Jeffrey Javier is a graduate of Creative Writing program of the
University of the Philippines Mindanao. He lives in Davao City.
Face the heavy wooden door from the old house
to the direction of the rising sun and move on
from what is done and cannot be undone. Mirrors
must reflect the morning light and outdoor plants
—not the stubs of candles from last year's feasts,
the cardboard boxes filled with broken electronics
or the moss-worn garden statues, grey and ruined
by the incessant rains, these sad errors of saints,
the fear of what is new and terrifyingly unfamiliar.
There is no testing the future with one naked toe
into the cold measures of foreseeing. It all flows
and follows the path of the waxing crescent moon
the uncertain rise of curling smoke of an incense
burning as a bird calls on a starless night.
There is nothing wrong with following the customs
of your employers or following the magnetic stream
of their chi. Even if you do not have Chinese blood
there is no harm celebrating New Year in the middle
of February. After all, it is the month of red shirts
and red matted papers, all signed in glittery ink
for good luck and good love: gold for prosperity
and sweet scents for success. Orange citrus peels
and pineapple crown, chocolate coins, sticky
candies and stickier rice cake, all round fares
in the round wooden table for the red dragon
hungry and dancing around the bright sticky moon.
This is wind. This is northeast.
These stones sparkle underwater. This is a heavy door.
This is the weight of the past. This is the undulation
of bated breath before the black-red rooster crows.
This is a wheel of fortitude. These are copper coins.
This is a miniature fountain. This is gold. This is a pear.
This is the Buddha of Fortune with a dozen children
playing on the rolls of his belly. These are his fat arms.
This is water. This is the source of the drop. This is
a music box. This is an old photo. This is a good spot
for a koi pond. This is the weight of tomorrow. This is
the burden of the past in stones. This is a good home.
Notes on the Footnotes
The second reading is about kindness, as if the first was a failure, a defeat in the attempt to untangle the strings of balled chaos presented by the text, an indecent peek out of the window through the thin veiling of the curtain. If there was a crowding in information, it was then a delusion in the consumption.
This time it would be about benevolence, to know better, to greet the words as if to meet an old friend for the first time in a long while, to touch the shape of body taking form rather than to see it in a glimpse either for a moment or at the periphery.
I would like to say I had it from the start, that there are unseen folds that reveal new meanings like a flower blossoming or poorly made origami left open on the table. What was that man doing along the beach? Was that paragraph always been there? Who was she who avoided the rain when the city is the center of her being? her banal excuses? We either grow urbane with existence of doors, electric wires, and billboards, or become pastoral by naming the plants in a sprawling landscape, nothing in between the geopolitics of settings.
Who was to say I would be afraid of the large empty spaces the enlightened ones had taught me to appreciate? Who was to say I would be anxious of the appearance of asterisks and their annotations, as if this word here in the sentence is not enough, that there are hidden rivers in the valley, that there are still missing points in the argument. What are these pinpricked manifestations of the l'esprit de l'escalier?
The second reading would be to patronize, to linger, to loathe. This time it would say as if the wind behind the every curtain is a ghost.
Points of Contact
There is only folly in which we pretend to be the gods in our stories, the legends told in our bodies. Tattooed, mine is set on my back and his dead, laser-removed on his left arm. Like yours, it was once a dragon, he says. But all I see is a grave, a pink mound of ugliness under the light of the lamp.
Somewhere in another bed, a man is riddled with the symmetry of the sky and has twenty times more patterns on his skin as if it were a catalogue for t-shirt print designs. He says it is like going under the storm of needles, his being a rip in time stitched together under a sewing machine. Pain is the only thing that made sense to him.
Like sharp wind through rock-cliffs, he traces my spine and each peak of curve the heightening of desire. He bolts me up, touches my neck and I cling to him as I reach the summit of my lust. I reply the motions; his scar I avoid touching. This is the story of our hunt: two heralds of ruin, celestial in origin, harbingers of calamities, clawing at one another and biting each other's fiery tails. What are we playing?
If only he could see the golden calf that he is, I would have taken him away from the craggy foot of the mountain, away from the worshipping band and bonfire of dance. I would have brought the tablet from the top and prevent the inevitability of his doom. He will forget our conversations, of course. He will deny. I only take pleasure in the knowledge that in a rip of time, I was able to experience fully the glory of his giving hand.
Yours is alone, he repeats as he fingers the living ink-strokes, the points of pain remembered. Green-scaled and red-eyed, a renegade prince chasing a ball of fire—this is what I will ever be to him, an ancient legend to unravel, a riddle to be mystified. To him, I only cause the solar eclipse: ravenous and hungry.
He says I am his greed. And I swallow.
Thus, the story ends: he walking me out of the door. I say: I will call, even if we both know there is no coming back. The story of injury continues. Of the burning tales, there is no taming the internal flames of lonely beasts.
As players, we only play our parts. As in supplications, we only pray for the isolation of grace. The road slips into an empty dawn, and save for the charred rubbles of pursuits, everything settles quite. Down a corner, stiffness turns for the rising sun and I resume my walk to a pathless world in fire.
Four kings and a queen.
What a decent prospect
of a sweep winning
against three of a kind aces
I accidentally glanced
in another hand,
a full house of red
and black, complete
in the variety of flowers,
the suit brilliance of the sun
set against the sheen
of the glossy paper.
Years passed and we still play
the old game of chikicha
under the cool moon
and the warm wind swells
through the guava leaves.
Not exactly a different setup
from when we held games
under an old acacia tree
during hot afternoons
in front of our school building
in between classes way back
in our teenage years.
Gathered around a low table
with glasses half-full of rum
or half-empty of juice
what used to be wagers
of loose coins and ear flicking
we offer in exchange
are now stories revealed
little by little through syntax
of particular maladies
in our ageing bodies.
One has hypertension
that reddens his arms and face
on such gatherings like tonight.
Another has a fatty liver
he carefully checks
by not drinking too much.
One had suffered a mild stroke
that still send numbness
and pin-pricks on his left leg
while I complain the sharp pains
pressing on my right side,
maybe also a symptom
of a fat and failing liver.
What is at stake here
when we talk of ailments
instead of the dreams
we once valued like lucky stones
are the bargains of faith
and tender submission
to our mortality.
Year after brittle year
our deck of cards
grows old and thin
and the risk we bare
to the intimacy of company
changes in subtle play
of hand, banking
not anymore for gain
but for a deliverance
from the impending loss
of those we profess to love.
Back to Front.