Despedida: Quezon City
My gentle, drunken friends, so kind to me,
my four bags, strained to the teeth, are now packed.
Check out how well I know your city. I'll prove it
by my goodbyes...To Grotto Mary
with birdshit brow, to boys of half-court flip-flop
runs, to checker game hustlers of Sikatuna,
to the single, slender ankle
dangled from the jeepney, to the skeltered
treble of KTV saloons, farewell. To this family
asleep in barrows, farewell. To the power brokers
yanking the lines, to the pauper with a fist
full of jasmine, to the hammer traveled
a thousand miles, to North Ave. bangups,
Quiapo ripoffs, and City Hall breakdowns.
To a taxi's backseat musk, you gave me
the smell of the sea come rushing a metropolis,
the smell of an ocean come to soak our children
to their bones, to skunky scotch, to Rock,
Jimmy, and Krip, to the makeshift shops
and tattered plastic signs, to tenth-floor
bureaucrats, How many afternoons
I put ice to my earlobes as a way
to stay the wicked heat. To the counterfeits
of winter, farewell. What have I learned?
Sometimes this city goes dark
for no apparent reason and you can know
nothing but the burnt hue of a stranger's skin
by candlelight. And when the electric
comes back you need nothing but nod
to one another as your only despedida. Goodbye
to the rot-toothed girl with bad math, clutching
a plastic sack of coins—my bags, little one,
are packed. To the EDSA skylines pried open
at 3am, to the illusion of falling giants,
to the felling of giants for real, to Jiggs
and Banjo, to you blue nag of a nun,
to all cabbie scams, gun in the front box,
loaded, goodbye, for now
And to the beer guzzlers of Xavierville
who dream in ska, my dreadful philosophers,
my punk rock sweethearts, please don't laugh
from the other half of the world if in a year
I'm still summoning you into the rooms
of Brooklyn, among dear poets there,
one by one, and my loved ones
of that island will know you—who are loved ones
of this island—and we'll fling rum to the floor
from our fingertips asking the god of cane
to bless us all with long life, sweet breath,
and the demons' blasé drums gone funky.
When calculus fails,
after all: poems.
I used to think you had to rise into the air
some 30,000 feet to behold the sum
of a city's light all at once. All I did
was step outside into the goblin dark
and see the bodies for myself.
Some might say we are bound
together because, every generation,
a monster with one or a million
eyes seems to come to try like hell
and take away our tongues.
But it's just us figuring out how to live
on what the floods entrust to us.
Case in point: I recognize the many ways
to say Good riddance in every city
and yard I've been. And I've had to learn
entire languages without ever actually
speaking. It's another consequence of love.
Everything I say is half broken
before it even leaves my mouth.
- Patrick Rosal (from The Collagist)