THE RUBAIYAT OF CIRILIO F. BAUTISTA
When night blooms with mandolins and roses
the evening star in grief presupposes
the end to which all flesh is led by chance,
its whimsy, how it opens and closes
that scene on stage, that is pricked by war
to redeem parental bones, pricked once more
for flames to strike dry sticks on the beach.
Nor does it keep a tally of the score.
And then the smoke overwhelms the sky,
the music crackles and cannot die
to death’s untrue beginning, a few dust
on the stone, a false chronology.
And the angels and the roosters will know
how short a tenure has honor on the snow,
in the dropping leaves when all that blood brings
to act is a bedazzled hero.
Behold the land to which we give our name,
that wakes and slumbers and cannot disclaim
storm-drenched rice fields and broke bridges—
love struggling out of the ruins of shame.
Love? Ah, there is no need to speak of it
when sea drums hasten the murdering beat
and nothing to break the boiling water
when hate and hunger and ignorance meet.
And fruits decay on the midsummer vine
and eagles hunt in fields that once were mine
to pick for tunes in my guitar, the wish
for meat in the grove, epics in the wine.
And now everything leaving without grace,
fools and pretenders have instilled their ways
in dim corridors of the republic
to sing the rude years, down all our days.
VILLANELLE FOR OLD MEN
I arrive anywhere at my own time.
Old age has taken much from my eager spring.
I need to change the clockwork of country and clime
so towers will wait for my signal to strike the chime,
so vines will wait for me before they cling,
for I arrive anywhere at my own time.
I know it’s odd but it’s not a crime
to eat breakfast at night or supper in the morning.
I need to change the clockwork of country and clime.
I can adjust to sickness and pills but, past my prime,
I can’t follow a fixed schedule of everything.
I arrive at my own time.
I can speak of death and faith and the uses of rhyme
to those who share my slow-paced traveling.
And you, belovéd, always have my passions sublime
though I come in late with the flowers and the kissing.
Pills resurrect my heartbeat all night long,
pills and blood stain test my heart all night long,
always the weak must rally to be strong.
To feel quick I write poems in my head,
poems darting in and out of my head,
the tropes tremble, there is so much to be said.
In wakefulness is a spell I can hold,
wakefulness, the shield and lance I can hold,
against the assault of pain in the cold.
But in the dark there is no breaking the blues,
in the dark there’s no impending the blues,
you’re just one note from saying, “What’s the use?”
Nights, I turn on the radio on the tabletop,
deep-toned nostalgia on the tabletop,
I hate to sleep unsure of waking up.