Is the thing you first learn, twisting text,
Scrabbling words: A B.A.
Language and Literature
Student with a sure hand turning
The world quickly over, over
That semester I was inspecting the fallen
Cracked face and all the
While insisting on order on
Later you are in a cold room
Watching, world-wary sophomore,
Your country’s history dismantling
On TV, a documentary, how it was arranged
Into tricky poetry: Aguinaldo is not the hero
We were made to believe and keep
In our pockets, the precious face on five-peso bills
And they were not
Benevolent, only themselves: an empire
Expanding, but surely noble in trying
To glue back the world together
How they wanted.
At the turn of the last century,
An assembly of twenty houses.
Kafagway was discovered on a mountain
To be ten degrees cooler, igniting
In the heat-hating settlers’ heads, an idea:
Smooth the slopes with systems of streets,
Train trees to grow in grids, carve a city
On the mountain’s plain face, build a lake.
Commemorate the drowned. Name the creation
After the old village word for moss:
Begyiw. Open its arms
To benefactors and later, to summer
Vacationers who would take it, slowly
Apart again, like so many bachelors
Of arts. Later you leave,
Graduate, the room, mountain.
Later you are looking at the structures
Across an office window and the random
Punctuations of trees in between
So that the city is rambling on and on and on and on and on and
I still do not get it. You are ordering
The words. Be still.
Relax. What you are doing is normally starting: sorting your life through
The page. Later you will let yourself out and in
The world. For now, write
History. Make it
Scrambled and twisted like your country's.
Feel free. Only now there is a kid tearing
Open a book way after classes
And dreaming. He might be yours
In the future, which might be good. But this is getting ahead
When I build the golden city, I will begin first
by building a zoo. It will house lizards and monkeys
and other hairy creatures. Beside the zoo
will stand a shiny steel building. This will contain
all the city’s politicians. And beside it will rise
a chocolate factory to produce all the candy
sufficient to make the citizens happy all year round.
Of course there will be a park with grass,
where the artists will be allowed to frolic and make love.
Around this city I shall build a wall so high
anybody who will behold it would say it is so high.
But there will be only one gate to this city,
so you leave it the way you went in.
Outside the walls there is nothing. When a citizen dies
he does not necessarily leave the city,
because he can be reborn in another form.
Nothing ever crosses this gate. It is the law.
Now, in the middle of this city is a circular river.
It goes around and around infinitely that you wonder
what gives it force or movement.
But there is nothing really golden in this city
except for a golden phallus
locked away in a tower.
At the center of the circular river
is, of course, a naked woman.
She is fingering herself in a dignified way.
The golden phallus is shining.
She is calling for it.
The old sages always know what to say.
find life in what you mean and only then
will you find meaning in your life.
And always their pupils follow some path,
from point A to point X concentrating
on what they have learned. That before
you close your eyes, your arms
must rest on your lap. You must be perched
on something conspicuous like a tree stump
before you meditate and turn to living stone.
After a fierce battle with the usual forces
of darkness, there must be born a quiet,
a quickening of insight while tending
to the injured. And if nothing comes,
Unlearn what you have learned. Look
within to find what is beyond.
But sometimes the teacher survives
and the young one, once full of promise,
dies or surrenders, or just opts
to become some random ordinary baker.
With this, wisdom cascades into
a hundred futile things:
A lonely rock, a bird dipping into water
the early coming of rain, broken
swords and embers drifting,
the sound of a stream when there is nothing
around to listen to it. A tree stump,
on it a stone, a hermit hoping for some rogue
youth to stumble into the wilderness
with a long unspoken order of words
in his mind, the many children unaware
of what they could be afraid to learn,
about beginning and end, about the center.
--Rafael San Diego