Invitation of the Imperialist


Your invitation is persistent,

Refusing can provoke resentment.

The card says that I must attend

My future will be discussed.

The postscript says

I am the only guest.

Convinced, I tremble in anticipation,

Finally, notice from a wealthy patron.

 

I bought new clothes,

I made an appointment with a make-up artist:

In dress and style, the best is necessary

To impress my prospect.

 

Ay siyanga pala, he is the boss of a company,

My garrulousness has failed to properly introduce him.

Immeasurably wealthy, snub him not,

So many haciendas, innumerable buildings.

I also hear, he is immersed,

In government concessions in fertilizer and lumber.

So the afternoon when the invitation arrived,

My heart and mind languished.

My countless imaginations

Succumbed to my impetuous yearning;

Truly, when the poor are being honored,

Wisdom leaves their body

In the outburst of excitement, reason vanishes

Ignorance prevails.

 

The calendar shed the dinner's arrival

The telephone and clock persistent reminders--

I subdued my sighs

Until I reached my desired destination.

 

And there he is now,

Truly the gentleman host.

He stands as he is wont

The guest, he greets immediately.

He extends his palm to my callused hand,

My consciousness almost escapes me.

 

How beautiful, how extravagant, all the surroundings,

The inside of the room, as if a dream.

There hangs an Amorsolo and Manansala,

All originals, not copies.

There are sculptures by Navarro, Saprid, and Joya,

The ornamental flowers are from Bechaves and Esperanza,

My host, wearing a black tuxedo.

I, the dirt that collects at the corners of a room.

 

It was then that doubt knocked,

Why are we having this dinner?

Now, I compare myself to my surroundings,

My excitement, unstitched; my anxiety, diffused.

I remember the pen and name I left behind

On a table a room I rent somewhere.

Ever since the invitation first arrived, I realize,

The fragrance of metaphor was lost in the air,

The fantasy suppresses the rhythm of my typewriter

And stifles the flow of my inspiration.

 

"Sit down," this man tenderly says

With awing signature and word.

Seized by fear, I obey,

Even one word I cannot utter.

"Extremely valiant, when you compose the verses,

The moan of the oppressed is proclaimed.

All of us who are complacent and apprehensive

You kill in silent anger."

I am transfixed in my seat

My lips are sealed and my eyes dilated

This foreigner, surprisingly, knows the poetry

Of my country, nurtured by darkness.

 

Then reality scorches my heart,

This is a duplicitous invitation.

As if you read my mind,

You say yield not to boredom.

"The truth," you reveal,

"I've been admiring you for a long time.

The way you structure your words is really unique.

The ugly gets even uglier,

You can incite those who should be irate.

In the beginning I adored you,

Okey lang, I say, if there are those who protest."

The voice of my host is calculated,

My blood's vitality ebbs.

 

The man's voice is treacherous

He tortures me to the bone.

"They say, you Pinoys, okey makisama,

Even borrowing money to entertain visitors.

You know how to accrue debts of gratitude,

All your life paying, though you can never repay.

This the basis of my alluring program,

Give the anti-capitalist a junket.

I have substantiated the myth of snow,

You have seen New York and Chicago."

 

The grace granted me sparked in my memory,

Believing it was from heaven.

Yet in truth, heaven is this person I now face,

I could see, I could touch

Yet I could not comprehend.

It was then I wished to renounce the experience,

To tell my skin, forget the embraces

Of the friends I have found there.

 

"But what did you do?"

The imperialist continued in his litany.

"You have declared me toilet culture,

A wolf in sheep's clothing."

"And this dinner is a ploy?"

Hatred knocks in my soul.

"Wasn't it during the junket, that you basked in pleasure?

But when you returned, I was not compensated.

You stayed in my house for five months,

You did not even offer a little gratitude."

 

"Should I be grateful for my change?

I went home not as myself.

Your literature is now what I write.

My tongue searches for your food.

Once I was even fluent in my own language

Where your words are now inextricably intertwined

You are the shadow I drag

I can only hide you when there is no light.

I must annihilate you from my humanity

I must lose my shadow."

The man's laughter fumes,

My clenched fist tightens.

 

"Now you have deceived me again.

You are skilled at insulting

Because I am underfed and wanting

And this type of invitation is uncommon.

You also know this is reason enough to be proud

Because you are a leader that takes notice of beggars."

 

Again laughter responds

The walls are whipped by its uproarious excess

My eyes flare with the inflammation of desire.

This is a test I must pass

I run for the door, but it closes

My only hope is a click of the remote.

"Is this rape?" concealing the fear in my voice.

"I am no longer a virgin!

Many foreigners have preceded you!

Though not physically apparent, I have given birth."

 

"Ten of you for only a penny. Not worth my attention

Even if you pray!"

And in an instant I am coiled

By a sharp light

A light electrical current crawls into my skin

The current constricts whenever I move

A dinner is what I've attended

I am, in fact, the food to be consumed.

 

I am first split at the stomach

The liver of need is disgorged

Apparently pleased by my distending entrails

He begins to gnaw on my gall bladder and intestines.

 

My resolution rooted in the bitterness

My desire shaped by the sourness

 

Blood is smeared on his gaping mouth,

His fingers wet with my saliva and tears.

The talahib supplant my ringing lips

The cross is staked atop

My unearthed fantasy.

Bite here, bite there

He reaches my womb

He needs to be satisfied

This is where I was named

 

The womb gives definition

The uterus provides the occasion.

 

"This is the most delicious part,"

Gorged, the man stopped.

I shut my eyes, I must

Respect the memory.

Engraved in the walls of my uterus is

This burning blaze, this passing experience;

My lover carved into my skull

Buried in the fissure of menstruation.

 

I am now only head and toes,

Still alive, not in danger.

My mind refuses to yield,

The rays will not pale in my face.

Consciousness is a framed painting

Refusing to die, I am its subject.

 

Afterwards the plunderer turns to

My right hand.

Thumb and index finger he chews.

I tumble at the gnawing pain.

This now, this is now my cross.

Mister imperialist!

All of my parts, but not my right hand,

Not the hand that writes!

The finger is the mother of all words,

The finger shapes this metaphor.

 

My words are unfinished

A new thumb and index finger

Sprout from the severed parts.

The two are again bitten

The middle finger also included.

The three he has devoured reappear.

After only a short moment,

Suffering gnaws me.

In my brain, the plowing pain intensifies.

I sense my finger being ripped

Being gnashed by teeth, being masticated.

I also feel their slow resurrection

Seemingly challenging the oppression

The man is again lured by his hunger

Each budding finger

He bites tenaciously.

 

Mister,

Unceasing difficulty.

Unceasing challenge

Gropes me.

You will weary and tire of the invariable biting,

You will be able to completely kill me

By the suffering

By the loneliness;

But my hatred will flourish

Burgeoning luxuriantly

In the womb of thousands of rising hands

Left and right,

Even the feet sometimes--

They will seethe, becoming thousands of eyes and mouths

Until they produce different sounds,

Rhythm and imagination

On millions of paper,

Until they become rising fists

Hands that cannot be counted:

Subverting you,

Suffocating you,

Smothering you.