Borrowed


The River Singing Stone
Myrna Pena-Reyes

Through brush and over boulders
we followed the sound of water
hidden in trees.
The natives we met on the narrow trails
carrying chickens and bananas
to sell in the city answered,
“the waterfall? — not too far,
after the next hill.”
We walked to he hill, and the next,
and the next.

You were annoyed.
You had said you would find it easily,
having gone there often in your youth.

We stopped counting the hours,
kilometers we walked uphill and down,
forward and back, pursuing that sound.
We couldn’t just follow the river –
there were boulders, thickets, cliffs,
and we, no longer young.

Winded and sweaty, we rested.
Such trickery – was it near,
did we hear the roar of the falls,
or just the sound of water
pounding rocks into pebbles,
grinding gravel into sand?

But it was late.
We had to go home.
We listened
to the river singing,
the river singing stone.

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Snowstorm
(for Brendan)
by Danton Remoto

I wake up at dawn
to a storm of snowflakes
like small bits
of dead stars.

Everything is blinding
and empty,
like my bed.
No slope of your body

leaving its shape of sweat
on the sheets.
No fingers mapping
the unknown depths of skin.

No tongue rousing
the soul from its sleep,
drawing sighs as startling
as the flowers of spring.

Can you name that tune? Each line below is a clue to a well-known yuletide song. You’ll have to decode some lofty language to come up with the carols, so if you’re ready… get humming!

1. Listen to the celestial messengers produce some harmonious sounds.

2. Embellish the interior passageways.

3. Twelve o’clock on a clement night witnessed its arrival.

4. The Christmas preceding all others.

5. Small municipality in Judea south of Jerusalem.

6. Omnipotent supreme being who elicits respite in distinguished males.

7. Nocturnal time span of unbroken quietness.

8. Obese personification fabricated of compressed mounds of minute crystals.

9. Tintinnabulation of vacillating pendulums in inverted, metallic resonant cups.

10. In awe of eventide characterized by religiosity.

[from the December 06 issue of Reader’s Digest I perused in my aunts’ bathroom when I stayed over in their house in Queens over Christmas Eve]

Answers: 1. Hark the Herald Angels Sing; 2. Deck the Halls; 3. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; 4. The First noel; 5. O Little Town of Bethlehem; 6. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; 7. Silent Night; 8. Frosty the Snowman; 9. Jingle Bells; 10. O Holy Night.

Who the Fuck Am I?

(In darkness. Spoken or prerecorded.)

I am Chinese. (I am part of the Chinese diaspora.)/ I am gay. (At any point in my life, I always seem to be in love with a man that I’m not sure is in love with me.)/ I am a writer. (Once, after a reading, a man came up to me and said, “I didn’t understand a word you said, but your reading was very powerful.”)/ I have an accent./ I shave my head./ I have tattoos./ I am damaged./ I am a Joni Mitchell fan./ I hate my body./ I love my feet./ I am a cat owner./ I have allergies./ I am from what is known as the Third World./ I feel invisible./ I feel powerless./ I feel unattractive./ I am bitter./ I feel normal./ I belong to what they call GENERATION X./ I feel alienated./ I feel like ASIAN AMERICA’S bastard retard child./ I am in pain./ I have more closets than I care to imagine./ I have bad clothes sense./ I like fucking./ I like being fucked./ I like sucking dick./ I like swallowing cum./ I like red meat./ I am nearsighted./ I am uncircumcised./ I am vaccinated./ I don’t know my HIV status anymore./ I hate a lot of people./ I hate fruit desserts./ I like rough sex./ I have insomnia./ Sometimes, I think I might fall in love with Linda Rondstadt./ I want to know for sure./ I want to be loved./ I hate anyone who loves me./ I am drowning./ I am the day of openess./ I am a plague of locusts./ I am crucified./ I am bones and paper./ I am nothing but dust./ I am a work in progress./ I am abandoned./ I am fucked up./ I am totally fucked up./ I am a freak./ I am between worlds./ I am drawing a line in my skull./ I am sick./ I am recovering./ I am in recovery./ I am a fucking shit./ I am fucking shit out of someone’s asshole./ I am grim./ I am brain-dead./ I am a chink./ I am a fag./ I am ticklish./ I am violent when provoked./ I am soft-spoken./ I am nervous./ I am a butterfly./ I am a whore./ I am a virgin./ I am nothing./ I am mad./ I am a dog./ I am repentant./ I am baptised./ I am saved./ I am going to go straight to hell./ I am going to visit heaven just to say hello./ I am in need of something good./ I am the premature ejaculate of a cheap trick./ I am short./ I should know better./ I am a rat./ I smell bad./ I am not who I want to be./ I am regret./ I am remorse./ I am happy./ I am delirious./ I am cruel./ I am fate./ I am poison./ I need poison./ I need to be abused./ I want to scream./ I want to cry./ I am floating./ I am a boring fuck./ I am a vegetable./ I am a child./ I was curious yellow./ I am a burden./ I am repulsive./ I am the splendid parsnips./ I am the form of a mouth./ I am a dinner of lilies./ I am subterranean./ I lie like mad./ I am in agony./ I am spiteful./ I am baited with ambition./ I am baited with lust./ I am naked./ I am a black sleeve./ I am a cut sleeve./ I am the secret life./ I am the lines of pleasure./ I am mud and honey./ I am choking on honey./ I am drooling./ I am noise./ I am not a pipe./ I am the last one to be picked./ I am broken./ I am shame./ I am a blade./ I am sad./ I am empowered./ I am not angry anymore./ I am numb./ I am everything I shouldn’t be./ I am everything I want to be.

Justin Chin
from Attack of the Man-Eating Lotus Blossoms

I lean toward him, pushing him against the wall, lifting my pale hands up beneath his sweater, finding the edge of his tight t-shirt and peeling it upward. I placed my palms against the hard curve of his abdomen, his chest rolling slightly in pleasure. Moving back and forth within the tin-covered office cubicle, old soggy couch useless on the side, the carpet beneath our shifting feet reveals our steps with slight pools of water. We’re moving around, changing positions that allow us to bend and sway and lean forward into each other’s arms so that our tongues can meet with nothing more than a shy hesitation. He is sucking and chewing on my neck, pulling my body into his, and over the curve of the shoulder, sunlight is burning through a window emptied of glass. The frame still contains a rusted screen that reduces shapes and colors into tiny dots like a film directed by Seurat. Pushing and smoothing against the tides, this great dark ship with hundreds of portholes entered the film. His head was below my waist, opening his mouth and showing brilliant white teeth; he’s unhooking the button at the top of my trousers. I lean down and find the neckline of his sweater and draw it back and away from the nape of his neck which I gently probe with my tongue. In loving him, I saw a cigarette between the fingers of a hand, smoke blowing backwards into the room, and sputtering planes diving low through the clouds. In loving him, I saw small-town laborers creating excavations that other men spend their lives trying to fill. In loving him, I saw moving films of stone buildings; I saw a hand in prison dragging snow in from the sill. In loving him, I saw great houses being erected that would soon slide into the waiting and stirring seas. I saw him freeing me from the silences of interior life.

from Close to the Knives, A Memoir of Disintegration
David Wojnarowicz

Below are two op-ed articles from the country’s leading newspaper. The first, written by a former Supreme Court Justice. The second one, a rebuttal, was written by the grandson of the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth. Manila it seems is not as open minded as I had thought. And so like Manuel Quezon III, we must fight this kind of bigotry not just in the public but within ourselves.

‘Don we now our gay apparel’     

By Isagani Cruz Former Supreme Court Justice of the Philippines
Inquirer
Last updated 02:14am (Mla time) 08/12/2006

Published on Page A10 of the August 12, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

HOMOSEXUALS before were mocked and derided, but now they are regarded with new-found respect and, in many cases, even treated as celebrities. Only recently, the more impressionable among our people wildly welcomed a group of entertainers whose main proud advertisement was that they were “queer.” It seems that the present society has developed a new sense of values that have rejected our religious people’s traditional ideas of propriety and morality on the pretext of being “modern” and “broad-minded.”

The observations I will here make against homosexuals in general do not include the members of their group who have conducted themselves decorously, with proper regard not only for their own persons but also for the gay population in general. A number of our local couturiers, to take but one example, are less than manly but they have behaved in a reserved and discreet manner unlike the vulgar members of the gay community who have degraded and scandalized it. I offer abject apologies to those blameless people I may unintentionally include in my not inclusive criticisms. They have my admiration and respect.

The change in the popular attitude toward homosexuals is not particular to the Philippines. It has become an international trend even in the so-called sophisticated regions with more liberal concepts than in our comparatively conservative society. Gay marriages have been legally recognized in a number of European countries and in some parts of the United States. Queer people — that’s the sarcastic term for them — have come out of the closet where before they carefully concealed their condition. The permissive belief now is that homosexuals belong to a separate third sex with equal rights as male and female persons instead of just an illicit in-between gender that is neither here nor there.

When I was studying in the Legarda Elementary School in Manila during the last 1930s, the big student population had only one, just one, homosexual. His name was Jose but we all called him Josefa. He was a quiet and friendly boy whom everybody liked to josh but not offensively. In the whole district of Sampaloc where I lived, there was only one homosexual who roamed the streets peddling “kalamay” and “puto” and other treats for snacks. He provided diversion to his genial customers and did not mind their familiar amiable teasing. I think he actually enjoyed being a “binabae” [effeminate].

The change came, I think, when an association of homos dirtied the beautiful tradition of the Santa Cruz de Mayo by parading their kind as the “sagalas” instead of the comely young maidens who should have been chosen to grace the procession. Instead of being outraged by the blasphemy, the watchers were amused and, I suppose, indirectly encouraged the fairies to project themselves. It must have been then that they realized that they were what they were, whether they liked it or not, and that the time for hiding their condition was over.

Now homosexuals are everywhere, coming at first in timorous and eventually alarming and audacious number. Beauty salons now are served mostly by gay attendants including effeminate bearded hairdressers to whom male barbers have lost many of their macho customers. Local shows have their share of “siyoke” [gay men], including actors like the one rejected by a beautiful wife in favor of a more masculine if less handsome partner. And, of course, there are lady-like directors who are probably the reason why every movie and TV drama must have the off-color “bading” [gay] or two to cheapen the proceedings.

And the schools are now fertile ground for the gay invasion. Walking along the University belt one day, I passed by a group of boys chattering among themselves, with one of them exclaiming seriously, “Aalis na ako. Magpapasuso pa ako!” [“I’m leaving. I still have to breastfeed!”] That pansy would have been mauled in the school where my five sons (all machos) studied during the ’70s when all the students were certifiably masculine. Now many of its pupils are gay, and I don’t mean happy. I suppose they have been influenced by such shows as “Brokeback Mountain,” our own “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” (both of which won awards), “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” and that talk program of Ellen Degeneres, an admitted lesbian.

Is our population getting to be predominantly pansy? Must we allow homosexuality to march unobstructed until we are converted into a nation of sexless persons without the virility of males and the grace of females but only an insipid mix of these diluted virtues? Let us be warned against the gay population, which is per se a compromise between the strong and the weak and therefore only somewhat and not the absolute of either of the two qualities. Be alert lest the Philippine flag be made of delicate lace and adorned with embroidered frills.

~~~~~~~~~~

‘The grand inquisitor ‘

By Manuel L. Quezon III Grandson of the former President Manuel Quezon
Inquirer
Last updated 02:41am (Mla time) 08/14/2006

Published on page A15 of the August 14, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

KURT VONNEGUT ONCE OBSERVED, “FOR SOME reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.” Vonnegut was pointing out the basic immorality of society’s self-proclaimed moral custodians. Hate the sin but love the sinner? But that opens to a possible debate on what is sin.

How much easier, more certain and eminently satisfying to decree, “Kill them all. God will know His own.” The result is the perversion of the finer instincts of religion into a false trinity—faith, hope and bigotry, setting aside charity which represents an inconvenient truth: Christ was friend to prostitutes and tax collectors, and He debated even with the devil. Must Christianity end with Christ?

Retired Supreme Court Justice Isagani Cruz says that his vigorous and vicious condemnation of gays, lesbians and transgendered people is not supposed to incite hatred and intolerance—or to be precise, that he is not invoking a blanket condemnation of all gay people. He only objects to some, not all. For example, he has nothing but the most generous and respectful thoughts for those who conform to what he finds tasteful and tolerable behavior. And what is tasteful and tolerable as far as his wounded sensibilities are concerned? A minority meekly and absolutely surrendering to the tyranny of the majority, a sub-culture reduced to the subhuman, in which the individual is instructed to live out, every day, a total repudiation of the self. Cruz demands the elimination of a diverse and rich culture—one that is as much a mirror of society’s larger complexities as it is an alternative to some of the worst instincts and features of the broader culture for which he has stepped forward as spokesman—because the minority displeases and disgusts him.

He would have me, and everyone else like me be a slave, a fugitive, a hypocrite and, most of all, a coward. And I find that disgusting. I find it neither reasonable nor acceptable. I do not even find it understandable. Cruz does not understand us, does not want to, would be unwilling to. Yet he says he hates only some, not all, of us, and expects “some of us” to embrace and thank him?

For what? That he reserves his scorn only for hairdressers and fashion designers? That he respects me, the writer, but heaps abuse on someone else because that someone uses slang I don’t use, speaks louder than I do, wears what I don’t wear—and those superficial differences are the things that guarantee me (and those who behave otherwise) Cruz’s respect?

I will not embrace him, not for that, much less shake his hand or offer him the opportunity for civilized disagreement. For he is blind to the civilization to which I belong, and to the fundamental identity I share with those he despises. Whether we have a little learning or not, whether we speak in the same manner or not, regardless of what we wear and what mannerisms we choose to exhibit, we are the same, for in the fundamental things—those we choose to love, to have relationships with and with whom we aspire to share a life marked by a measure of domestic bliss and emotional contentment—there is no difference. To permit Cruz to make such distinctions is to grant him and all those like him an intolerable—because it is fundamentally unjust—power to define myself and those like me.

When he casts the law as an instrument for prosecution, persecution and discrimination, he must be fought. That he discredits polite behavior by portraying civilized discourse as a fancy disguise for his uncritical obedience and intolerant enforcement of uniformity; that he defames religion by turning it into an ideology of hate; that he makes a mockery of filial piety by insisting that tyrannical instincts should be cultivated among the elderly and enforced upon their direction—these should inspire not pity for his moral dementia; these must provoke anger. And condemnation.

To be different is to be held in suspicion. The nonconformist is a subversive. Subversion and rebellion make societies become more generous, more diverse, more compassionate—and an individual more free. For the inability—or unwillingness—to see rebellion as a virtue and not a flaw is what provokes the uncomprehending hostility that makes the anxious herd stifle dissent and stamp out anything different. But humanity is not a herd, and being human demands a vigilance against the kind of provocations that start stampedes.

I will respect anyone’s convictions, but only to the extent you will respect mine. Goodwill inspires the same; tolerance results in cooperation. But I will not be told whom to love, whom to be friends with, what culture to represent, what mannerisms and interests to adopt and, much less, discard. I will not modify my behavior or limit my pleasures merely to please Cruz or bigots like him. The respect gays, lesbians and transgendered people experience is a brittle kind, but hard-won. Far more has to be won, in terms of actual legislation or in every sphere of our lives where discrimination virtually takes place every day.

The behavior Cruz finds so obnoxious is the price he and everyone else must pay for the pink triangles of the German concentration camps, the labor camps and prison cells of Soviet Russia and Communist China and Cuba, the merciless beatings and taunts endured by so many over so long a time. It is his punishment for representing a society whose instincts remain fundamentally murderous toward anyone different. If he weren’t such a hate-monger, he might realize it’s no punishment at all, and that society is all the better for the increased prominence of gays.

Somewhere I Have Never Travelled
EE Cummings

Somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond
Any experience, your eyes have their silence;
In your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
Or which I cannot touch because they are too near.
Your slightest look easily will unclose me
Though I have closed myself as fingers,
You open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching, skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose.

Or if your wish be to close me, I and
My life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
As when the heart of this flower imagines
The snow carefully everywhere descending;

Nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
The power of your intense fragility; whose texture
Compels me with the colour of its countries,
Rendering death and forever with each breathing.

(I do not know what it is about you that closes
And opens; only something in me understands
The voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.

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