Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Touched At Birth

BULOSAN HUMOR for the holidays, in time of relative peace. That this story and a lot of others collected in a book of the same title received attention only because America needed something exotic to laugh at during the war, as some people say, is bullcrap. And that a writer of such serious issues as racism and social injustice could write hilarious, self-deprecating pieces is amazing. The guy was good, and this Binalonan piece deserves space in the magazine, wartime or peacetime. A few days early for this post, but next week will be crazy at home and work. So as they say in Alabama--Merry Christmas, y'all!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Anger Management

SHERMAN ALEXIE QUOTE from his young adult book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, banned in some schools. I see your point now, got it. The principle behind the craft reminds me of David Mura's (how apt his name) powerful and incredibly angry poem from the nineties entitled "Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto and Mr. Moto" where he trashes American racism and colonialism, subjects I've never tackled as far as I know. Nothing seems to have changed much in America since then, the situation made worse by a moron of a president who has no care and interest in people other than his kind. But gooks are here now, massa, growing in number by the minute like Gremlins in a cesspool. We tearee down your door!


from "Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto and Mr. Moto"

I am the dance the drum the sneaky inscrutable body ...
of a Jap who knows at last my brothers 
are creatures of adobe and Sand Creek and those who bowed massa
yes, sir, all the good niggers and the mute buffalo herds 
all the torrential unconsecrated nauseating flood, each
singing the old imperial clichés — whip marks and sweat, harvest, bone and blood ...
and yes I’m raving, asphyxiated and incurable and now proclaiming...
and here in my uterine mind something is cleaving, beating, growling ... 
and it is rising in Soweto, in Wounded Knee 
in Savannah and savannah, in the Indonesian junk shops 
and the smell of the hanged man or the shoyu-stained tables of hana 
in the Andes and terrifying inner storms of the Caribbean 
sordid, visionary alleys of São Paulo, the alchemical, Amazonian jungles 
and we are all good niggers, good gooks and japs ... 
obsequious, ubiquitous ugliness, which stares at you baboonlike, banana-like 
dwarf-like, tortoise-like, dirt-like, slant-eyed, kink-haired, ashen and pansied ...
we are whirling about you, tartars of the air, 
all the urinating, tarantula-grasping, ant-multiplying, succubused hothouse hordes
yes, it us, it us, we, we knockee, yes, sir, massa, boss-san, 
we tearee down your door!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday, December 2, 2017

How About That?

VERY OLD FICTION with Christmas lights. I wrote about a different kind of caregiver in the nineties when I was a dreamy kid living in California. It appeared in The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1998 through the invitation of its fiction editor, the prizewinning writer Charlson Ong, who wrote in his foreword that it was "a Fil-Am story that might yet extend, if not rival, the tradition established by Carlos Bulosan and Bienvenido Santos." Thanks for the kind words, Charles! But to me it is still a rookie story with problems. I am posting it here for fun, to see how it differs from the New York caregiver poem in terms of tone, language, character, what-have-you. And it's good to learn how to embed a PDF file. Credits go to Dennis Lockwood, Fritz Lederer, Zuki and Isaac Friedlander for the woodcuts.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday, November 17, 2017

More In Memory

FROM THE ARCHIVES. I am not a fan of Villa, and he did not die this month, but what the heck. Good to see the commas and "The Emperor's New Sonnet" again. And the not-so-Cyclops self-profile. What was that famous quote again from Hamlet when he held that skull-- "Alas, poor Yorick!" or "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark!"?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

In Memory

MY AMERICAN TRIBUTE to a Mindoro literary legend who died this month eighteen years ago, with these American hardcover editions of three of his books.  I never met the man, but maybe my mother the schoolteacher did; how else will she get a signed copy of the first edition of his book Seven Hills Away (1947) in Manila the year it came off the press 70 years ago? A Bible of sorts when I was in high school, handled to this day with the same reverence and care accorded to the Good Book, the book is still in pristine condition which I am proud of. Next is The Bamboo Dancers (1961) from the library of a now-defunct Jesuit seminary in Westchester County, found in an obscure bookshop in the Lower East Side. Last is a copy of Selected Stories (1964), which I don't remember where I got from, maybe a bookstore in downtown San Diego. All published by a guy named Allan Swallow.

NVM Gonzalez, Sept 1915-Nov 1999

And while we're at it, let's get to know this unfamiliar publisher, who also passed away this month, with this brief biography from the Syracuse University Library website:

"Alan Swallow was an American poet, editor, teacher, and publisher. He was born February 11, 1915 in the windswept prairies of Powell, Wyoming. Realizing at an early age that he was not suited to a life of farming and ranching, he entered the University of Wyoming where he received a B.A. degree in literature. He earned a fellowship to Louisiana State University where he received an M.A. degree. At LSU he studied under Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks. He was an instructor at the University of New Mexico  and associate professor of English at Western State College. He then taught at the University of Denver as assistant professor and directed its writing program, later becoming director of its University Press. In 1940, he became the founder, owner, and single employee of his publishing firm, Alan Swallow Publishing, printing high quality yet affordable books. He sought to promote the poetry and fiction of contemporary writers who are often unrecognized by the larger commercial publishers. His list included J.V. Cunningham, Thomas McGrath, Janet Lewis, and the more well known Anais Nin, Yvor Winters and Allen Tate. Swallow has also written and published several books of poems and has edited anthologies of poetry and prose. He lectured at various writers' conferences and was a member of the Western Writers of America, Colorado Authors League, Denver Westerners, and American Civil Liberties Union. His tireless work as an editor and innovative publisher gave him much integrity, while rumors of his marital infidelities and his fondness for fast cars earned him a different notoriety. He died on November 27, 1966 in Denver, Colorado."

Sunday, October 29, 2017

In Memory

I TOOK A COURSE called History of Cultural Minorities under Henry King Ahrens (aka the great William Henry Scott) when I was a student in UP Manila after dropping out of the Ateneo and before moving to Diliman. He wrote me this letter of recommendation for a scholarship in an American university which I did not get, but this document and his gesture were more than enough for me. His death after what was considered to be routine gall bladder surgery is still baffling.

William Henry Scott, Jul 1921-Oct 1999

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Language Of Special Interest

I DID NOT KNOW when I started working for the Feds that speaking the wika would be a skill that pays. Tagalog is apparently considered by the agency as a "language of special interest" in the mission against terrorism. So around Thanksgiving each year (after the previous fiscal year ends in September), Uncle Sam pays me an easy Black Friday bonus just for employing it to process passengers and interact with cruise and container ships crewmen (90% Pinoy, they offer you food from the galley) when boarding vessels for inspections, Abu Sayyaf or ISIS operatives apprehended or not. The union says this is another program in danger with Trump; enjoy it while it lasts.

Friday, October 13, 2017


I WOULD CHANGE some line breaks, but this poem by Zosimo Quibilan, Jr. (encountered on Vince Gotera's wall) reads well for Pinoy Halloween.


They inhabit these acacia trees like children
playing grownup, cooking with corroded
cans a concoction of things lost
then found. Here, a broken piece of a toy gun,
a fistful of leaves and shorn hair and dead ants
and homemade candies. They would improvise names
to address each other — Hey Lover. Oh, Son. Mother! So soon
a daughter is swaddled in stolen shirts and dirt.
Between their palms they will roll
cigars as tall as stories they will have whispered
to one, then another, to while away
summer nights when neighbors insist
on bringing back the deceased by playing
at least a hand of peculiar cards with bent coins
and peculiar currencies. Some will see this night
darker than others. Silhouettes then become
trees. A movement here, to explain their grief’s origins.
An illusion of light there brims with expectations
like a steward for keeping sigils. Spirits turn
into giant limbs, lingering among intermittent glow points.
They would feel the air collapse in their own
weight. Shush, breathe this thick aroma. Hear
their diabolical laughter, mocking
among other things, our innocence,
our believing without seeing.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

In Memory

"BAPA" ANTOON passed away this month last year in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. He is best known for deciphering the Laguna Copperplate Inscription and for documenting the Hanunoo Mangyan script, notably the poetic form ambahan, verses inscribed on bamboo tubes, which he collected in a book called Treasure of a Minority. Here he was in action with a ballpen in his hut a decade before his death, and another one as a priest long before Anya was born. Proud to have been baptized by this Mindoro legend.

Antoon Postma, Mar 1929-Oct 2016

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Done With Freshman Year

DESPITE THE LONG commute to Manhattan on school days, sometimes with only five hours of sleep, Sara proved she can tackle work at Stuyvesant High School. Good job, babe. Enjoy the summer.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Canal Town

TEN MINUTES from the Hopatcong house is Waterloo Village, a restored 19th century settlement on the banks of the old Morris Canal, the waterway used to transport anthracite coal from Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley to New York City during the American Industrial Revolution. For canal workers then, the village was an overnight rest stop on the two-day journey to the coast, and it had "all the accommodations necessary to service the needs of a canal operation, including an inn, a general store, a blacksmith shop to service the mules on the canal, and a watermill" (Wiki). But there were other travelers. The alewife herring, anadromous fish like salmon, also used the waterway as a conduit to travel up the Delaware River from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Hopatcong, the reservoir in the highlands that fed the canal. There they became landlocked with the building of the dam in the 1800s, but thrived so well in their new habitat that they are now the abundant basis of the lake's fish food chain.

The grist mill, Waterloo Village

Friday, June 9, 2017

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Job Evaluations 2017

"HIGHEST CALIBER of service and excellence" versus "acceptable level of competence"? What the--? Don't worry Mom, together we'll still go far.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Cool Without The Coal

MAUCH CHUNK, PA was founded in the early 1800s during the heyday of anthracite coal mining, but when coal use declined in the 20th century, the town reinvented itself as a tourist destination by taking the corpse, and name, of Native American Olympian Jim Thorpe who died in 1953 but whose home state of Oklahoma would not bury with honors. Today, the "Switzerland of America" is a cool weekend getaway two hours from the city (one hour from Hopatcong), and was named by Rand McNally as among the ten Best Small Towns in America. From Wiki: "Geologically, the largest and most concentrated anthracite deposit in the world is found in northeastern Pennsylvania; the deposit contains 480 square miles of coal-bearing rock which originally held 22.8 billion short tons (20.68 billion tonnes) of anthracite." Thought you have eternal rest? Watch out, poor Jim Thorpe, Trump will get you rolling over in your grave.

St. Mark and St. John's Episcopal Church, Jim Thorpe, PA

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Meanwhile, At The Port

NO LONG WEEKEND, got drafted again. Here's to the fallen and unsung soldats inconnus.

Friday, May 26, 2017

True Crime

The Missouri Review liked this, but Digong's martial law soldiers in Mindanao won't. Reposting from Facebook.