Land of Desire,

Land of Despair

(from different diaries)

All of the italicized stanzas in this poem are taken from "Minamahal Kong Kababayan (Ang Pahimakas ni Lorna Laraquel, Migrante)" by Lilia Quindoza Santiago, published in the book Mga Hibla ng Pangarap by Kanlugan Center Foundation, Inc., Quezon City, 1994.

 

Desire | Paper | Blood | Fire | Grief

1 Desire

 

Donít be sad, my beloved children

Even though you cannot be near me

Perhaps tomorrow I might get lucky

 

bit by bit

the airplane scooted forward

slowly at first

pulsating with our palpitations

 

it swerved slightly then it quickly accelerated

like a kite assisted to fly away

by an ally

later released

so that

it swished as it soars

 

some applaud

some whistle

the others

content to watch

through the small oval window

you cannot even peer through

 

under the eyes

rusted roofs

dark estuaries

indistinct ocean

an outstretched land

 

in the back

in the past

trampled tears

pain I wish to forget

misfortune

 

like the tail of a kite

our dreams

dancing in the wind

ascending

ascending

 

we migrants

used to the sidecar

bus

jeepney

and rusted boats

noisy and slow

feeling strange

 

the airplane seems different

you are already stuck

you are also stuck

to your destination

 

we

foreheads

full of wrinkles

figuring each other out

your mind

counts your debt

your investment

inscribed in your brain

counting chicks

even before finding the rooster

that will mate the hen

 

we engraved

our names

and places of departure

on the suitcase, bag, folder

even on envelopes that verify

our identity and humanity

we engraved

in our minds

the ambitions

(hopefully they can be reaped)

the oppressions

(hopefully they can be forgotten)

we pray

let the pure joy of childhood

return

return

 

Gaspar will fetch

water from Saudi

Lydia will serve

a sheik

Delia will be a nanny in Singapore

Tina a bartender in Hongkong

Olivia, they say, will be

an entertainer in Japan

Juan will be a mechanic

in Lebanon

those two

they say, will teach in Saipan

Casey will be employed

as a desk clerk in the Marianas

while most are tsimay

(labelled d.h. as a euphemism)

in Iran, Malaysia, Taiwan

or even other countries

that are affluent

let alone

the Filipinas

who will marry/be mated by

any foreigner

 

we need

to spread throughout

the world

so that we can touch the sky

to name the land

affixed to the soles of shoes

a glimmer of light

crammed in the life

of only a few

 

we will release

the rosary

in the Middle East

we will suit our ears

to the tongue of others

we will sing

new tunes

we will direct our eyes

to new scenes

 

melting the brown

into the white

into the yellow

into the black

into the red

until the brown

is erased

 

Donít be sad, my beloved children

Even though you cannot be near me

Perhaps tomorrow I might get lucky

 

 

2 Paper

 

In this land where every movement

is foreign,

Who will be your confidante?

To whom will you complain or plead?

Which language will be used

In lamenting what you experienced and will experience?

 

I walked

blessed by a piece of paper

 

the paper states

my name

the paper affirms

my humanity

the paper is the proof

of baptism

of school

of marriage

of departure

piles of paper until death

 

I thought I had brought everything

in the passport

my picture is there

(that is me)

my address is there

(that is true)

my signature is there

(I finished highschool)

I am also sure about the visa

(it seems I have already mortgaged

even my future grandchildren

the cost is thousands)

 

I was calm at the departure

even though my corpse

can be identified

 

but

it seems

I am

not me

I proved this

it seems possible

to be sure

who you are

but you cannot

prove

in case there are doubts

 

I walked

blessed by a piece of paper

I was betrayed

by my paper

in Frankfurt

my passport scrutinized

fake

I was

not me

says whoever

say the people

says the language I cannot understand

 

astray

my English

astray

my reasoning

astray

even my life

 

I was put

in a truck

I was put

in a

dark truck

I was put

in an experience

foreign even to my feelings

 

I carry nothing

I cannot explain

I cannot even look

nor could I ask about

the case

the sentence

 

first

I called all

the saints

until I ran out of

all those I knew

until my tongue

was worn out

of the litany

until

I became angry

my beliefs clenched

that is how it was in the country I left

it seems that is also how it is in this country where I arrived

 

hunger mixes with

fear loneliness

weariness and drowsiness

but even napping

terrifies

perhaps

I will not awake

when my eyes close

perhaps consciousness

might be erased

 

(even gasping

I still cling to life)

 

I cried and cried

from fear

from sadness

from self-pity

until I could cry no more

in the end

I just cursed

agency police foreigner government

even saints

for the fate I encountered

my name

as if stolen

as if smuggled

as if sold

 

the truck stopped

the chauffer says

I can now get out

the order

enter the building

you see

thank you

I can now release

the breaths I withheld

 

there are women there

(surprisingly)

but it does not matter

as long as

in addition to mine

there are other souls

 

they clamor

at the sight of me

(as if they see a light

after being embraced by the dark

for such a long time)

 

I

cannot even

scream

approached by a

Filipina

Indian

Thai

Sri Lankan

 

they asked

what is your name

where are you from

 

I walked

blessed by a piece of paper

it appears that paper

cannot do everything

 

 

3 Blood

 

Blood accompanies birth and enlightenment

Bleeding we travel through the months and time

Traversing oppressive opportunities

 

the first baptism of departure

is the blood that flows

between my legs

 

foreign country

foreign culture

 

everything

must be learned

(read like the graffiti

in restrooms

your secrets

and letters

crimes kept

in hidden places

opening doors

wounds and the wounded)

 

I carry

my body

around the world

clay with average weight

clay that preserves

past

and future

 

and now

 

as dark as the face of Mother

when I said goodbye

to the island destination

this is where we will be de-virginized

this is where, they say, we will be molded

before they take us to the brothels

of Copenhagen Paris Italy

Greece Germany

Waikiki

even in the islands

of the Pacific Ocean

 

as dark as death

the time

but as red as the blood

that flows

the flame

of loneliness

 

I was given

a new name

I was given

a new beauty

this is the temple

of dreams

can it be

a fortress for

the soul

 

the feet are staked

in foreign land

the tongue savors

the past

but

curses

the blood

that spills

on the dreams

of oppressive opportunities

 

 

4 Fire

 

...There are many things I leave behind:

My children who will stare at the future

A family riddled by fate

 

what is your name

why are you here

how long have you been here

 

I am a cook

it is hard to explain

the color of fire

the tongue

cannot articulate

the pain in my eyes

 

suffice to say that

my body

smolders

salt

tears

blood

saliva

come

opium

 

I only dreamed

to escape

because

they imposed

on my shoulder

on the shoulders of my children

squandered

strength

time

of many people/years

 

not only chicken sheep cow

were roasted

even flesh

and

hope

 

they want

to singe

forever

forever

repulsive

poverty

 

nightly

you melt your genitals

dipped

in coffee

like pandesal

 

nightly

I am skinned

beard and hair

braided

emotion

escapes

the soulís fire

 

I saved

a small amount of stability

I was adopted

by flickering light

how tame the fire is

how tame the fire is

throughout the night

it ends

all my hardships

 

what is your name why are you here

how long have you been here

 

...There are many things I leave behind:

My children who will stare at the future

A family riddled by fate

 

 

5 Grief

 

If only I could bring home even just what is left of my bones,

If only they can survive, even just a part of my skull,

I say to you all, "my beloved compatriots,"

That there is no, no life of ease.

 

No, there will never be life of ease

Without a nurturing native land.

 

again

the airplane scooted forward

at the airport

it darted towards the sky

quickly

quickly

as fast as a wink of an eye

that immediately boxed

my corpse

 

I crossed the ocean

clouds

forests

lands

and intermittent hardships

 

where can I find

my wounds

how can I touch

my dreams

 

children

kin

friends

your names

are listed in the sky

my desires

have written them there

nurtured and watered

by diligence

I reduced

the intensity of the blaze

so that we can cross

poverty

 

it is good to fight

fairly

more honorable

more honorable

especially when what you eat

oozes from

your sweat

more honorable

more honorable

than denying the teachings

of God

more honorable

more honorable

 

which is first

in the myth of repentance

is it punishment

or recompense

 

is the name fake

from birth

or the land

that nurtured it

 

which is more noble

to exploit

be exploited

to be first

to follow

to be coy

or be vulgar

to expose it

until my body and stability

become numb

for the small amount of dinar

for the small amount of riyal

for the small amount of dollars

or disregard

the hunger

until the intestines wither

and the skin sticks to the bone

 

donít be sad, compatriot,

unlike me

your grief has a name

your sadness has an identity

your disappointment has a taste

 

I have no casket

to dig in the land I left behind

I have a tombstone in the newspapers

my children will bury me

in their memories

feelings

 

donít be sad, compatriot,

let

my desecrated life

fertilize

your departures

because here

in our country

there is no life of ease