement in their “Diary” section. I nearly missed it, then nearly choked when I was shown it:

Off the Wall Poetry announcement Copy of DSCF6716

I haven’t come up with a list yet of poems to read. I plan to mix old and new, perhaps even some translations. Or I could play with a theme, music or music-related. I might post some of the poems here if I have the time. Otherwise, please hope I don’t bore the audience into trying to drown themselves in the nearest wineglass.

If the audience survives, or even likes my work, they might have a chance to buy the handful of copies of SOUND BEFORE WATER that I plan to bring with me.


Finally, SOUND BEFORE WATER gets reviews

I am sure my dear publisher will be glad to know that there are keen readers out there for my work, both in my country of birth and perhaps in other parts of the world. I hope they hasten to put out digital versions of my books. You, my dear readers, can perhaps help by sending a friendly message to UST Publishing House via their Facebook page.

Two reviews of Sound Before Water came out. The first one, written by Rina Angela Corpus, is available online at GMA News. Today, in the Cape Times, literary editor Karin Schimke wrote this:

-o-

KARIN SCHIMKE'S REVIEW Copy of DSCF6709


My Middle Name is My Mother’s Surname. No, Her Father’s!

sol plaatje iii in my hands low res

I finally have in my hands my contributor’s copy of The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Volume III! Took some time due to the mysterious appearance of a black hole, but what matters is that it has arrived intact ahead of the Cape Town launch in early December.

silent wing low res

I feel lucky to be in this anthology despite sending my three poems in at the last minute. The poems, “Silent Wing,” “Human Patience,” and “Exit Music for the Disappeared,” are part of a nine-poem cycle called Endings are Beginnings which is the last section of my manuscript in progress, Sky for Silent Wings. I just wish my middle name – which is really my mother’s surname… no, wait, her father’s surname! – had not been left out altogether… well, not entirely. I see it in the biographical notes!

human patience and exit music for the disappeared low res

I’m not complaining, not at all. Just a niggle, really. 🙂

Thank you to Liesl Jobson and all the judges. Maybe next year I’ll be even luckier. Hahaha! Keep dreaming, Jim Pascual Agustin!

-o-

My country of birth is still reeling from the devastation of Haiyan/Yolanda. There is no forgetting how this tragedy has ruined so many lives. And yet human kindness and generosity shine through despite the petty politics of various parties (media, politicians, and individuals armed with keyboards). I am thankful for those who continue to help in countless ways the survivors, and all those who see beyond this catastrophe, those who seek new ways of lessening the blows of climate change. The human family can come together, I believe. This I say in a world where often there seems so little to believe in, to hope for. Yet we continue to surprise one another. We are never alone.

-o-


Neither Here nor There, but Definitely Somewhere

Sol Plaatje iii

Doors close, doors open.

I sent an entry very late for this prestigious South African poetry competition, the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award, but was lucky enough to be included in the “longlist” which means my poems now have a place in the anthology. They didn’t quite make it to the finals, let alone the “shortlist.” Hmmm… all these lists. 🙂

But who am I to complain? I’ve never gotten any award for my writing until this year with the DALRO. Before this, the only other claim to recognition I had was when my book, Baha-bahagdang Karupukan, was a finalist at the National Book Awards in the Philippines. I am always thankful for any chance to share my work with readers, and any recognition such as these are just extra ego boost. Something to make you feel better when there is so little else to be happy about.

The three poems in the anthology are rather new. They are part of a nine-poem cycle called “Endings are Beginnings” which is the closing section for one of the manuscripts I am still working on. My copy of the anthology hasn’t arrived, so this image is straight out of the Jacana website.

Congratulations to Kobus Moolman who won First Prize, and to Vonani Bila (editor for New Coin!) and Nedine Moonsamy who won Second and Third respectively!

Maybe next year I’ll get up one rung higher. hahahaha. Ever hopeful. 🙂  Then perhaps a book deal from a South African publisher… keep dreaming. I will have to keep on making noise then.


Paper, Water, Air, Alien Hands

My mother taught me how to make paper boats. Newspaper was not the best material to use, for water moves fast on its skin, further darkening the printed words. But newspaper was what I was allowed to fold and tear. What is a boat if it never runs on water? A round basin of water is no more than a cage. So making paper boats meant waiting for rain. Or setting your fragile boat on rushing open drains – water that spurted from neighborhood pipes, dragging bits of rice, fish bone, sometimes other stuff that I’d rather not mention. I was young and only what flowed mattered.

I never thought I’d be writing one day. My hands look like they were meant to do something else, hold a scythe or a hammer, tear down old buildings or mix cement. I have the hands of someone who might till the land. Yet I don’t. I write as if it was something like air for me. If I don’t write I know I am slowly dying – the kind that starts from inside, and no one else can see or sense until all limbs hang without a single beating vein.

jim with sbw smile 2

Now this. After more than a full month in various dark places (sorting boxes, airplane cargo bays, conveyor belts running through metal tunnels, etc) and being handled by strangers who may never hear of me or read a single word I write, the only copy in Africa (yes! the only one! for now!) of my new poetry book in English (the language of one of my former colonial masters) Sound Before Water felt young and weary when I finally held it in my hands yesterday. That sentence was intentionally long and tedious to reflect the journey. Or just to test the patience of the reader. 🙂

stella and other friendly ghosts low res

A very good friend, the poet Emmanuel Q. Velasco, sent Sound Before Water by post along with a copy of Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo’s book of essays, Stella and Other Friendly Ghosts and the various documents from the National Book Awards last year. I was thankful that my collection in Filipino was a finalist, but was also sad at the same time that the English collection was not even nominated.

My new book joins Alien to Any Skin and Baha-bahagdang Karupukan in their search for readers who might find my words on paper worth keeping. One more paper child is due to meet the world soon. We always hope for the best for our children.

close up of sbw and alien

Here is the Goodreads LINK to Sound Before Water.