Exodus to Zero

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By Benedict Parfan

Thus, there we are two years from now: migrants
in a cold land. It will take this early to pack a whole life
to a country never big enough. So let me begin
with the mayas whose wings are too small and frail

to cross the Pacific. Then the tricycles of Baliuag
whose sputter pulsate to your eardrums, the rails
along Algeciras whose trains are blocked by lives.
I will scoop the lapu-lapu, talakitok and matambaka

into this bowl of a poem in which they sound strange,
plant this page with the sanggumay, kamantigue
and gumamela, then take it to where all else can bloom
below warmth. I will contain the whole of Siquijor

in a city where all is in reverse pace with its clouds.
I will bring the Sunday morning veil of the old lady
whose breath is the scent of damp bark. Around
my neck will be the sampaguita, the history

of flowers it bloomed since my birth, its blatant
love affair with twirls of iron fences. I will not leave
behind the mongrels’ greetings to my waking,
the waking of Baguio’s pines in a blanket of fog,

the frogs’ croaking after every rain, and typhoons
that tame madmen to the sheds of Manila’s streets.
And I am just one of those who will leave, one of those
with their lifetimes to gather, to take with them

as much as they can into the luggage of memory
and promise of Home. So there we will be, lost
before the tulips and between skyscrapers. There
we will be, to shiver at the sight of snow. And there

we will be, with many belongings to move on with,
just to find ourselves standing by the empty
baggage carousel, checking if we missed anything,
knowing it can never find its way back on its own.

Montage Vol. 9 • February 2006