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YOU VODOOED ME WITH YOUR CHARMS

by Felix Fojas

 

You caught my heart unawares.

You hexed and vodooed  me

With your charms like a master

Sorceress from Haiti.

After capturing my soul

And sealing it inside a bottle,

You turned me into

A robot-lover and a mindless

Zombie that obeys your 

Every whim and fancy.

O where is that faith healer

And white magician

Who will unspell me

From your sweet sorcery?

 

Los Angeles

March 29, 2012

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                    By Felix Fojas

 

Every poet worth his salt has his own pet poetic theory, a kind of poetic bible or credo he swears and writes by. There is Eliot who claims that a poet must be conscious of his poetic roots and tradition, that whatever breakthroughs in craft and style he achieves, whatever school of poetry he establishes and propagates, whatever new panoramic vision he sees, he is capable of doing so because he is standing on the epic, marble shoulders of his predecessors. There is Donne and the metaphysical poets who rely on the poetic conceit of the extended metaphor and resort to antithetical ideas and images “yoked by violence together.” There are Mallarme, Baudelaire and the symbolists who transcend the literal and figurative levels of imagery and use images as a subtle symbol for some unexpressed abstract meaning.  There are the imagists led by Pound who create patterns of imagery and prosody based on sensory impressions that evoke a sense of both internal and external emotion or feeling at the expense of cold logic.

 

Subsequently, there is Rene Char and the surrealists who fish for luminous images from the dark, bottomless ocean of the subconscious. There are dissident poets like Sandburg and Neruda who raise a solitary voice in the wilderness of oppression to celebrate and champion the downtrodden and the wretched of the earth, thus specializing in the so-called genre of poetry with a social conscience. In stark contrast, there are avant garde poets who believe in art for art’s sake and regard craft and technique as the ultimate purpose of writing poetry. Instead of writing for the masses or the public at large, such eccentric bards write exclusively for themselves and perhaps grudgingly, for a small, elite audience of aesthetic gourmands who relish eating the caviar of a poem. At the other extreme, there is the English love poet Robert Graves who has elevated poetry to mysticism and staunchly believes that the only valid poem is a love poem which every poet must dedicate to a specific woman, a   flesh-and-blood muse with whom he is currently in love, and who secretly symbolizes the White Goddess, the eternal and sacred spiritual muse of poetry—the very same bard who claims that the only true test and proof of genuine poetry is if the poem at hand produces a frisson; that is,  if its makes the hair on the nape stand on ends or if one experiences a tingling sensation jackknifing down the spine. And, as a point of emphasis, if one were to count and write down the plethora of schools in the field of poetic criticism that have spawned from antiquity to our postmodern times—like classicism, formalism, structuralism and deconstruction—the list would go on ad infinitum.

 

Many years ago I wrote a theory of poetics entitled On the Shape of a Poem, which originally appeared in Likha, the literary journal of De La Salle University in the Philippines. That particular essay, of which I have lost all my personal copies, and which inclines towards a blend of the symbolist and imagist traditions, I now completely renounce, consign to oblivion, and have recycled from memory into this brand-new essay with a slightly revised title. Why? Only because through the passage of years I have consciously or unconsciously, fortunately of unfortunately, changed my articles of poetic faith. From my own personal standpoint, I now subscribe to all theories in general but no theory in particular. For I have finally realized that hitching my wagon to the star of a single school of poetry is akin to wearing an invisible straitjacket that would constrict both my vision and mode of poetic expression. As far as I am concerned poetry is a many-splendor thing, a polymorphous creature whose shapelessness cannot be captured and confined in the constricted cage of a single school and style of writing, and whose mysterious ontology can be traced back to unrecorded history itself in the oral tradition of myths and legends. Thus when John the mystic said, “In the beginning was the word…” he could have well uttered, “In the beginning was the poem…”

 

In terms of genres of poetry, I try my hand in whatever type I am comfortable with, perhaps with the exception of exotic forms like the haiku, tanka, epic, or the state-of-the art computer poetry known as cyber poetry which is chiefly textual and visual, making use of advanced computergraphic visual techniques and stereophonic sound effects. However, I have experimented on concrete poetry in which the text of a poem is arranged in such as way as to produce the shape of a real object, say an apple or a mountain, on a page. Here is an example of one of my concrete poems, which I was able to concretize with a little help from the poet-novelist Eric Gamalinda:

STONE

A

Grey cat

Curled into

A ball

Of

Granite Sleep

 

                                                                        (3)

Owing to the fact that I have traveled to many countries and have lived in some, and of late have been uprooted again and transplanted to America, my frequent sojourns have affected not only my body or diurnal clock but my poetic sensibility as well and have influenced me to compose poetry of place and alienation, such as:

O’HARE AIRPORT

 

The day opens doors to dark

Destinations as I fidget in

My seat, being a dumb peregrine

In this universe called America.

This airport, one of the world’s largest,

Oracles hurried footsteps which

Foretell arrivals and departures.

The electronic scanners are busy

Peeping through countless baggage

For ticking bombs or opium bags,

Without even sparing love-letters,

Divorce papers and suicide notes.

Like disembodied idioms, people

Float and flutter across this stage

Of escalators, conveyor belts and doors,

Leading to what aerodynamics of fate.

Every second a plane lands without fail,

Unloading its cargo of life, or

Takes off for some dark continent,

What aerial exigency of no return!

I walk outside to limber my stiff legs

And the cold wind suddenly slaps me.

Shall I smile and turn the other cheek?

                                             

 ORANGE GROVE ROAD

 

The very air in this place

Reeks of disinfectant

And is certified germ-free

Because in this city

Of gleaming skyscrapers

Cleanliness is an obsession.

Even the brown leaves,

As soon as they fall on this road,

Are systematically swept away

By a legion of street-sweepers.

Here it is frustrating not to find

A single fugitive cigarette-butt

Hiding in the grass.

And how can a litterbug survive

When the fine is fifty Singaporean

Dollars! Those two fat ladies

Jogging over there greet

Me with their pearly

Antiseptic smiles.

Personally I think

Dirty cities have more character.

As a silent protest, I will

Not wash for a whole week.

Afterwards, I’m sure,

A policeman wearing a spotless

Blue uniform will politely

Arrest me

For not keeping the city clean.

 

I am sure that my permanent relocation to America, and my daily exposure to its culture and the American brand of English, will have a tremendous impact on my future poetic efforts, for better or for worse, and conjure a subtle transformation in my soul—traces of which are already beginning to surface in my most recent poems. This overwhelming change will not only dictate the newfangled topics and themes I will dwell upon, but will surely affect the very core of my poetic vision; thanks to the accessibility of books, information, learning and a wide variety of exotic experiences in all departments of life that are available here in the United States. For one, listening to Americans speak plain, idiomatic English has made me more conscious of the language and its mind-boggling nuances and usage, which varies from region to region, perhaps from county to county. Just the other day, while sitting idly in front of Has Beans Café here in Chico, California, I overheard my friend, the country singer Ed Smith, greeting a long-lost friend, instead of the usual pleasantry, “Long time no see,” by saying: “What brings you to this snake of woods?,” an expression which I found so colorful and provocative.  Three days later, when I bumped into Ed again, I told him that I particularly liked his expression “the snake of wood.” Wide-eyed and dumbfounded, Ed, the handsome Marlboro Man look-alike, complete with a cowboy hat, promptly corrected me. “Man, you heard me wrong. I said ‘neck of woods’ and not ‘snake of woods.’” Then he pondered for a few moments and complemented my ignorance by saying: “But frankly speakin’, I like your version better, Felix. It…it sounds more poetic.” I just smiled at him sheepishly and realized that I must be prematurely going deaf. Or probably because I heard him with my somewhat defective left ear which got busted in a fight during my heyday as a brawler. Memento mori. This reminds me of the immortal English dramatist and poet Christopher Marlowe who got fatally stabbed in the eye, in a drunken brawl.

I am now a double agent in poetry. My allegiance and loyalty belongs to no one but my self. And in my poetic arsenal I use all kinds of weapon at my disposal, be it symbolism, imagism, surrealism or plain lyricism, to effect the alchemical process of transforming leaden words into gold, and of the subtle art of murdering language and nuances, only to resurrect and reconstruct them in a new form and meaning.  Moreover, I honestly believe that a poet must be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, lest the very act of specializing in and mastering a few, limited genres or forms of poetry strangle his peregrine soul. Moving on to the concept of themes, a poet, to be truly worth his salt, must be capable of digging for and discovering pure, original nuggets of insight on the widest range of possible themes and of inventing various ingenious, novel ways of expressing them in his own authentic voice if not style. Thus my own poetic repertoire ranges from love songs, as in the following,

 

 

ABSENT-MINDED BELOVED

 

She loves me,

She forgets me not.

She forgets me,

She loves me not.

And in the grey field

Of forgetfulness

She remembers,

And falls in love

With me again.

                                           

 A CHOICE OF FLAGS

 I want to unfurl

My heart to you with pride

And shake it in the wind

Like a crimson flag,

The true color

Of my unbridled passion.

Or would you rather

That I humbly raise

It in the limp air

Like a white flag,

Signaling that

I surrender my love

Unconditionally

To you and you alone.

                                             

  A LOVER’S LAMENT

 

 Love, I thought you were

A fairy-tale story

But you’ve turned out

To be a gothic nightmare.

 

BLACKHOLE

 

Here I swirl beyond

The event horizon,

Faster than the speed

Of light, sucked by this

Terrible vortex

That warps time and space,

Trapping all my

Energy and matter

In its intense

Gravitational field.

There is no escape

From this abyss—

Your heart’s black hole.

                                         

                                                 

BODY SCENTS

 

 How can I exorcise

Your everlasting scents

From the haunted house

Of my memory?

I have smelled paradise

In your lush armpits

And eternity’s flowers

Between your naked thighs.

Like the huge grey trunk

Of a lumbering hulk,

My prodigious nose

Has a long memory.

Gifted with clairvoyance,

It can even sniff

The color of your soul.

 

 CRYPTOGRAM

 

  Love is saying

What you do not mean,

And meaning what

You do not say.

None can decipher

This secret code,

Except blind lovers.

 

to the erotic, as in these x-rated verses,

 

 THE SECOND COMING

 

Like the High Priest Solomon

Once Again I Reverently

Entered her holy of holies

And offered the pure white

Lamb of my nakedness

Upon the altar of lust:

O her eyes fluttered,

O her body trembled,

As she anxiously awaited

The Second Coming!

                                               

 

 TOWER OF BABEL

 

 And when you took my tower

Between your moist, warm lips

While I anointed your perfumed altar

With my consecrated tongue,

I became totally speechless

And you were dumbstruck.

All we could utter were moans

And groans—a confusion of tongues,

The Babel-language of love.

 

   YOU

 

You are

the centerfold

of my

wettest dreams                                                     

 

to the economic, social, ecological, philosophical and even anthropological and personal themes:

                                   

THE GREAT PESO DEVALUATION

 

“A peso is a peso is a peso.”

That was true twenty years ago.

But in these days of the Big Lie

What can the shrinking peso buy?

Exactly three drops of gasoline,

Or the mouth-watering tail of a sardine,

One big shiny bottle of despair,

Or an overflowing ganta of fresh air.

Let us use the peso as confetti

To save on the Yellow pages, how witty!

Let us recycle the peso, brother,

Into rolls and rolls of toilet paper.

 

FAILED MESSIAH

 

Its tiny domed head was crowned

With flies when they found it at dawn,

Slumped in a throne of garbage

Amid spoiled rice, fish bones, condoms

And other stinking matter.

It was hurriedly wrapped in

A plastic bag, its survival

Cord tied around its neck like

A noose. Caked in blood, its fist-sized

Face was innocence itself

As it lay in the foetal pose

Of an eternal nightmare.

What could have been its bright fate

Had it not been forcibly fished

Out of the womb with the hook

Of a metal hanger? Perhaps

A sage or even the future

President of the Republic?

But he was just another

Failed messiah dropped by chance from

Heaven into a stable

Of trash. He was destined to save

The world but could not save himself.

 

GOD BLESS THE GREAT PIRANHA        

        

God bless the great piranha,

Leviathan of Greed

Whose gaping mouth

Is the Grand Canyon

Whose teeth of steel

Are nuclear warheads

An whose bottomless belly

Only takes in high-

Calorie delicacies:

Forests, rivers, lode-rich

Mountains, third world

Countries and entire continents.

Jonah’s nightmare

Proverbially suffers

From indigestion and

With the roaring spectacle

Of Niagara Falls,

Vomits rubber tires,

Plastic bottles and tons

And tons and tons of

Non-biodegradable trash.

The day will come when

This ravenous monster

With star-spangled eyes

And whose frame is striped

With red and white scales

Will gobble planet Earth

And float like a puffer fish

Till it is unceremoniously sucked

By a black hole in space,

A cosmic cesspool,

And lingers there forever

Lest it nibble the whole

Universe to the bone.

 

 BLINDERS

 

It’s good to wear a pair

Of blinders like a horse

As you gallop on

Life’s unpredictable road.

At least you won’t know

And worry about

What’s going to hit

You from the side

Or from behind.

All you have to watch

Out for is what’s coming

Straight towards you.

It’s good to wear a pair

Of  blinders like a horse.

It keeps you single-minded

And gives you a sense

Of confidence and purpose.

 

MACHO LIE

 

Among the Chaga tribesmen of east

Africa, it’s a dogma that adult

Males do not defecate. The menfolk

Propagate this preposterous tale

By telling the female of the species

That come initiation time, the anus

Of a man is plugged with a ritual

Stopper. And so the men have to move their

Bowels in utmost secrecy, the stiff

Price they have to pay for enforcing such

Taboo. Perhaps the men uphold this

Old tribal fiction to give themselves

A supernatural air and assert

Their superior sex. Being wiser,

The women subtly pretend to swallow

The macho lie, lest the warriors feel

Insecure and lose their will to fight

And their biological urge

To sire new members of the tribe.

           

TRAUMAS

 

I wear my traumas

With finesse

Like rose-wounds

On my soul’s frayed lapel,

Or akin to a peacock-proud

Anti-hero, his hairless

Chest bedecked with rows

And rows of gleaming

Medals of despair.

 

In poetry there are no sacred cows, not even the holy of holiest subjects or objects. In poetry there are no taboos, not even the most vulgar, despicable acts. All and sundry subjects matters are fair game to the poet-hunter. If I choose to deconstruct God and celebrate his death, or write about vulgar eschatological topics like releasing one’s undivine wind or malodorous afflatus, or the act of micturating, it’s nothing personal—it’s just art and pure poetic license, like in these verses :

 

GOD IS DEAD

 

 Today all the newspaper

Headlines are screaming

That God is dead, kaput!

 Nietzsche and his ilk

Will have a field day.

Based on sketchy

Reports, He expired

Last night, for lack

Of true believers, in

The charity ward

Of a public hospital.

This is truly earthshaking,

Considering He is

The only one among us

Who is supposed to be

Exempted from death

And all that hustle.

Yet the dark angel

Showed no mercy

And dragged him away.

This at least calls for

A joint press conference

From all religions

Lest they go bankrupt.

We must act quickly.

If its hard to sustain

One’s faith in God, it is

Harder to keep up

With one’s unbelief.

We must find another

God before the ground

Beneath our feet

Quakes, cracks open

And swallows us alive.

Now who should like

To replace the one and

Only God Almighty?

Any volunteer

From the audience?

                                               

THE ART OF THE FART

 

 Beyond the artsy fartsy,

Beyond the jolting fart

That blasts like a bassoon

Or trumpet, and is powerful

Enough to snuff out a candle

Or bore a gaping hole

In the seat of one’s pants…

There are square and round

Farts, gaseous nightmares

Of all shapes and sizes.

There is a checkered fart

 And farts of all colors and shades…

Last but not least,

There is the subtlest fart of them all

Issues forth not

From the fundament,

But from the parted supple

Cheeks of silence itself.

It is an enigmatic fart,

An epic fart with no

Beginning or end

Me thinks it is my soul farthing.

 

                                                           

 THE RITE OF PISSING

 

 Perform this sacred ritual

With utmost reverence

And in utter secrecy…

Unleash the great golden

Flood, your torrents of spring.

Whistle as you please a classic

Tune to drown out the hiss

 And warm puny ants and creepers

To embark upon a sudden

Diaspora elsewhere before

They drown like sinful tribes

In your epic waters…

Conclude your rite of passage

By shaking your sacred staff thrice…

Your mass of

Turning common water

Into fermented wine

Is complete. The divine

Drama ends. The great

Mystery of the ages

Is fulfilled. High priest, you sigh

A holy sigh of relief,

Amen.

 

A poet must even risk incarceration or face the firing squad and fight all forms of tyranny as my colleagues in the Philippine Literary Arts Council and I did during the height of the Marcos regime by fashioned poems into exploding Molotov cocktails which we hurled at the tyrant’s great stone face:


When this regime passes, O my people, let us not

Forget. A people is only as strong as its memory.

So memorialize our nightmare of one man who made

Us chaste by slow degrees…

Let his great Stone Face on our mountain gather moss

of his solitude.

Without witness, without sacrifice, let his Worship

Hang clear from our sky.

Let it be inviolate.

–Gemino H. Abad in When This Regime Passes

 

                                    …The poem wriggles

in my head like a fish in a bowl, its words

climbing up the rim to meet the light. Can this

be writ? Or is the mind a pyre pit? Somewhere

in the stacks of bony alphabet drying

in the sun is a rhyme for this destruction

and a meter to mark a tyrant’s abuse…

In the act of making the poem, the blood

of a thousand peasants glimmers like a flag,

and carcasses of heroes thicken with flies.

The poem must be writ in pain, then, in flesh

full of pain, with letters a tyrant cannot

abuse. Climate, terrain, tools, money in banks,

passports – the mercenaries must be covered

by, moving from age to age, fixing time bombs

to our rage – the poem must say that…

–Cirilo F. Bautista in Thoughts on an Assassination, Ten Years Hence

 

                                          …Will this country rebel

at the thought that its future

is to be carved

on top of a table?

Before each man

is paper cut in squares,

the geometry of mind

set by its corners…

 This is what high office teaches:

each act must be set in ink

lest it wither in memory

No words are allowed

to stab air or eardrum alone

Let pens do the stabbing

For cutting into the heart of paper

shall be the new manner of ruling.

A new style for a new world.

–Alfrredo Navarro Salanga in On the First Week of the    New Year

 

                              …The prophet has a conscience:

the science of conning

he has enjoyed

connubial bliss with.

For many years.

His tears

fall even as the future

unfolds with the utmost

odds of consideration.

Considering the nation

That’s something to be said.

The prophet was read

But never laid.

His words roosted of their own

Accord. His lord’s worth

Held on.

–Alfred A. Yuson in Prophet Scream

 

                                              …Pity is fiercely

all skin and bones

scorched

erasable

as the heart of cities

where graves are still

dug with spoons.

–Ricardo M. de Ungria in Stillives

 


What hypnotic suggestion is this

That would make Mesmer leap from his grave

When the state releases fairy-tales

As official statements to feed our

Imagination while our stomachs

Grumble for gossip of solid food?

What magic blue, what sleight-of-hand

That would put Houdini to shame

When a commission is conjured

To preside over dark séance

And probe a dream within a dream?

Enter star witness, an underwear,

While the rest are deaf, dumb and blind

Though soap opera unfolds at high noon

Right in front of snoring media men.

Where the only thing real: the smell of

Cordite, the trajectory of lead;

And on the tarmac: our hero dead!

–Felix P. Fojas in Anatomy of a Murder

 

     As I pointed out in my essay Poetry of Protest, Or Voices of Reality in Two Decades of Fantasy that appeared in the August 29, 1984 issue of WHO Magazine and which, shortly after, was forever banned from publishing by the late Philippine president and dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos:

 

Nowadays a poet has two and only two options, namely: to lock himself up in an ivory tower permanently and compose poems for an imaginary audience; or to be among flesh-and-blood people and write poems of protest against all forms of dictatorship and oppression. Only a poet without an iota of conscience can still write about picayune topics such as “romantic rhododendrons” and “swooning sunsets” amid poverty, violence and political uncertainty. A word of warning to all poets: a poet who cannot even speak to his own generation can never expect to communicate with future generations. A poet who is devoid of any sense of historical consciousness may as well dedicate all his impotent odes to the Muse of Oblivion. The time is now! History is unfolding before the poet’s very eyes.  He must choose whether to write beautiful lies or pen ugly truths. There is no middle ground. There is no happy compromise. The poet is deluding himself, if he expects to become immortal, by writing half-lies and half-truths.

     In this archipelago of anguish, in this land of stillborn sunsets, it is the duty of every poet who is worth his rhyme to forge each ode into a tracer bullet, each sonnet into an armalite rifle, and each epic poem into a battle-tested division of fighting men. Every line of poetry that is fired from the cannon of his mouth must be a screaming projectile of protest. Poets-at-arms unite, you have nothing to lose but your silence!

     The history of Philippine literature is replete with the reverberating voices of protest. Balagtas immortalized his protest against Spanish colonialism in Florante at Laura. Rizal’s Ultimo Adios sowed the seeds of nationalism in the hearts of thousands of Filipinos, many of who joined the revolutionary Katipunan movement. Severino Reyes, Juan Abad and other courageous Filipino playwrights, at the risk of paying stiff fines and serving long terms of imprisonment, wrote seditious plays during the Early American Occupation. In a more recent period Amado Hernandez fashioned barbed poems, which he hurled at a corrupt government backed up by American imperialism.

 

Two decades of fantasy have spawned their horrifying breed of werewolves and ghouls. A series of nightmarish scenarios were conjured, with the country as center stage: the Declaration of Martial Law, the Murder of Ninoy Aquino, the Great Peso Devaluation, and US$28 Billion Philippine Debt to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The worst is yet to come. Hence a poet cannot simply remain callous and indifferent to such harsh realities. His poems must mirror the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, if he is to become relevant to the evolution of his nation. He must follow the footsteps of his predecessors. He must write protest poems. He must crucify all dictators on the cross of infamy. What better way to condemn tyrants than to sentence them to oblivion thru protest poems? A poem is one of those few things on the printed page that have a staying power. A newspaper article loses its freshness the day after publication. A manifesto loses its potency d few hours after being read. But a poem, a poem has the magical property to leap across centuries and speak face-to-face with unborn generations.

 

In Latin America poets have successfully waged a war of attrition against dictatorial governments and U.S. imperialism. This praiseworthy tradition was spearheaded by Pablo Neruda, the Noble Prize winner form Chile, and Cesar Vallejo, Peru’s most famous poet. Today the number of protest poets in Latin America has quadrupled. Among the more distinguished names are Nicolas Guillen of Cuba, Gabriel Garcia Marquez of Columbia, Ernesto Cardenal of Nicaragua, Roque Dalton of El Salvador, Julio Cortazar of Argentina, and Carlos Fuentes of Mexico…

                                                         

The guerilla ranks of protest poets are growing day by day, while the stragglers of ivory tower poetry are deserting their besieged perimeters every second. After reading In Memoriam: A Tribute By Five Filipino Poets, thru the courtesy of the warrior-poet Cirilo Bautista who gave me a copy of this sheaf of poems, I have decided to try my hand at writing protest poems…

 

I also believe in brandishing poems like manifestos or placards to voice out my indignation over any controversy and issue under the sun, like in this poem in which I protested against what was a glaring case of racism upon reading a newspaper article which stated that the Federal Republic of Germany would embargo Philippine-made products if Filipinos don’t stop eating dog meat:

 

POEM IN PRAISE OF DOG-LOVING GERMANS

 

Herr Ubermensch, we have bad table manners,

That’s why we feast on our canine. We live

In a dog-eat-dog world, it’s sad to say,

Where hunger is the order of the day.

Herr Ubermensch, please do not embargo

The inferior goods that we sell to you;

If we cant get the money to buy hogs

We will truly starve and devour more dogs.

Herr Ubermensch, you’re such a flesh-eater

That you import our women as prime cuts.

Because their brown bodies are so tender,

They’re excellent sirloin in bed, mein herr.

Herr Ubermensch, we are third-world primates,

That’s why it is taboo to eat our pets,

But you who belong to the Master race

Have the kultur to roast men face to face.

Possessed with a sense of tumor and not just plain humor, so to speak, I am also fond of writing humorous and outrageously absurd poetry like the following..

 

CASUALTY RATE

 

All poets begin

On a white page

And most end up

Scrawling blank verse.

                     

 COPYCAT

 

One rainy night she

Accidentally slipped

On the banana peel

Of another writer’s

Imagination and died

Of internal hemorrhage:

The plagiarist.

 

CRAZY POET

 

One fine sunny day

While he was walking

Down the street in a daze

A brick of inspiration

Fell upon his head

And killed him instantly:

The crazy poet.

 

POETASTER

 

One hot afternoon

While crossing the highway he

Became the fatal victim

Of reckless imprudence

And was run over by

A cargo truck of cliché

 

LOVE SONG FOR MY TRASH CAN

 

Trash can of mine I love you:

Your vinyl lips so thin,

Smooth and red; your seductive

Gaping mouth, a warm abyss

With an insatiable

Passion for reams of crumpled

Hope scrawled with stillborn lines.

Trash can of mine I love you:

Paragon of openness

Whose supple, spacious breast is

A vanity museum

That flaunts like diamond tears

All my rubbish thoughts

And disposable feelings.

Muse of desperation who

Recycles visions and

Magnificent pyramids

Of rejection slips into

Crisp, blank, snow-white sheets of

Silence and shredded sighs.

 

or poems on ars poetica, or the craft of writing poetry itself, and those in praise of the Muse:

                                                         

ANTI-POEM

 

I say death to the poem:

Strangle all metaphors,

Electrocute all images,

Poison all rhymes,

Shoot all synechdoches,

Stab all allusions.

For heaven’s sake, stop being a poet

Just for once. Murder all nuances

That confound the reader

And beguile him to tread

A labyrinth of words;

For once, hide nothing from him,

Give him the gory head of a vision

On a bleeding platter

(It’s not your fault if he

Lacks a well-oiled heart).

Yes, give it to him straight

From the subconscious

Sans frills, sans artifice,

As visceral as possible—

Gash and gore—

The elemental gangrene of speech

Dripping with the smelly green

Pus of wisdom.

Shove it in his face:

Its eye sockets dark and deep,

Its caved-in nose;

A few molars missing,

Its cracked dome shining in the sun:

A sonnet’s grinning skull.

 

 CHAIN POEM

 

Handle this poem with care

And leave no sense unturned,

See what creeping nuances

Hide beneath each mossy word.

Touch the shape of its sound,

Hear the sound of its shape;

Make yourself truly worthy

To receive the poem’s blessing.

X, a young executive,

Read this poem recklessly and

Was struck down by lightning.

Y, a grass widow, crumpled

This poem for not rhyming

And was murdered in her sleep.

By now you know that this chain

Poem can cast a deadly curse.

Make seven copies and send

Posthaste to your enemies.

 

LOW PROFILE

 

It is a must

A poem should

Always keep

A low profile

Because nobody

Loves a loudmouth.

 

THE ART OF SAYING IT

 

The art of saying it

In a poem is not in

The manner of saying it,

Or what you want to say,

For poetry goes beyond

Mere artifice or skill,

Beyond meaning and sense.

The essence of a song

Is to be mute and silent,

Is to have exactly

Nothing to say and yet say

It in a grand way as if

You have something new to say.

 

 FEMME FATALE

Seduce her in your heart of hearts,

Embrace her in your dream of dreams,

Her presence is most palpable there.

But in this love-weary, forlorn world

Her nakedness is of pure air.

She is your ethereal muse

Whose strange fruit you cannot refuse.

Fathom the deeplessness of her eyes,

Swim in the ocean of her absence,

Prepare for a fatal encounter.

Succumb to her caressing voice

At the edge of a precipice

And clutch her cascading perfumed hair

Only to awaken and despair.

Decipher her hieroglyphic soul,

Unlock her inscrutable kiss.

Probe the eighth wonder of the world:

She has the body of a sphinx,

She flaunts a pair of angels’ wings,

She grows sharp talons on her feet,

She is every woman that you meet.

Unsheathe the mystery of her touch,

Unseal her sepulcher of silence:

She is the rose of intuition,

She is the fountainhead of art,

She is the altar of oblivion.

Her heart forever bleeds. She can feel

Your grief, she is your Achilles heel.

She visits you unexpectedly.

Behold her magnificence as she

Descends a ladder of rainbow.

She is the Eternal Virgin.

She is more than what you think she is:

Comforting mother, tragic mistress,

The root of your divine distress.

                                                         

POSTMODERN MUSE

 

The Muse of modern poetry

You and I will agree

Is a cheap Venus de Milo,

A blue plastic torso.

She has no arms and legs,

And crawls on her belly and begs;

O headless, heartless bitch

Who can’t scratch our poetic itch.

 

TELEGRAM

 

The Muse sends me

An urgent telegram

But I am often

Out of town or abroad

And it’s too late.

Inspiration doesn’t

Wait for someone

Who’s busy with

Other lesser matters.

Either you drop

Everything else

And heed her message

Or not at all.

How many songs

Have been lost this way?

Perhaps I should give

It full attention.

But I have other

Pressing obligations

And life must go on.

Perhaps I should buy

A cellular phone

And keep an open

Line to the Muse.

Art is a waiting game.

 

According to Aristotle it is a poet’s ability to wield metaphors that will make or break him, among hundreds of other esoteric poetic tools like axephalexis, bomphiologia, and synesthesia that are at his disposal. In the matter of saying things in a poetic manner, one must go by way of hints and subtlety and indirection, and using white-hot, incandescent language to create an epiphany or metaphysical orgasm on the part of poetry lovers.  It goes without saying that poetry is a manner of speaking in paradoxes, enigmas, and pure mystery. One has to reinvent language itself. One must avoid the direct, literal statement of prose, avoid clichés and worn-out phrases, expunge banal, commonplace images and recycle them into unique, provocative visions. One must hide the obvious, and express the inarticulate at the same time. Likewise, if the poet takes great effort and pain in crafting and birthing a poem–like an oyster injected with chemicals to produce the nacre of a cultured pearl–then the readers, too, must devote their precious time in prying loose the meaning of a poem with the crowbar of their imagination and understanding.

To quote the English poet C. Day Lewis in one of his poems:

The essence of poetry

Shall spring

In the not saying everything.

     Poetry is the simultaneous act of possessing the poem and being possessed by it. In the act of crafting a poem, I surrender to the spirit of the poem and allow it to possess me and to take whatever form and content it wishes. Only later in the act of revision, do I impose my modest knowledge of art and craft–consciously, rigorously, and with impunity. In terms of poetic voice, I cannot claim to own a single voice but speak in a multiplicity of reverberating voices. And in the act of writing poetry, I lose myself and discover my quintessence. I find a new dimension of enlightenment each time I create a poem and probe the darkest recesses of my soul. I write poetry with both a selfish, personal aim and a social motive. I write poetry to achieve spiritual enlightenment as well as to share my modest insights with my fellowmen. For one cannot receive wisdom and enlightenment without giving and sharing. Indeed, poetry is a magical, mystical act of losing one’s false identity and of discovering one’s true self and mirroring or reflecting the latter in the reader’s consciousness. It is therefore the immortality of the eternal moment or nirvana

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that I seek for, whether as a writer or as a reader of poetry, and not the kind of ridiculous romantic notion of immortality that most poets wish but only a minority achieve in absentia long after their physical extinction. As if, after their demise, they will still hover on our planet like an earthbound ghost, salivate like Pavlov’s poetic hounds, and enjoy the accolades showered upon them by future generations to laud their epic literary labors.

As a fitting conclusion, permit me to focus on a timely new poem in which I attempt to define my concept of immortality, and how, in the hellfire of poetic creation, both the poet and the poem emerge unscathed and evolve into measureless Eternity and into the unspeakable, unknowable shapelessness of the Supreme Being:

 

METAMORPHOSIS

 

As I write

This poem

The poem changes

Into something else

As I write

This poem

I change

Into someone else

Into more

Than myself

Into less

Than myself

Into more than

The poem

Into less

Than the poem

Into other

Than the poem

Into Eternity

Into God

The Poem

And I are

                                 — Chico, California

                                   July 10-14, 2001


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By Felix Fojas

(Originally appeared in Not Home, But Here: Writing from the Filipino Diaspora, edited

  by Luisa Igloria, Anvil Publishing Inc., Manila, 2003)

 

The first time I experienced the so-called Filipino diaspora and joined the exodus of my countrymen abroad in hot pursuit of that greenback goddess, the almighty American dollar, was in 1980. I was then Assistant Vice President and Creative Director of Atlas Promotions & Marketing Corporation, one of the top five advertising agencies in the Philippines that handled such plum accounts as PBM Steel, Baguio Cooking Oil and Tang Orange Juice, the latter a product of GenFoods, a giant multinational American consumer company.

It all happened unexpectedly. Call it fate, synchronicity, or serendipity. There I was occupying a high-paying executive post with no intention or inkling whatsoever that I would soon be working and relocating my whole family abroad. My ex-wife Lala had just graduated with honors from the Asian Institute of Management, the first woman to do so with the accolade of “Distinction,” in the premiere marketing academic institution in Asia, which was then and probably still is a man’s world, so to speak. At that time she was happily employed as hotshot product manager in the Beer Division of San Miguel Corporation.

Out of the blue one afternoon, I got a telephone call from Manuel “Manny” Reyes, a brod of mine from the Alpha Phi Beta Fraternity in the University of the Philippines and who was then connected with the local branch of an American multinational pharmaceutical company. Manny is my batch mate, batch ’66 to be exact, in the fraternity, meaning we were initiated together, and had to literally pass through a needle’s eye in the form of an Indian gauntlet—a row of about seventy to eighty fraternity lords or masters armed with clubs, iron pipes, chains and other crude weapons of torture—a rite of passage which separates the men from the boys, the final bloody climax to those long months of physical and psychological initiation. In fact Manny lost consciousness and almost died as an aftermath of the affair, which could have changed, had really Manny expired, the whole course of my destiny and deprived me of my baptism of fire as an expatriate executive.

“How is Public Enemy Number One, my dear brod from Cavite?” Manny said jokingly on the phone, alluding to my reputation as a troublemaker and “rumble starter” during our rowdy college days in U.P., and referring to me as a pale shade of the notorious Leonardo Manecio, alias Nardong Putik, the Robinhood-like bandit chieftain and overlord of crime in my province of Cavite, who had earned himself the vaunted reputation as Public Enemy Number One in the entire Philippines from the early 1950s to that fateful day in October of 1973 when Nardong Putik was turned into a human sieve by a hail of machinegun fire from an ambush set up by the Philippine Constabulary forces in Bacoor, Cavite.  To make a long story short, Brod Manny Reyes asked me if I were interested in working abroad as an advertising cum product manager of a large American pharmaceutical company. “Since Indonesia is considered a hardship post, the perks, among others, include a hefty salary in U.S. dollars, one-month all-expenses-paid annual vacation for your entire family, a company-paid education for your children at the American International School in Jakarta, a house of your choice in the plushiest residential district in Jakarta, a comprehensive medical, dental and accident insurance for your whole brood, a chauffeur-driven company executive car, two company-provided housemaids and a gardener,” Manny said to entice me to apply for the position. “Well, are you interested, Felix?” “Frankly, I have to consult my wife on the matter,” I confessed. “I may have

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been a fraternity front-liner during our many fraternity rumbles and brawls but I have now evolved into a full-fledged under-the-saya husband,” I added with humor. “Okay by me,” Manny answered. “But if your decision is affirmative, call me within the week and give me a copy of your resume so I can forward it to our head office in New York. Good luck, brod.” “Thanks for the tip, Manny. I really appreciate it. I’ll talk to my better half, ASAP!”

At first my wife and I were a bit apprehensive to try our luck abroad. Both of us were occupying high-paying executive jobs. Then there was the hustle of relocating and uprooting the entire family from its familiar surroundings to an entirely unknown territory, a terra incognita. And to further compound the problem we had just bought a brand-new house. Finally, after weighing all the pros and cons, my wife and I decided to go for the exotic odyssey, the adventure abroad, and that I should apply for the post at once, hardship or not. Later I found out that there were over two hundred applicants from the Philippines for the same position, which was advertised in a leading daily in Manila. It was through sheer luck that I became the chosen one, the anointed son of my soon-to-be stepfather of a multinational corporation. Perhaps the greatest hurdle we had to surmount was the looming reality that my wife had to accept her new role as a housewife from that of a promising young executive. So it was Jakarta or bust. Anyway, we reasoned at that time that if we don’t find our new lives fulfilling enough, I have the option to quit in two years time and we can easily fly back home and work in Manila.

And so we went through the minor trauma of packing our things and closing down the new house in Pilar Village, in Alabang, Muntinlupa City. Of course our major trauma consisted of leaving our beloved relatives and close friends behind, and of saying goodbye to my multi-millionaire boss in the Philippines, Mr. Edward Tan–now one of the main owners of Channel 5 TV Station in the Philippines–who was like a big brother to me, as well as my colleagues in Atlas Promotions. Unfortunately we did not find anybody that was interested in renting our house, given the short notice. But the compensating factor, which the whole family relished, was the privilege of staying, again at company expense, at the Manila Mandarin Hotel for a month and a half prior to our relocation in Indonesia as part of my employment package.

We had a culture shock the moment we arrived in Jakarta. The company billeted us in a hotel condominium in the heart of the city for three months, up until we found our dream home–a brand-new two story, five bedroom house in the plush Simpruk Dua area, fronting the house of four-star army general Susanto, a close associate of former Indonesian President Suharto. At that time very few people spoke English in that part of the world and we managed to survive by communicating in a comical and ridiculous combination of grunts, sign language and pantomime. We really found it exasperating to spend an eternity communicating to the maid before she understood the simple request that we need our clothes pressed, or to the driver before he deciphered the message that he has to go to the grocery urgently because we just run out of something as ordinary and innocuous as shoe polish. It was not just a plain and simple case of communication gap but an awesome language barrier that could be measured in light-years, which my wife and I referred to with sardonic humor as a “community gap”. But soon enough the awesome linguistic void, the black hole in space, would be reduced to a mere pinhole. For within three months my wife and children were speaking Bahasa

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Indonesia like genuine natives. Being a slow learner, it took me about six months to speak the language fairly proficiently, in spite of the fact that my company hired a professional tutor to teach me the aforementioned tongue. Perhaps what retarded my linguistic competence in that exotic Malay language was that most people in our office, being a multinational company, spoke passable English. To my surprise, too, given a few months, I noticed that all my three children spoke with a distinctly American nasal twang or accent, courtesy of their American teachers at the Jakarta International School.

Barely three days after landing in Jakarta, it was crisis time for me. On that fine sunny morning, as I was about to board my car in the condominium parking lot, I noticed that its front bumper and hood lay crumpled like an oversized accordion as if my car had just been deliberately stomped on and crunched by no less than King Kong himself. I immediately blew my top and cursed at my country-bumpkin of a driver Bakri for ruining my brand-new executive car. He tried to calm me down and reason out in an extraterrestrial tongue I could not understand. I called up my staff assistant in the office who quickly came to my rescue, acted as interpreter, and quickly informed me that according to my driver Bakri, it was not he but my houseboy Jagad who was the real culprit behind the vehicular nightmare. Jagad had apparently admitted to Bakri of driving my car without authorization the night before, and inadvertently crashed it into a lamppost that had suddenly ambled in front of the offending company car. As a dire result, I had to ride a taxi for the next two weeks while my car was busy recuperating in the intensive-care section of our company repair shop.

As the saying goes, bad luck comes in a series. Crisis number two blew up in my face like a fragmentation grenade a month after my car got wrecked by my impertinent houseboy who had no business driving my car in the first place and sans license at that. One evening after returning to our condominium in a taxi, I was greeted by the foreboding sight of the shattered front glass door. Entering the lobby, I saw blobs of blood, akin to monstrous Rorshack ink blots, staining the thick tan-colored carpet while glass fragments lay scattered all over the place. Jiminy Cricket! Jumping Jellyfish! I was shocked to see my driver Bakri, bleeding all over, dazed and speechless. I immediately concluded that poor Bakri must have fallen victim to somebody who had just been infected by a common Malay malaise or distemper called amok and had turned rabid, frothing at the mouth and slashing at helpless victims in the lobby with his terrible keris, a dreaded native sword–wavy, razor-sharp and double-bladed. I asked the woman at the front desk what happened. She told me in her halting English that minutes earlier my poor driver accidentally walked right through the tightly shut clear-glass door, thinking it was open, and shattered the glass panels and cut himself in different parts of the body.

With presence of mind I grabbed Bakri by the waist, carried him singlehanded, and helped him get into the car. I drove to the nearest hospital whose location I had not the slightest idea since I was a newcomer in town. To compound the problem, there was the risk of meeting an accident since I was still unfamiliar with the God-forsaken right-hand-drive car and the hieroglyph-like traffic instructions which were all written in Bahasa Indonesia. By some streak of good luck or an outright miracle I was able to spot what looked like a decent hospital after driving straight ahead for about ten miles and rushed Bakri to the emergency room. I spoke to the resident doctor in English and recounted what had happened to my driver.

4  

“I am afraid the medical treatment would cost a lot,” the young doctor, who looked more Chinese than Indonesian and sported a crew cut, said in a grave tone.

“How come?” I protested. “All he needs is a dozen stitches and some blood transfusion.”

“But it seems that you don’t get the point, sir,” the boyish-looking doctor replied.

“What exactly do you mean?” I asked, a bit irked.

“Well, your driver needs more than just getting the usual stitches. Because of his serious condition, he needs an immediately operation—a brain transplant to be specific.”

“A brain transplant?” I asked with astonishment. “Why?”

“Sir, based on your story, your driver obviously has a brand-new brain which has never been used. Better equip him with a more reliable second-hand brain before he smashes your car against a solid wall and you yourself might wind up in the emergency room.”

I finally got his point and broke into fits of laughter. He, too, guffawed. Both of us nearly died laughing. Bakri, who did not understand a word of what we were saying, stared at us contemptuously and probably concluded that we were a pair of cold-hearted fools  who enjoyed laughing at the miseries of others. For the first time Bakri used his brand-new, non depreciated brain and was one hundred percent right.

In spite of all the corporate perks I was heir to as an expatriate executive, I was unhappy working on the client side in Indonesia, instead of the usual ad agency. The multinational pharmaceutical company I toiled for turned out to be too regimented, boring and lacked the untrammeled creative atmosphere I had expected. This was compounded by the culture shock to which my family I had been constantly subjected. I soon discovered that man does not live by bread alone. I missed the company of my advertising colleagues and literary friends back home. Jakarta in those days was kind of laid-back place and lagged far behind other, more cosmopolitan Southeast Asian cities like Hong Kong, Singapore or even Manila itself. My sad state of affairs as an expatriate in Indonesia, shriveled my soul, turned it into mush, and jolted me like an electric cattle prod to pen sometime in 1982, the following two poems of alienation and despair while in living in a foreign land:

 Image

JAKARTA BLUES 

The heart bristles with leaves of despair

As I, an expatriate in this land, dare

Prowl this deserted street, an asphalt

Serpent that slithers to the jagged edge

Of emptiness. The street stares at me with

It’s cold eyes of stone, while I walk slowly

5

And follow the siren call of darkness.

I ask myself: “What am I doing here

That’s wearing a grey batik shirt

And greets me with a bladed grin. How I long

For the familiar alleys of Manila!

Yet just before the hissing street swallows

Me alive, I bump into Despair who asks:

“Do you know the way to Oblivion Row?”

I reply: “Sir, I, too, am a stranger here.”

 

THE EUNUCH DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN

 

The eunuch days are here again,

The season when the rose of impotence flowers

In that wasteland where nothing blooms

But the sun-bleached bones of animals and men.

And I can hear their vain falsetto voices,

These sly perverts as they joke and giggle

About the coming pestilence of silence

When every poet shaves his bullet head

And wears a sackcloth as an act of faith,

His forehead branded with the ash of death.

Yes, the eunuch days are here again:

The time when the springs of the soul run dry,

When the silver tongue is rusting in the air,

When the oracles are mute as tongueless stones,

When the heart is fasting in its secret cave.

Indeed, these are long, castrated days ahead

When not a single line of verse leaps from

That fount—the howling abyss of despair!

 

     But I have no regrets. My first Indonesian experience had its redeeming value, too. I was deeply exposed to a foreign culture, which enriched my insight into life. It gave me taste of a lavish expatriate lifestyle at first hand, learn a new language, travel to other exotic Asian countries like India, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. More importantly, I met and trained under an

6

Indonesian Sufi spiritual guru by the name of Pak Warto who heightened my psychic and spiritual nature of which I vividly wrote about in my book The Supernatural and Beyond regarding my experiences as an exorcist, psychic healer and paranormal researcher.

 

         My travels to different countries during that period I encapsulated in these poems:

 

DRAGON LADY

 I come to you a perfect stranger

Garbed in my armor of shyness,

Yet you receive me with open arms

O Dragon Lady of the Seven Hills.

I do not know how many lovers have drowned

In the depths of your almond eyes,

O woman whose kisses of red-hot coals

Sear my lips with their intense heat.

I thirst for your serpentine nakedness

That coils around me with ecstasy.

Yet how can I shield our sweet encounter

From the onslaughts of oblivion?

For none would believe my flaming tale

In my jaded land where no dragons exist.

Alas, I see you now in my mind’s eye

Like a sampan which I’ve espied yesterday

Slowly fading in Hong Kong’s foggy bay.

 

ORANGE GROVE ROAD

 

The very air in this place

Is charged with disinfectant

And is certified germ-free

Because in this city

Of gleaming skyscrapers

Cleanliness is an obsession.

Even the brown leaves,

As soon as they fall on this road,

Are systematically swept away

By a legion of street-sweepers.

Here it is frustrating not to find

A single fugitive cigarette-butt

Hiding in the grass.

And how can a litterbug survive

7

When the fine is fifty Singaporean

Dollars! Those two fat ladies

Jogging there are no exception

Who greet me with their pearly,

Antiseptic smiles.

Personally I think

Dirty cities have more character.

As a silent protest, I will

Not wash for a whole week.

Afterwards, I’m sure,

A policeman wearing a spotless

Blue uniform will politely

Arrest me

For not keeping the city clean.

 

SONG OF THE PEREGRINE

 

I have had my handful of

Voyages and odysseys,

For I am a wanderlust

Like Ulysses, his feet

Forever itching to leave

And sail away from that place,

Ithaca’s familiar port,

Dreaming of foreign shores.

I, King of Peregrines, am

Now here in America,

Treading the avenues

And freeways of nowhere

Though my heart’s fugitive shoes

Are battered and squeaking,

Though my soul’s durable soles

Have holes, have holes, have holes…

 

From 1994 to 1997 I undertook my second sojourn in Indonesia. I was hired as executive creative director by P.T. Rainbow Advertising, a local advertising agency. There I fell madly in love with Nur Salmah, nicknamed Anita, a beautiful Indonesian-born Arab, and we lived together for four years with heart-racking, passionate intensity. The rest is of our love story is a history of despair as evidenced in this poem which I wrote after our stormy parting:

         

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POST DEPARTURE SYNDROME

Now only your fragrance

Lingers in our blanket,

Bed sheet, and soft pillow.

Soon it shall fade like the scent

Of newly crushed wild flowers.

Every midnight I perform

The secret ritual of

Collecting the footprints

Of your smell to allay

My blue fever of despair,

Reminding me of our nights

And days of loving.

But even long after your soul’s

Perfume has winged back

To your homeland, it shall

Resurrect and rise

In my heart, a big-eared

Lumbering grey hulk

Whose memory of love is

Most acute and rententive.

 

Last October 2000, I embarked on a lecture tour of various universities in the United States, including the University of California at Davis, Sacramento State University and Sacramento City College. A month later, I resigned my position as media specialist in the Asset Privatization Trust, Office of the President, Republic of the Philippines. A born-again bachelor, I’ve decided to stay here in America permanently, together with my mother, brothers and sisters in Chico, California–a quiet, rustic university town. I must admit that I am now enjoying my new life in this awesome country where each day unfolds with breathtaking mystery and romance. I am slowly gearing up and getting active in the American literary scene.  I have joined a number of poetry circles and regularly read my poems at Moxie’s, Has Beans Café (as a featured poet), Barnes & Noble Booksellers and at Chico State University during the Eco Fair 2001 in celebration of Earth Day. A number of my poems have also been published in national anthologies and magazines. Since I arrived here eight months ago, I’ve also won a number of modest literary awards like the Editor’s Choice Award in the 2001 International Open Poetry Competition, The International Library of Poets, Owing Mills, Maryland; and an Award of Merit and Fourth Place Award, 2001 Iliad Awards Program, Sterling Heights, Missouri.

Of late I’ve been doing a lot of psychic healing, fortune telling, and meeting a lot of spiritually-minded, kindred spirits. At any rate, a friend of mine, a famous psychic in Manila, predicted two years ago that I would meet my true and last love in the land of the free. In the words of my psychic-friend, “Felix, you’ll met your soulmate in America soon. She is younger than you: blonde, blue-eyed, physically, intellectually and spiritually beautiful.” At that time I had no plan at all of

9

becoming part of the Filipino diaspora here in America, although I must confess that I have my own share of psychic ability and made some accurate predictions of future events like the devastating 1991 earthquake in the Philippines, the Mt. Pinatubo eruption and the ignominious fall of President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, the latter of which I announced as the guest psychic on Today With Kris, a popular television show hosted by Kris Aquino, the daughter of former Philippine president Corazon Aquino, in December 1999.

It is quite obvious that my American experience is slowly reshaping my poetic sensibility, which can be gleaned from the very first poem I wrote shortly after my arrival last October:

 

THE SKUNK

 

From the subterranean depths of the human

Heart it wills out and crawls into the dazzling

Light of day. With superb survival instincts

The furry black-and-white striped skunk of truth

Blatantly proclaims its territorial

Imperative, the brutal space of its being.

This dreaded thing hisses and growls or stomps

Its feet, a fair warning to all predators

To keep their proper distance lest it spray

Them with malodorous musk secreted

By twin glands at the base of its bushy tail.

Adept in chemical warfare, this strange

Creature detonates its pungent stink bomb that

Lingers in the air for miles around, spilling

The guts of secrets on the busy roads,

Assailing the upturned nose of public

Conscience, tenaciously clinging to the clothes

And skin of memory, and staining the bleached

Foreheads of those that are marked for life

With the scarlet letter of scandal and shame.

 

Following the footsteps of the Filipino poet and National Artist Jose Garcia Villa, I can now say with full conviction and feeling: Have come, am here…

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❖ END 

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1. DARKNESS ONLY EXISTS

    ON THE LOWER PLANES.

    ON THE HIGHER SPHERES

    EVERYTHING IS LIGHT.

    SO CLIMB THE SPIRAL

    STAIRWAY OF LOVE

    AND BECOME A PURE

    BEING OF LIGHT.

 

2. DARKNESS HAS NO REALITY.

    DARKNESS IS AN ILLUSION

    YOU HAVE CREATED

    IN YOUR REFUSAL

    TO ADMIT MORE LIGHT.

    LIGHT IS THE ONLY REALITY.

    LOVE IS THE CANDLE THAT

    WILL SHINE AND SHOW YOU 

    THE SHORTEST PATH

    TO THE KINGDOM OF LIGHT.

 

3. LIGHT  IS THE ONLY REALITY.

    PLEASE ADMIT MORE LIGHT

    AND LIGHT THE WAY FOR OTHERS.

 

4. DEADLY VIRUSES EXIST

    NOT ONLY IN YOUR PHYSICAL

    BODY BUT ON A MORE SUBTLE

    LEVEL AND A MORE INSIDIOUS

    KIND IN YOUR SENSITIVE

    EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL BODIES.

 

    VACCINATE YOURSELF

    WITH MORE QUALITY LIGHT

    TO GET RID OF THESE STUBBORN

    MULTI-DIMENSIONAL VIRUSES

    THAT PROLIFERATE IN

    THE ACCURSED PETRI DISH

    OF YOUR OWN DARKNESS.

 

5. THE ONLY WAY

     TO DISPEL DARKNESS

     IS TO AFFIRM THAT

     YOU ARE FULL OF LIGHT!

 

6. WISDOM IS KNOWING

    THE SUBTLE DIFFERENCE

    BETWEEN LIGHT AND DARK.

    THERE IS NO STARK

    CONTRAST BETWEEN

    LIGHT AND DARKNESS

    BUT INFINITE SHADES

    OF GREY WHICH CONFUSE

    MOST SEEKERS OF LIGHT

    BECAUSE THEY ARE

    COLORBLIND TO  SUCH

    FINE NUANCES AND ARE

    EASILY CONFUSED

    AND DECEIVED BY

    THE FORCES OF DARNESS.

 

7. SOME SEEKERS OF LIGHT

    ARRIVE AT THE LIGHT

    BY EMBRACING DARKNESS

    UNTIL THEY BECOME

    TOTALLY DARK.

    THIS IS THE SCHOOL

     OF HARD KNOCKS.

   

     DARKNESS ITSELF

     CONTAINS THE GERM

     OF LIGHT AND AFTER

     MANY LIFETIMES

     OF SUFFERING AND PAIN

     BY WALLOWING

     IN THE BOTTOMLESS

     PIT OF DARKNESS,

     THESE LOST SOULS

     SEE A PINHOLE OF LIGHT

     WHICH SLOWLY EXPANDS

     AND BECOMES BIGGER

     AND BIGGER UNTIL THEIR

     WHOLE CONSCIOUSNESS

     IS FULL OF WISDOM

     AND THEY EVOLVE INTO

     PURE BEINGS OF LIGHT.

     

     BUT IF YOU WANT

     TO TREAD THE SHORTCUT 

     TO LIGHT USE LOVE

     AS YOUR ONLY COMPASS

     AND BEGIN YOUR FIRST

     STEP TOWARDS THE TRUE

     NORTH OF LIGHT.

 

8. THE HARD WAY

     TO FIND LIGHT

     IS TO EMBRACE

     TOTAL DARKNESS.

     THE EASIEST WAY

     TO FIND LIGHT IS

     TO ADMIT MORE

     LIGHT UNTIL YOU

     BECOME UNTO 

     A WHOLE BEING

     OF PURE LIGHT.

 

9. THE CHIAROSCURO,

     THE INTERPLAY OF LIGHT

     AND DARKNESS, IS PART

     OF THE DIVINE DRAMA.

     SO PLAY YOUR ROLE

     WELL BOTH AS HERO

     AND VILLAIN UPON

     THE EVER-SHIFTING

     STAGE OF ILLUSION

     AND REALITY, IN THE

     THEATRE OF THE ABSURD

     AND YOU WILL EMERGE

     AS THE SUPERSTAR

     IN THE THE SHOW.

 

10. IF YOU VIBRATE

       MORE LIGHT

       THEN YOU ATTRACT

       MORE LIGHT

       IF YOU VIBRATE

       MORE DARKNESS

       THEN YOU ATTRACT

       MORE DARKNESS.

       LIKE ATTRACTS LIKE

       IS THE FIRST AND

       THE LAST COSMIC LAW.

 

11. YOU ARE ATTRACTED

       TO DARKNESS

       OUT OF CURIOUSITY.

       YOU ARE ATTRACTED

       TO LIGHT BECAUSE

       YOUR ESSENCE IS LIGHT.

 

12. ONE MAN’S DARKNESS

       MOSTLY IMPACTS ON

       HIS OWN CONSCIOUSNESS

       BUT THE COLLECTIVE

       DARKNESS OF HUMANITY

       WILL IMPACT ON

       THE ENTIRE PLANET

       AND BRING US ALL BACK

       TO THE DARK AGES

       IN THE SAME MANNER THAT

       MANKIND’S COLLECTIVE LIGHT

       WILL USHER IN THE LONG

       AWAITED ERA OF LIGHT.

 

13. CONSCIOUS, MOMENT

       TO MOMENT AWARENESS

       OF DARKNESS WILL TURN

       DARKNESS INTO PURE LIGHT.

 

14. MAN INVENTED DARKNESS.

      HENCE MAN HAS THE GENIUS

      TO RECYCLE DARKNESS

      INTO LIGHT.

 

15. DARKNESS IS QUANTITATIVE.

      LIGHT IS QUALITATIVE.

      PUT MORE QUALITY IN

      YOUR LIFE BY EMBRACING

      THE LIGHT.

 

16. WHY BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

       WHEN IT IS JUST AN ILLUSION?

       BUT IF YOU ARE TRULY WISE,

       YOU WILL SHINE IN THE DARK.

 

17. GOD SAID LET THERE BE LIGHT

      AND THERE WAS LIGHT.

      MAN SAID LET THERE BE DARK

      AND THE WHOLE EARTH 

      PLUNGED INTO DARKNESS.

 

18. DARKNESS IS JUST

      A SELF-INDUCED

      DISTORTION OF LIGHT.

 

19. THE GREATEST EXORCIST

       IS NOT THE ONE WHO HAS

       EXPELLED A THOUSAND

       DARK SPIRIT IN OTHERS

       BUT THE EXORCIST WHO

       HAS EXORCIZED ALL

       THE DEMONS OF DARKNESS

       THAT LURK WITHIN

       THE PERIMETERS OF

        HIS OR HER OWN BEING.

 

20. ENLIGHTENMENT

      IS A DIVINE PROCESS

      OF REVERSE ENGINEERING

      DARKNESS INTO LIGHT.

 

21. TO LIMIT YOURSELF

       IS TO CONFINE YOURSELF

       IN A CAGE OF DARKNESS.

       ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE

       INFINITE AND YOU WILL

       DWELL IN UNLIMITED LIGHT.

       

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THE OASIS

by Felix Fojas

(for my muse of light and lover’s delight)

 

What rainbow miracle, what subtle

Serendipity, what chiaroscuro

Of chance to find you in the heart’s

Oasis? After centuries of running

Around in madding circles, like a tusked

Pachyderm that has lost its bearing

And orientation, after trekking

Across vast tracts of ice-encrusted

 

Tundras and everglades of longing;

And braving blinding sandstorms

And scorching deserts of despair.

You: lying as regal as an

Ancient Egyptian princess, inside

A huge tent carpeted with passion

And strewn with silk cushions of desire,

Magnificent in the full bloom

 

Of your beauty and inner grace, wearing

A shimmering raiment of light

And patiently awaiting your long-lost

Epic lover who will come one day

As predicted by the sacred oracles,

Borne by the howling desert wind,

After two thousand years of absence.

Now that I have found you, beloved,

 

Beyond the woof of space and time’s warp,

Beyond mirages of jealousy and hate,

Beyond the towering pillars of death,

I will embrace you like a barnacle

Clinging to a dhow loaded with kisses

Placidly sailing along the Blue Nile.

Yea! I will dowry you with love songs

And surrender eternity at your feet.

 

Los Angeles

March 7, 2012

 

 

(Writ upon the request of Joanna Allas)

 

Image

 

1. THE WEIGHT AND NUMBER

     OF GOLD BARS YOU HOARD

     IS OF NO CONSEQUENCE.

     WHAT REALLY MATTERS

     IS THE GOLD THAT SHINES

     WITHIN YOU.

 

2. YOUR SOUL GLEAMS

     AND SHINES A THOUSAND

     TIMES BRIGHTER THAN

     COMMON GOLD.

 

3. NOT EVERYTHING THAT GLEAMS

    IS GOLD. MORE OFTEN IT IS

    A PILE OF GOLDPLATED SHIT!

 

4. THE REAL GOLD STANDARD OF MAN

     IS NOT GOLD BUT WISDOM.

 

5. WISDOM IS PURER THAN

    THE PUREST GOLD.

 

6. GOLD IS HEAVY

    BECAUSE IT CARRIES

   A  HEAVY RESPONSIBILITY.

 

7. THE ONLY REAL GOLD IS LOVE.

 

8. GOLD IS THE SACRED

    METAL OF THE SUN.

    ONLY THE WISE CAN

    HANDLE GOLD WITHOUT

    BEING PERMANENTLY BLINDED.

 

9. GOLD-DIGGING

    IS AN ART RESERVED

    FOR WOMEN AND MEN

    OF GREAT TALENT.

 

10. SHE WAS ESPECIALLY

      IMPRESSED BY HIS

      GLITTERING GOLD TEETH.

      THAT’S WHY IT WAS

      LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT.

 

11. A LARGE QUANTITY

      OF GOLD IS DANGEROUS.

      IT MAKES PEOPLE SICK

      WITH GOLD FEVER.

 

12. GOLD FEVER IS DEADLY.

      IT MAKES THE BEST

      OF FRIENDS KILL

      EACH OTHER

      WITHOUT MERCY!

 

13. THERE’S ALWAYS 

       A FALSE GOLD RUSH

       SOMEWHERE…

       SO WHY BOTHER.

 

14. A GOLD BONANZA

      IS OFTEN FOLLOWED 

      BY GREED’S 

      DEADLY INFLUENZA!

 

15. BEFORE YOU BECOME

      FASCINATED BY GOLD,

      REMEMBER WHAT

      TRAGEDY BEFELL

      KING MIDAS WHO TURNED

      EVERYTHING HE TOUCHED

      INTO A GOLDEN MIGRAINE.

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THE HOUSE

by Felix Fojas

 

When I moved into this strange

Empty house all by myself,

I really thought that I would

Suffocate and die from

Extreme loneliness and despair.

Yet I was completely wrong.

Before I could turn its knob,

The door opened by itself

And greeted me, “Good morning,sir!”

Just like a hotel doorman.

Then the very floor I stepped on

 

Creaked and politely said with glee:

“Friend, you are most welcome here.”

Weird, but the four walls chimed in

Unison: “Yes we will make you

Happy and comfortable here.”

Even the cozy sofa

Enticed me in a woman’s voice:

“Please feel free to stretch your tired,

 Aching body upon my

 Velvety softness anytime.”

Since then whenever a friend 

 

Drops by my warm neat place and asks

If I ever get lonely

Living all alone in this house,

I just tell my friend without

Giving details that indeed

I am happy to live here,

Lest he or she should think that

I have finally, sadly flipped

And must see a shrink asap

Once I confess that my home

Is keeping me fine company.

 

Los Angeles

March 6, 2012

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1. DON’T FEEL INSECURE

    IN THE PRESENCE

    OF A CELEBRITY

    BECAUSE THE ONLY

    DIFFERENCE BETWEEN

    YOU AND THAT 

    FAMOUS PERSONALITY

    IS A FALSE IMAGE

    OF BEING FAMOUS

    AND THE SAD FACT

    THAT FAME ITSELF

    IS FLEETING AND FADES.

 

2. WHAT IS THE USE

    OF BEING FAMOUS

    WHEN YOU’VE  LOST

    YOUR PRIVACY?

    BECAUSE YOU CAN’T

    HAVE BOTH.

 

3. FAMOUS PEOPLE

    FADE AWAY AND DIE

    AND ONLY THE CORPSE

    OF FAME REMAINS.

 

4. FAMOUS PEOPLE

    ARE MORTAL AND DIE.

    ONLY FAME ITSELF

    IS IMMORTAL.

 

5. THE INFAMOUS

    ARE MORE FAMOUS

    THAN THE FAMOUS.

    PEOPLE REMEMBER,

    PERHAPS OUT

    OF JEALOUSY,

    YOUR EVIL ACTS

    AND SWEEP THE DUST

    OF YOUR GOOD DEEDS 

    UNDER THE CARPET

    OF THEIR MEMORY.

 

6. THE FLOWERS

    OF GOOD WORKS

    FADE OVERNIGHT

    BUT THE THORNS

    OF EVIL ACTIONS

    LAST FOREVER.

 

7. IT IS ONLY THE FIRE

    OF ENLIGHTENMENT

    THAT CAN BURN AWAY

    ALL YOUR ILLUSIONS

    OF FAME AND SELF IMPORTANCE.

 

8. WHY SETTLE FOR FAME

    WHEN YOU CAN

    ACQUIRE WISDOM?

 

9. FAME IS A FAIR-WEATHER

    FRIEND AND ONLY

    LOVE IS A LOYAL

    AND LASTING COMPANION.

 

10. FAME IS A DISEASE

      WHOSE SYMPTOM IS

      BELIEVING THE LIE

      THAT YOU ARE

      THE MOST IMPORTANT

      FOOL IN THE WORLD

      AND THAT YOU

      WILL NEVER DIE.

 

11. FAME IS THE FINE ART

      OF CREATING  A FALSE

      SENSE OF THE SELF

      OUT OF NOTHING.

 

12. FAME FAME

      GO AWAY

      COME NOT AGAIN

      ANOTHER DAY

      SAYETH THE WISE.

 

13. FAME IS LIKE

      TELLING THE SUN

      TO RISE IN THE SKY

      AT SUNSET.

 

14. FAME IS THE GREATEST

      HYPE  EVER INVENTED

      BY MEDIA AND SHOWBUSINESS.

 

15. FAME AND A GOOD NAME

      AND REPUTATION

      SELDOM GO TOGETHER.

 

16. WHAT IS FAMOUS TODAY

       WILL BECOME INFAMOUS TOMORROW.

 

17. FAME IS THE GOOSE

      THAT OFTEN LAYS

      THE GOLDEN EGG

      OF A SCANDAL.

 

18. FAME, BECAUSE IT IS

      HARD TO KEEP UP

      AND MAINTAIN FOR LONG,

      IS THE MOTHER 

      OF GRIEF AND DESPAIR.

 

19. DON’T SEEK FAME.

      LET FAME SEEK YOU.

      BETTER STILL

      AVOID FAME

      AT ALL COST BECAUSE

      FAME DOESN’T GIVE

      LASTING HAPPINESS

     AND PEACE OF MIND.

 

20. FAME IS THE BROTHER

      OF JEALOUSY

      AND THE SISTER

      OF CONDEMNATION.

 

21. THE HOWLING CROWD

       ALWAYS ENJOY 

       CRUCIFYING THE FAMOUS

       OR BURNING THEM

       AT THE STAKE.

 

22. THE MORE FAMOUS

       YOU ARE

       THE HARDER

       YOU FALL.

Image

 

1. DON’T FEEL INSECURE

    IN THE PRESENCE

    OF A CELEBRITY

    BECAUSE THE ONLY

    DIFFERENCE BETWEEN

    YOU AND THAT 

    FAMOUS PERSONALITY

    IS A FALSE IMAGE

    OF BEING FAMOUS

    AND THE SAD FACT

    THAT FAME ITSELF

    IS FLEETING AND FADES.

 

2. WHAT IS THE USE

    OF BEING FAMOUS

    WHEN YOU’VE  LOST

    YOUR PRIVACY?

    BECAUSE YOU CAN’T

    HAVE BOTH.

 

3. FAMOUS PEOPLE

    FADE AWAY AND DIE

    AND ONLY THE CORPSE

    OF FAME REMAINS.

 

4. FAMOUS PEOPLE

    ARE MORTAL AND DIE.

    ONLY FAME ITSELF

    IS IMMORTAL.

 

5. THE INFAMOUS

    ARE MORE FAMOUS

    THAN THE FAMOUS.

    PEOPLE REMEMBER,

    PERHAPS OUT

    OF JEALOUSY,

    YOUR EVIL ACTS

    AND SWEEP THE DUST

    OF YOUR GOOD DEEDS 

    UNDER THE CARPET

    OF THEIR MEMORY.

 

6. THE FLOWERS

    OF GOOD WORKS

    FADE OVERNIGHT

    BUT THE THORNS

    OF EVIL ACTIONS

    LAST FOREVER.

 

7. IT IS ONLY THE FIRE

    OF ENLIGHTENMENT

    THAT CAN BURN AWAY

    ALL YOUR ILLUSIONS

    OF FAME AND SELF IMPORTANCE.

 

8. WHY SETTLE FOR FAME

    WHEN YOU CAN

    ACQUIRE WISDOM?

 

9. FAME IS A FAIR-WEATHER

    FRIEND AND ONLY

    LOVE IS A LOYAL

    AND LASTING COMPANION.

 

10. FAME IS A DISEASE

      WHOSE SYMPTOM IS

      BELIEVING THE LIE

      THAT YOU ARE

      THE MOST IMPORTANT

      FOOL IN THE WORLD

      AND THAT YOU

      WILL NEVER DIE.

 

11. FAME IS THE FINE ART

      OF CREATING  A FALSE

      SENSE OF THE SELF

      OUT OF NOTHING.

 

12. FAME FAME

      GO AWAY

      COME NOT AGAIN

      ANOTHER DAY

      SAYETH THE WISE.

 

13. FAME IS LIKE

      TELLING THE SUN

      TO RISE IN THE SKY

      AT SUNSET.

 

14. FAME IS THE GREATEST

      HYPE  EVER INVENTED

      BY MEDIA AND SHOWBUSINESS.

 

15. FAME AND A GOOD NAME

      AND REPUTATION

      SELDOM GO TOGETHER.

 

16. WHAT IS FAMOUS TODAY

       WILL BECOME INFAMOUS TOMORROW.

 

17. FAME IS THE GOOSE

      THAT OFTEN LAYS

      THE GOLDEN EGG

      OF A SCANDAL.

 

18. FAME, BECAUSE IT IS

      HARD TO KEEP UP

      AND MAINTAIN FOR LONG,

      IS THE MOTHER 

      OF GRIEF AND DESPAIR.

 

19. DON’T SEEK FAME.

      LET FAME SEEK YOU.

      BETTER STILL

      AVOID FAME

      AT ALL COST BECAUSE

      FAME DOESN’T GIVE

      LASTING HAPPINESS

     AND PEACE OF MIND.

 

20. FAME IS THE BROTHER

      OF JEALOUSY

      AND THE SISTER

      OF CONDEMNATION.

 

21. THE HOWLING CROWD

       ALWAYS ENJOY 

       CRUCIFYING THE FAMOUS

       OR BURNING THEM

       AT THE STAKE.

 

22. THE MORE FAMOUS

       YOU ARE

       THE HARDER

       YOU FALL.

      

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FINALLY, I HAVE CONQUERED

THE FORMIDABLE ARMIES

OF ANGST AND DESPAIR

WITH MY TERMINAL

SENSE OF TUMOR.

NOW I CAN SAY

IN ALL HONESTY

AND CANDOR THAT

I AM TERMINALLY HAPPY.

MEOWHAHAHA!