stories

Outside the car the world becomes
so suddenly beautiful like it never was– the whore, the beggar,
the couple, the people, the environs– their pains, their dreams
and their sadness are images of life, affirmation of life.…”

 

by papa osmubal

 

 

1.
JULY 7, 2011: DAY MOM DIED

after Milosz’s “Song on the End of the World”;
for my late mother Adelaida Munoz Balajadia

The smell of salty sweat and pungent wasabi, petty childish
arguments of my two kids, heavy sighs, episodic clearing
of the throat and Sir Elton John’s voice inundate in the car:
The rain washed away the lemons and weeds
when the weight of the world weighed more than it should.

Outside the car, with no pretension, the world is being itself.
Silver summer clouds quietly rolling on lonely hills
but no one gives a damn except for a drunkard gazing blankly
at the burning sky, in the shade of a tree, in his own world.

A beggar sits on a hot sidewalk, old dailies and magazines
for a mat, folded straw hat for a fan, holding out a rusty can,
his adust face hoping for the day’s manna that doesn’t come.

A man strews cellophane candy wrappers and a cigarette butt
on the trail of a busy street sweeper, sweating it out for his job:
a dog chasing its own tail, endless drudgery, life’s irony.

Two teen whores in a corner giggle, pulling their skirts up
to advertise their ware, teasing a man whose shoulders
are hard as rock, tattooed, willing to rule and outlive everyone.

A couple is in a hot argument: the woman in tears, pounding
her bosom, pulling her hair, death oozing our from her eyes.
He did it again: he took the food out of his kids’ mouths
to pay for his mistress’s penthouse rents and make-ups.

Cell phone rings. It can wait until later. It rings again. A short ring.
And a long beep: “urgent, call us back.” And another ring:
“She is no more, did not quite make it to the nearest hospital.”

Tears blur my sight. Outside the car the world becomes
so suddenly beautiful like it never was– the whore, the beggar,
the couple, the people, the environs– their pains, their dreams
and their sadness are images of life, affirmation of life.

Outside the car, with no pretension, the world is being itself:
beautifying itself, defining itself, celebrating itself
in all possible ways it can and knows, while my tears drip
and the silver summer clouds quietly roll on lonely hills…
…when the weight of the world weighed more than it should.

.

2.
A BARD ON THE BUS (BK2)

This woman’s look is against creation, counter evolution: God
did not intend her to be this; Darwin holds no knowledge of her vanity.
Popes and scientists should declare fashion a sin, a transgression
to the law of nature: her scarf nearly strangled me when she sat down.
She said sorry which sounded more like a mocking chide than an apology.
I saw scorn in her eyes, disgust in her face, when she saw my greasy,
sweaty worker’s coat. It is the hottest of summer, her plush scarf
is against all reasons, mocking nature, its forces, its intentions.

Sundown, and the sun rays descend, touching the city landscape
like soft caressing hands. If this lady can give clear explanation to life,
I will wear thick make-ups and perfumes. If she can give meaning
to sundown and sunup, I will wear silk scarves in summers.

.

3.
ON A CRUISER EN ROUTE TO YANGSHUO (GUILIN), GUANGXI (BK2)

This is the great Li River whose winds are a splash of refreshing ice-cold summer lemon-tea, its currents are as primeval as the origin of time.

I put down my Langston Hughes book on the table in such same measured manner a priest would rest the Holy Writ at the tabernacle.

The waitress, half-asleep, half-awake, approaches, and speaks in soft friendly voice, “What do you want to drink, sir?”

She scratches her forehead, emphasizing the current state she’s in. I go with my rehearsed reply in tattered Mandarin, “Beer. Tsingtao, if you have.

One bottle.” She looks at me, pauses, thinks, and then leaves- there must be a puzzling question on her mind. Near the door one man is drowned in whatever he is reading, his book is a mirror that makes his soul visible.

In one corner, a man stares at a wall on which hangs a huge tribal painting- fisher folks who look more like rainbows in their clothes on their bamboo boats that aim at going to where man have never gone before. And this man’s sight, too, goes as far as where only dreams go, where rainbows are born or made.

Ah, who can rule this man who now doesn’t live where we live?

The River Li has a thousand faces- faces I know quite well, faces I might soon know, faces that I only have seen in my dreams. I always associate water to reminiscence and the future.

Up in the sky an airplane mutely whizzes by. I know it is going somewhere but whereat exactly shall remain a mystery- it just disappears from my sight as soon as it enters into thick silver summer clouds. A journey becomes sacred when the destination is mysterious.

An abrupt impatient gust of fresh wind suddenly dishevels my hair. Like a motherly hand it touches my cheeks. I lift my head, gaze around, and take a deep breath, amazed and overwhelmed like a baby taking its first taste of air- the air smells of salt, of unknown flowers, of poetry, of life.

,

4.
SALVADOR DALI

Twilight, and he sits under the fading shadow
of a huge tree, whispering: “Time is a piece of ice

slowly melting in the sun. Dripping like blood
from a serious wound that can not wait for healing,

it poses to be life’s most vicious nemesis. Time
is actually what we are in between birth and death.”

He whispers in the breeze, not expecting his words to land
in any ear, knowing there is not a single fertile soul around.

Originally published:
Issue Sixty-Four
July 2012

 


Papa Osmubal is a graduate student at the University of Macau, in Southern China, taking Master of Art in English Studies. His wife and children make his home an eternal spring. He has been anthologized in Synaptic Graffiti: Slam the Body Politik (Literature and Art on CD, Australia, 2004); Mitochondria: an Anthology of Rarities and Loose Ends (USA, 2004); and Honoring Fathers: An International Poetry Collection (University of the Philippines Press, 2005). His poems have appeared in various places, hardcopy and online, and several are forthcoming in The Golden Lantern, Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k), Word Riot, Leaf Press, The Taj Mahal Review, and others. More from Papa Osmubal can be found in the Vault of Smoke.

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