SIC TRANSIT MUNDUS
This must be the taste of Language--
the tongue mapped by many colors,
parsed by the vowels of memory, the roof
of the mouth the dome of a world
circumscribed by consonants, whose edges
suggest the sour-sweetness of oranges,
the bittermelon's green rind, the river-
scent of mangoes all the way to the grove.
When I sing of Balicasag, island
whose name inscribes the upturned
crab, I am translating a story of fire
razing a whole village to the ground
when the revolution was fought.
In whatever month dolphins are born,
mothers weaving pandan mats
pause to tell the story
of how it happened one day in May,
in the month of fiestas in Bohol:
The churchbells rang mad at dawn.
Someone had set fire to the orchard
of Padre Domingo del Valle;
by noon even the grasshoppers
had turned to ashes.
I sing this story now to let you taste
the aroma of milagrosa rice boiling
on the earthen stove, or catch
from your open window
the pod of lumba-lumba playing near
the island's shore. And I want
the edges of your tongue to water
from the hint of acid in the air, as if
invisible trees stood windward, still
ripening in the burning sun.
*for Franz Arcellana born Sept. 6, 1916